The World Bank’s Board of Directors last week voiced its support for a new country assistance strategy (CAS), aimed at supporting the Government of Tunisia in tackling pressing socio-economic challenges for the period July 2004 to June 2008.
With an average life expectancy of 72 years and low infant, child and maternal mortality rates, Tunisia has made steady and rapid progress in social development. Poverty was sharply reduced in the second half of the 1990s from about 8 percent of the population in 1990 to 4 percent-or 400,000 people-in 2000.
Reform efforts since the early 1990s, sound macroeconomic policies and deeper trade integration in the global economy have improved the economy’s competitiveness. Growth has been resilient, even when Tunisia faced an unfavorable external environment, reaching 5.5 percent in 2003.
Tunisia faces three key challenges in order to meet the goals of the 10th Economic Development Plan (2002-2006). The first and most urgent challenge is to reduce unemployment which remains high at 15 percent, reflecting demographic pressure and increased competition from the neighboring European Union. The second challenge lies in improving the quality, relevance and financial sustainability of the education system and strengthening research and innovation systems in order to establish a knowledge economy. The third challenge is to boost the performance of social programs while maintaining budget balances.
In response to these challenges, the World Bank’s country assistance strategy lends support to Government of Tunisia by focusing on three priority areas. It seeks to strengthen the business environment to support the development of a more vibrant private sector and improve the competitiveness of the Tunisian economy. The CAS also proposes to enhance the skills of graduates so that they are able to find jobs in a knowledge economy. Finally, the CAS will focus on improving the quality of social services through enhanced efficiency of public expenditure.
“The CAS for Tunisia has a strong focus on results and quality and provides for additional flexibility in the approach and choice of instruments” says Theodore Ahlers, World Bank Country Director for Tunisia. “This will allow the World Bank to respond quickly and appropriately to demands and continue to forge a strong partnership with the Government of Tunisia and other key constituencies”.
The CAS will be implemented over a four-year period starting fiscal year 2005, and will include a lending program in the range of $200-300 million a year to achieve its key development objectives. (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )