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The Tunisian economy is estimated to have grown by 2.6% in 2013 mainly driven by public and private services. In the face of persisting political uncertainty in 2013 the economic performance across indicators was not very positive. Agricultural production and oil output declined while manufacturing sector stagnated. Weak exports and low tourism revenues widened the current account deficit to 8.4% of GDP in 2013. Unemployment declined mildly from 16.7% in 2012 to 15.3% in 2013. Though there has been a recovery on both counts in early 2014, 2013 witnessed a decline in international reserves to US$6.8 billion and a fall in exchange rates by 11%. With the adoption of a new constitution and appointment of a new government and a state of emergency no longer being declared the outlook for Tunisia is cautiously positive. There are many medium terms risks though with the possibility of a lengthened political transition period, heightened security tensions or the worsening of the economies of any of the trading partners. The outlook for 2014 is an expected growth rate of 2.8%.

Much of Tunisia’s economic development is focused on reforming sectors long compromised by the state capture schemes of the pre-revolutionary Ben Ali regime. Central to the nation’s economic future will be the reform of Tunisia’s phosphate processing industry, which produces about 21.7% of global production and 31.2% of global exports. The government is currently involved in joint ventures with Indian and Chinese partners to expand capacity, which now stands at about 8 million tons annually. The industry currently produces less than half that amount. Tunisia’s hydrocarbon industry remained steady in 2013, producing 66,540 barrels per day of oil and 65.80 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Tunisian petroleum remains a strong candidate for foreign investment, especially as Western Europe seeks alternative energy sources to Russia. Trade services, supported mainly by tourism, has been improving as have administrative and non-market services which contributed 17.5% to the economy. Manufacturing comprised about 17.3% of GDP in 2012 and export industries including textiles, machinery and electricity were hit hard by lower demand from Europe. Agriculture, representing about 9% of GDP, appears to be improving with cereal yields increasing to 2.5 million tons, but still comprising only 70% of domestic demand. Tunisia’s banking sector still requires significant reform having lost the confidence of domestic and international investors having been at the corruption of the national economy under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s overall doing business-ranking (ranked 51 out of 189 economies) fell by 2 ranks in 2014 from 2013. The best performing indices were trading across borders(31), resolving insolvency (39), protecting investors(52) and getting electricity (55). The relatively worse performing indices were dealing with construction permits (122), enforcing contracts (78) and registering property (72) In the region the country ranks 7thin terms of doing business.

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