Tunisia inspired the world, says World Bank chief

Saturday, January 26, 2013
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
[FILE PHOTO: Simone D. McCourtie /World Bank] 
Tunis/Washington: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has concluded a two-day visit to Tunisia during which the Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, announced a $48 million investment to support the growth of private entrepreneurs. Kim met the country’s leadership and civil society to discuss the reform agenda and Tunisia’s progress two years after its popular uprising.

"We are here as strong supporters of the Tunisian revolution," said Kim. "[The people of Tunisia] went through some very difficult times, but in doing what you've done, you've inspired the entire world. [Now] we've got to make sure that Tunisia is successful in showing that Islam and democracy go together, that you can have economic development that includes everyone."

Kim emphasized ongoing World Bank Group support for Tunisia’s aspirations through programs that address improved governance and accountability, opportunities for women and youth, private sector job-creation and investments in interior regions. 

During his visit, Kim met with the Tunisian authorities, including: Moncef Marzouki, President of the Republic; Hamadi Jebali, Prime Minister; and several Cabinet members including Riadh Bettaieb, Minister of Investments and International Cooperation; Elyes Fakhfakh, Minister of Finance; Ridha Saidi, Minister of Economic Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office; Sihem Badi, Minister of Family and Women’s Affairs; and Khalil Zaouia, Minister of Social Affairs. Kim also met Chedly Ayari,the Central Bank Governor and Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President of the Constituent Assembly.

The World Bank recently approved a $500 million budget support program for Tunisia, designed to underpin the government’s efforts to improve the business environment, strengthen financial sector stability, reform key social services and advance transparency through improved access to public information and more transparent budgeting. This support was part of a multi-donor effort to which the African Development Bank and the European Union provided an additional $700 million to bolster the reforms.

During Kim’s visit, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) signed an agreement with Amen Bank to support smaller businesses and drive job creation in Tunisia. IFC and two funds managed by the IFC Asset Management Company will invest up to $48 million in Amen Bank capital. IFC will also provide Amen with advice in risk management and corporate governance. The partnership is expected to help Amen Bank expand its lending to smaller businesses, which often have trouble accessing the financing they need to grow. With this investment, IFC's commitments in Tunisia will amount to $105 million since January 2011.

Kim also held meetings with Tunisian civil society and business representatives. He discussed the need for consensus around key reforms and stressed the importance of the continued involvement of all sectors of Tunisian society in the country’s transition.

"It was a very inspiring experience for me to meet with representatives of civil society who were at the center of starting the revolution that has had a truly global reach,” said Kim after the meeting.

“The opportunity to sit with them and hear their perspectives on what needs to happen next was very enlightening. And what was really clear to me is that ... no matter what happens, civil society voices have changed forever and they are never going away."

Kim reiterated the importance of quickly reaching consensus on a new constitution. Among other important issues this would address, it would help build the stable, predictable environment necessary to boost private sector investment and create jobs. He also underlined the World Bank’s support for transparency and accountability through the institution’s open government and open data initiatives.
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