Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Slow Road to Recovery: Tunisia After the Revolution

Years after the revolution that sparked the entirety of the Arab Spring, Tunisia is still on a slow road to recovery. When Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in December of 2010 he was protesting the lack of economic opportunity and the corruption of the government. Three years later, the people of Tunisia have overthrown their oppressive president Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali and have been working to establish a democratic government.

However, Tunisia is still far from establishing a healthy, functioning, democratic state. In early March, a 27-year-old cigarette vendor set himself on fire in protest of the high unemployment rate shouting "This is Tunisia, this is unemployment,” (Tunisia's Economy: Still Struggling). Tunisia's current tax code is broken, favoring exporting companies and punishing those that sell locally with higher tariffs, lowering the wage and stability of available jobs (Tunisia's Economy: Still Struggling). While Tunisia has implemented a new government program that promises a civil service job to one member of every family in the country, Tunisia is still facing high unemployment rates. The current overall unemployment rate in Tunisia is 17%, and in the interior of the country the unemployment rate for those with degrees is 30% (Tunisia's Economy: Still Struggling).

Corruption among lower level officials is also still prevalent. In an article from the Economist documenting the story of a Tunisian cab driver, payoffs to government officials are still the norm. While government officials do not blatantly ask for bribes like they did before the revolution, customs agents conjure up arbitrary fees to charge cab drivers crossing the Tunisian-Algerian border (The Algerian-Tunisian Border: Tales of a Taxi Driver).

While Tunisia's economy remains in a state of disarray, the country has made some gains in its quest for democratic government. Just recently the country recovered a stipend of $28.8 million from the so-called "looted assets" from Ben Ali (Tunisia: Millions Recovered from Ex-Leader's Assets). However, this is small sum compared to the estimated billions Ben Ali corruptly gained. While it formerly taboo to speak ill of Ben Ali's regime, Tunisia is making gains in freedom of speech, putting on plays that openly criticizes the former government (Macbeth in Tunis: Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair).

As we discussed in class, a society that has high unemployment rates for its educated citizens and a high number of unemployed youth tend to be less stable. If Tunisia's new government wants to create a stable democratic state, it must pass new economic reforms to target the high unemployment rate.

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1 comment:

  1. I am interested to see what happens here considering that oil could be the new future of Tunisia. I can't imagine that if this picks up enough, they will still democratize. There is certainly developing interest in Tunisia's energy resources and for the first time major spending has been committed to test Tunisian oil basins which are arguably equally prolific as those in neighboring environments with more work performed, such as Libya. This could potentially lead to more corruption and put Tunisia on a downward spiral yet again.