Tunisia Pushes For Economic Emergency Bill As Government Seeks Further Reforms

Tunisia is drafting an “economic emergency” bill that will allow the government to bypass bureaucratic hurdles and speed up large-scale projects as it seeks to boost growth and create jobs, a senior official said.

Administrative delays and bureaucracy are one of the biggest obstacles for local and foreign investors in Tunisia, which has struggled economically since its 2011 uprising.

The move comes amid increasing pressure from international lenders to reform the state sector and cut a bloated public sector wage bill.

“In two or three weeks the parliament will start debates on a new ‘economic emergency’ bill aimed at reducing the obstacles on major projects,” Ridha Saidi, an economic advisor to Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, told Reuters.

The bill will allow the government to take rapid decisions and short-circuit some bureaucratic procedures on big infrastructure projects and other new investment.

“The new law will give a strong message for all investors that Tunisia is committed to providing a better investment climate,” Saidi said.

Opposition parties have raised concerns that by reducing bureaucratic checks, the proposed bill could increase corruption, already a major problem in Tunisia’s economy. Saidi said anti-corruption controls would not be weakened.

Chahed’s government has been pushing a raft of reforms aimed at ending years of stagnation and high unemployment. It expects the economy to grow between 2.5 percent and 3 percent this year.

Previous attempts at reform have been frustrated by political infighting and resistance from powerful trade unions and other interest groups. Read the full story here.