OREANDA-NEWS. May 24, 2016. The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a 48-month extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with Tunisia for an amount equivalent to SDR 2.04 billion (about US\\$2.9 billion, or 375 percent of Tunisias quota) to support the countrys economic and financial reform program detailed in the authorities economic vision. This program aims at promoting stronger and more inclusive growth by consolidating macroeconomic stability, reforming public institutionsincluding the civil service, facilitating financial intermediation, and improving the business climate. Following the Boards decision, an amount equivalent to SDR 227.29 million (about US\\$319.5 million) is available for immediate disbursement; the remaining amount will be phased in over the duration of the program, subject to eight program reviews.

Following the Executive Board discussion on Tunisia, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director, and Acting Chair, said:

Tunisias economy has shown resilience but continues to face important fiscal, external, structural, and social challenges. Macroeconomic stability has been preserved and important reforms have been initiated, including with the support of the recently expired Fund-supported program.

The authorities have developed a comprehensive and new economic programto be supported by a four-year Extended Fund Facilityto address remaining vulnerabilities. The program aims at consolidating macroeconomic stability and promoting more inclusive growth. Strong commitment to sound policies, early and decisive action on key structural reforms, and consensus-building and communication efforts, particularly on socially difficult reforms, are crucial to create jobs and yield the largest gains for Tunisias population.

A prudent fiscal policy that puts public debt on a downward path will help ease financing constraints, reduce external imbalances, and ensure sustainability. A comprehensive civil service reform will improve public service delivery and increase fiscal space for priority investment and well-targeted social spending. A more progressive and efficient tax system will broaden the tax base and improve equity. Fiscal risks should continue to be monitored; and governance efforts, accelerated.

Enhanced central bank independence will strengthen the effectiveness of monetary policy, while greater exchange rate flexibility will strengthen reserve buffers and facilitate external adjustment.

The adoption of critical banking sector legislation is welcome. Further action is needed to restructure public banks and strengthen the banking resolution and supervision frameworks. Developing credit bureaus and relaxing caps on lending rates will increase access to finance.

Efforts to streamline existing business procedures and enhance market access through a new investment code and the implementation of the competition law and the law on public-private partnerships are essential to promote private-sector development and create jobs.


Recent Economic Developments

With the implementation of the IMF-supported Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) that expired in December 2015, Tunisia has managed to preserve macroeconomic stability and initiate fiscal and banking reforms in a context marked by a prolonged political transition, spillovers from the crisis in Libya, and numerous exogenous shocks, including terror attacks. However, important challenges remain: economic activity is weak, employment is low, social tensions linger, spending composition has deteriorated, and external imbalances are high.

To tackle these challenges, the authorities formulated in 2015 a five-year economic vision, which is being developed into a detailed plan. This vision aims at promoting stronger and more inclusive growth by transforming Tunisias growth model through a strategy based on macroeconomic stability and including five pillars: effective public institutions; economic diversification; human development and social inclusion; regional development; and green economic growth.

Program Summary

The new program aims at achieving more inclusive growth and create jobs, with implementation centered around four pillars: i) consolidating macroeconomic stability; ii) reforming public institutions, iii) promoting financial intermediation, iv) and improving the business climate.

Consolidating macroeconomic stability . Key measures include: (i) an appropriate fiscal policy that creates space for priority capital spending and aims at putting public debt on a downward path; (ii) a prudent monetary policy aimed at containing inflation; and (iii) greater exchange rate flexibility that preserves reserves in the face of important exogenous shocks.

Reforming public institutions and modernizing the public administration to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and support inclusive growth remains a priority. The policy package will include reforming civil service to improve public service delivery and help contain the wage bill, progressing with energy subsidy reform while strengthening the social safety net, fostering the monitoring and performance of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), boosting equity-friendly revenue mobilization, and strengthening public financial management and transparency efforts, including through enhanced anti-corruption initiatives.

Promoting financial intermediation . Important steps have been taken towards establishing a modern banking system, subject to strong supervision and competition. The new program will include measures aimed at strengthening banking sector resilience and promoting financial intermediation. This requires continued progress on public bank restructuring, a risk-based supervision system, a proper resolution framework, and strengthened regulations. All these reforms, and the implementation of the new bankruptcy law, will help banks actively resolve their non-performing loans. Financial inclusion will be helped through the development of microfinance institutions.

Improving the business climate. Key measures include improving the adoption of a new investment code, the streamlining of tax incentives, and the simplification of procedures to reduce entry barriers and protect investor rights. The simplification of about 530 tax, customs, and business formalities completed over the past two years are expected to reduce administrative burden faced by businesses and increase government efficiency. Labor market reform will proceed gradually by building upon consensus amongst stakeholders to finalize a national employment strategy to address the main labor market issues including skills mismatch and worker protection.