Tunisia Is Facing a New Social Movement Due to the Economic Crises
COVID-19 responsibility for Tunisia's economic collapse was not taken into account.
Phosphate and tourism are the two most important labor sectors on which the Tunisian economy is based, and with their impact, the economic crisis is hitting the entire country.
Phosphate is an industrial productive sector, while tourism is part of the service economy in Tunisia, according to what the French magazine Jeune Afrique says.
The state has a monopoly on phosphate production, as the Gafsa Phosphate company is public, while the tourism sector depends on individual initiative and private investments.
Phosphates and tourism represent the main engine of the Tunisian economy, so they are not just simple indicators of the country's economic health, but rather the beating heart of development.
Ten years after the revolution, the expected improvement in the economy did not occur, especially after the fall of the old regime, despite all the available resources.
On the contrary, instability in Tunisia has been exacerbated by a serious misunderstanding among citizens, the magazine estimates.
The unemployed and all other workers relied on the state to solve their problems or improve their conditions at the time when the government was already suffering.
On the other hand, the state had to support its economic engines and work to create a rate of growth.
The tourism sector has declined a lot due to the 2011 revolution, which contributed to the decline in the number of visitors to the Tunisian state, not to mention the emergence of "terrorism" that made Tunisia an unpopular destination, the magazine says.
The sector, which represents 7.5 percent of GDP and about 400,000 jobs, has not returned to what it was before that time, when Tunisia received 7 million visitors in 2010.
Signs of recovery occurred in 2018, but this was brief, as the 2019 elections and the subsequent political tensions that affected that breakthrough came before the sector suffered from the heaviest burden of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Hotel owners and tour operators have been able to rely, year after year, on the interior, but in this turbulent period, they have not been able to find the right stability to rethink about the services they provide.
A young man from Mahdia says that "due to the severe decline in incomes, what we achieved in 2021 was much better compared to 2020 incomes."
This young man fears that the tourism sector will plunge into a new wave of the outbreak of the Coronavirus by the end of 2021, so like many other Tunisians, he wants to follow a news strategy.
In the same context, a French–Tunisian citizen, who wanted to launch a chain of accredited guest houses, expresses his concern and says, "It will be difficult, as tourists demand a lot, travel a lot and can no longer be satisfied with a classic residence on the seashore."
But the French tour operators are optimistic and plan to hold their meetings in Tunisia in December 2021.
According to a study entitled The Economic Effects of Climate Change in Tunisia: Risks and Opportunities, prepared at the request of the Ministry of Environment and with the support of the United Kingdom Embassy, it is expected that a 50-centimeter rise in sea level will cause economic losses in various fields.
Those losses were estimated at 3.6 billion Tunisian dinars (1 dollar = 2.88 dinars in the local currency) in the tourism sector.
The study, which was presented on November 25, 2021, at the residence of the British Ambassador Edward Oakdan, in the northern suburbs of the capital, warned that this sector would face the risk of losing approximately 1,000 jobs annually.
On the other hand, COVID-19, responsible for Tunisia's economic collapse, was not taken into account in the southwestern province of Gafsa.
Since the 2011 uprising, phosphate production has fallen so much that the country, which was the world's third largest exporter of this product, had to import it as a raw material to fill the deficit in the local market.
This is not “bad luck” but rather the fault of the labor force that carried out a series of strikes and demanded successive wage increases, until the state ended up reversing, according to the magazine.
The Gafsa Phosphate Company, with a production of 8 million tons in 2010, which monopolizes phosphate mining, was expected to perform better in the years following the Tunisian revolution.
But ten years later, the company was disappointed, losing international clients including India and Brazil.
The company plans to end the year 2021 with a production of 3.7 million tons, which has become an achievement for the company.
The situation in which the company has become has severely affected the agricultural sector, especially grain, which could not rely on fertilizers derived from phosphates produced by the chemical complex.
An executive of the equipment manufacturer Yazaki Corporation, a company operating in the area, stated that corruption and diversified lobbying have benefited from state business that appears helpless in the face of administrative hurdles.
The owners of this manufacturer recall how the “domestic mafia” seized the transport of phosphates in 2020.
The French magazine says: "This mafia has moved away from rail transport in favor of heavy trucks belonging to the heads of the Gafsa Phosphate Transport Company."
Besides this harmful situation, the political movements urged the local population to demand the redistribution of income from phosphates, raw materials and natural wealth produced to their area.
Under these circumstances, achieving 3.7 million tons is truly honorable for a region where the state has promised so much without really fulfilling its commitments.
"I hope that we will be able to reach development with the coming revolution," said a young man from Redeyef (a city located west of the governorate of Gafsa) in a provocative manner.
All of this, as indicated by many newspapers, comes amid a state of emergency that the country has entered into since July 25, the date of the coup of Tunisian President Kais Saied against the constitution and his monopoly of all powers.