By Houaida Gharbi
One important lesson from the revolution of 2011 is the importance of addressing both political and economic strife. History has shown that political accountability and economic opportunity go hand in hand; citizens will not be satisfied with one without the other. While there has been much progress on the political front with the creation of the new constitution, unemployment is still high at 15.2 percent with rates as high as 30 percent in some interior regions like Kasserine. The Government of Tunisia now has the opportunity to ensure accountability both politically and economically in response to citizens’ demands for improved local services and access to jobs. It is important that economic development be a priority within any decentralization program so that local and regional governments do not make the mistake of focusing on local political transformation at the expense of economic development.
Given the demands for improved political accountability and local service delivery, local and regional governments will have little bandwidth (and currently lack the capability) to drive economic development at the pace needed to grow and modernize the economy and create jobs. Regional Chambers of Commerce (CoCs) on the other hand, have the potential to be powerful advocates and strategic partners to regional governments in creating and maintaining competitive business enabling environments at the regional level. Unlike other organizations, Tunisian CoCs are specialists in their regions, and are ideally positioned to serve as interlocutors between regional governments and the private sector to ensure that economic development needs are met, and that public policies have the desired impact at regional and local levels.
Based on the Carthage Institute’s extensive economic development experience and our strong relationships with Tunisia’s regional CoCs, we will assist the CoCs serve as strategic advisors to regional governments in economic development.
Specific activities may include:
Support CoC and regional government collaboration to convene stakeholders and develop a local economic development strategy for their region and an economic roadmap and implementation plan for achieving it.
Support CoCs and regional governments in the provision of services and measures to increase investment promotion and the ease of doing business in their regions.
Promote government accountability for economic development by working with CoCs to develop and implement evidence-driven advocacy platforms to build coalitions and influence change.
Promote government accountability for economic development by establishing an economic scorecard for each region to measure success and the impact of economic development initiatives and investments. The scorecards will look at economic indicators as well as citizen sentiments about the changes they are seeing and the impact these changes are having on their lives and well-being.
Collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, learning and knowledge sharing, and adapting to specific and changing contexts will be the hallmarks of the work we do with CoCs in support of regional economic development and greater government accountability.