By Christopher E. Martin
How can it be, that dozens of environmental and infrastructure projects have been proposed to the Tunisian government and, at best, a very few realized? The Tunisian government is constantly requesting foreign investment, however, when foreign companies bring projects and investments, the government does nothing to promote and even blocks their efforts. There must be at least a half dozen Tunisian Ministries charged with attracting investment, funding important projects and seeing the projects to completion. The do nothing Tunisian government officials, however, can always find a way to mess it up.
The World Bank, African Development Bank, countless foreign nation Sovereign Funds, Development Funds, Grant Organizations and Finance Organizations have made Billions of Dinars available for all kinds of import projects which have never been realized due to the lack of governmental diligence. As an example, one ONAS project received $68 million from the World Bank in 2010 to be completed by 2018. By last accounting, only $18 million had ever been drawn for the project which stands uncompleted. How can this happen and why let it happen? I guess the government just doesn’t know what to do when they actually receive the money they requested.
For years, the Tunisian government has expressed interest in Public Private Partnership Agreements (PPP) as a way to realize large projects such as the Djerba Sea Desalination Plant. In a PPP, a private company and/or investor pays the capital expense of a project upfront and is paid back over time by the revenue it generates. Examples of PPP projects are, large water projects, energy projects like solar farms and road projects generating tolls. A PPP is a great way for countries to build infrastructure without expending or borrowing huge sums of capital. When PPP projects are presented to the Tunisian government, however, most never even get adequate consideration. The last PPP project realized in Tunisia is the Djerba Desalination Plant initiated in 2010.
In fairness, maybe I am not aware of all the tremendous efforts being expended by the post revolution, never ending stream of governments. We do have non-stop conferences in great hotels where many cakes and coffees are consumed, glossy brochures detail the magic to come and bags of swag are enjoyed by the participants. But do the projects ever happen. Huge solar energy farms in the south, spaceports launching satellites and astronauts, waste to fuel energy producing plants, waste recycling facilities, wind turbine farms and countless other projects never see the light of day. This is a list of real project proposals I am aware of, so there must be hundreds I am not aware of.
Projects and funding are available. They will provide thousands of good paying jobs. They will improve the daily lives of the Tunisian citizens. They will increase the financial and social stability of Tunisia. It is time to stop the endless and useless political bickering and for the Do Nothing Tunisian elected and appointed officials to do their jobs.