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Symposium on reforms no alternative to dialogue between Carthage Document signatories

Published the:  11/04/2018

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(TAP)- The National Symposium on Major Reforms cannot stand as an alternative to dialogue between Carthage Document signatories, Premier Youssef Chahed said. The government is committed to the Carthage Agreement, he emphasised.

He also told the symposium, held Wednesday in Gammarth, Tunis northern suburbs, in the absence of the labour organisation, reforms are not dictated by anyone but are rather "our choice" and a necessity. They are the solution to restore public finances, he indicated.

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Secretary-General Noureddine Tabbboubi Tuesday said the organisation is boycotting the symposium for it "disrupts the meetings of Carthage Document signatories."

"Tunisia needs today to implement large-scale reforms without hesitation," the Premier underlined. He blamed the increase in the social funds deficit, the total wage bill and the budget of subsidies on the lack of reforms.

Chahed spelled out seven thrusts of "necessary and urgent reforms," including the tax system, the financing of the economy, the subsidy system, the civil service, public companies, social funds and modernisation of the administration.

Tax evasion is the worst as it endangers the business climate, public finances and the political and social life, the Prime Minister said.

Social justice is a must in the overhaul process; the lack of fiscal stability has a negative impact on the investment climate. Tax justice is eyed, reflected in fair taxation for everyone, along with fiscal stability to improve visibility and the business environment, Chahed underlined.

The subsidy system "saw so much corruption since it failed to benefit target recipients," the Premier highlighted. The government though does not intend to cancell it but rather to introduce reforms.

The subsidy budget reached about 1 570 MTD in 2018 against 321 MTD in 2006; 30% of subsidies do not target poor or middle-class families.

The government has also no intention of privatising public companies, Youssef Chahed said.

"Media reports of privatisation of public companies are groundless," he said. There is a difference between state-owned companies in competitive sectors and others providing basic services to citizens, Chahed underlined. The Tunisian Post, the railways, health, education, the Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas (STEG), national water utility SONEDE and other public undertakings are not among competitive sectors targeted by privatisation.

It would have been better to direct the funds earmarked for some public enterprises to reduce the deficit, beef up the development budget, ensure social-housing construction and deliver a boost to the health, education and vocational training systems as well as to inland regions.

The reform programme geared towards public enterprises rests on a coherent restructuring vision that guarantees the rights of employees and seeks to develop enterprises and increase their financial return.

The Prime Minister likewise said the privatisation of companies where the State's intervention is not justified can strengthen public finance and contribute to funding national investments in infrastructure and regional development.