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Tunisia stands as the only Arab country to have undergone democratization due to the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread poverty and a low standard of living, along with many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, installing a functioning democracy has not alleviated all of the problems that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by the local authority, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments echoed amongst many frustrated with poverty in Tunisia, corruption and the suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their living standards. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, which is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s defiance act.

As riots escalated and protestors were dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, reducing food prices and internet usage restrictions. These remarks proved too little too late, however, and the protests continued. By January 14, state media reported the dissolution of Ben Ali’s regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took the reformed government’s reins, unrest continued as many of these new politicians were once members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stood as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them prior. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 regarding the connections between religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad—Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians—since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have migrated out of the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment is still a significant issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. That figure has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the new government’s effectiveness, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. Moreover, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization has devoted resources towards alleviating some of the poverty in Tunisia and societal issues facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. These initiatives provide vendors more favorable conditions to sell their goods and provide construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the ILO implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the ILO in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Many challenges face Tunisians in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in alleviating poverty in Tunisia.

– Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

Examining Child Poverty in TunisiaLocated in the northern region of Africa, Tunisia is home to some of the most beautiful places in Africa. There are picturesque coastlines and crystal-clear waters that are visited by people around the world. Although home to such beautiful sceneries, Tunisia has a history of child poverty in its regions. Tunisia, like many developing countries worldwide, has room for improvement in regard to child poverty, especially as children aged 0 to 14 make up 23% of Tunisia’s population.

Tunisia’s Economic Background

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tunisia has strong growth potential. Just in the past few decades, Tunisia’s social and economic status has improved significantly. The average annual GDP grew by 5% and poverty went down from 60% in 1960 to 4.2% in 2000.

Tunisia has also introduced some budget reforms to improve its economic development. Tourism is a particular focus in the development of Tunisia’s economy. Thousands of people visit Tunisia every year and contribute to the country’s economy. With youth unemployment rates in Tunisia at a high, Tunisia’s government seeks to mitigate economic challenges.

Improving Childhood Education in Tunisia

An economy can impact a country’s education system in several ways. An often useful productive development strategy is to improve schooling levels within a nation. Whether it’s a lack of resources or funding from the government, it’s a focus of countries around the world.

Despite the economic status that Tunisia is currently in, the country does have the potential to recover, as we mentioned earlier. This economic relief would advance childhood education in Tunisia.

Since 1956, Tunisia has been focused on developing a good education system. Education is an important focus for the Tunisian government. About 20% of the government’s budget is allocated to its education system. In early 2018, the Tunisian Ministry of Women and Children partnered with Fun Academy to help develop high-quality education for Tunisian children. This is one of the strategies the Tunisian government is taking to improve the education system.

How Education Impacts the Economy

Educating young children so they can enter high school and college can positively impact a country’s economy. In fact, there are several ways the economy can be impacted by a lack of a proper education system. One of the ways we typically think of is by not having enough people in the professional field. It’s important for Tunisians seeking education to gain the skills to work in the professional field.

This includes early childhood education which will subsequently lead to a better economy. According to an article by Investopedia, education and training are important factors when improving a nation’s economic development. Additionally, employers in Tunisia can face training program increases as well as productivity in the professional field.

Tunisia’s education system is similar to many countries around the world. Tunisia currently spends about 20% to 30% of its national budget on education. In 1998, about 1.5 million kids were enrolled in primary school. At the time, there were about 4,349 primary schools open in Tunisia. These schools were taught by approximately 59,430 teachers and averaged at about 24.6 students per classroom. By the late 1990s, most kids were getting through primary school. Tunisia continues to build its focus on education and development projects.

Child Poverty in Tunisia

In many nations, children living in different parts of a country can have different amounts of education. Tunisia currently has a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to improve human development and its main focus is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve universal primary education across Tunisia, advance child and maternal healthcare and establish environmental stability. While working on improving these aspects of the nation, the government also focuses on child poverty reduction in Tunisia.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, Tunisia may be able to reach its goals and highlights positive progress and new opportunities. Additionally, the National Solidarity Fund is trying to develop funds for vulnerable citizens in Tunisia. Tunisia is working on development programs to improve education and poverty reduction efforts across the country.

These development programs are anticipated to help local economies and build better infrastructure in the country. As previously mentioned, Tunisia has the potential to become an economically developed nation with good childhood education and resources for citizens in the country. By tackling child poverty in Tunisia, the country can improve its education system and alleviate national poverty.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tunisia

In June 2016, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) online magazine announced that the organization has approved a four-year, $2.9 billion loan program to help alleviate poverty in Tunisia.

Continued Struggles Post-Revolution

This news may come as a shock to some people. The IMF gave financial assistance in the form of a Stand-By Arrangement following the 2010 Tunisian Revolution, and the North African country is considered to be one of the few successes that emerged from the Arab Spring.

While Tunisia has come a long way both politically and economically, the country is still plagued by high unemployment and a lagging private sector.

According to IMF Survey, 15 percent of Tunisia’s population and 35 percent of its youth, are unemployed, contributing greatly to poverty in Tunisia. Civil society representatives, speaking with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim during his visit in May, claimed that only 27 percent of the country has access to finance due to strict rules on foreign transactions.

Joblessness and lack of opportunities has produced lackluster economic growth and low government approval ratings. The World Bank reported that only twenty percent of young Tunisians in urban areas trust the government. The figure is ten percent for the countryside.

Regional disparities are also a problem; while the national unemployment rate is high, it is even higher in regions far from the coast. In southwest Tunisia, 26.1 percent of people were unemployed in 2015, according to Tunisia’s National Statistics Institute.

Where unemployment goes, poverty follows. A 2014 World Bank report revealed that the poverty rate in central Tunisia was four times higher than the national average; as high as 30 percent in certain areas.

All of these factors combine to produce a significant number of disgruntled youth that extremist groups seek to recruit.

IMF to Counter Terrorism

According to a Voice of America article published on June 6, 2016, over 7,000 people in the country have become fighters for the Islamic State and other jihadist groups. The reason, cited by many, is that the government has failed to integrate a youth population that is in a process of soul-searching, following the democratic uprising of 2010 that lasted into 2011.

In order curb this terrorist threat, which has major security implications for the region and the world at large, economic development and poverty reduction are key. The new IMF program aims to do exactly that.

In an interview with IMF Survey, IMF Mission Chief for Tunisia Amine Mati stated that by injecting more money, the $2.9 billion loan would help maintain the overall stability of the country’s economy.

As civil society representatives and young Tunisian entrepreneurs have made clear, labor market, private sector and structural reforms are also needed. According to Mati, the program will also assist government efforts in creating a more dynamic economy and ensuring growth is distributed across the country.

Tunisia has great potential. Its democratic government is committed to solving the country’s problems. Foreign aid will help accelerate the progress already made in reducing poverty in Tunisia.

Philip Katz

Photo: Pixabay