The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a U.S. $300 million program that will focus on increasing efficiency within local governments. The campaign is the first project that will aim to prioritize decentralization within the Tunisian government. It is particularly interested in increasing municipalities’ ability to deliver services to urban populations.
The campaign is called Urban Development and Local Governance Program and will impact all 264 Tunisian municipalities. It will also act as an aid to support the Tunisian government’s own plan to decentralize authority, a plan that took effect this year and will run through 2019. Although the municipalities are not equal in size, historically they have all lacked the power to make decisions. Additionally, they hold weak authority, have almost no connection to the citizens and play a miniscule role in local development.
The program will attempt to reverse these trends. While financial stability and increased authority in decision-making positions are the main points, the program aims to increase community involvement, especially in regard to the youth and women. The program looks to have these groups involved in the decision making process.
As a part of the Arab Spring, Tunisia celebrated independence three years ago. In January of this year, the country drafted and adopted a new version of the constitution. The Tunisian Republic, as it is now called, fares well when compared to other products of the uprising such as the coup in Africa and the war in Syria. But freedom comes at a steep price and the republic is dealing with economic, security and political challenges.
The recent program seems to have come at an ideal time for the Tunisians. Previously, giving aid to the government was described as “a noose,” by one critic. The constitution that was ratified in January faced an incredible amount of setbacks, not the least of which included several assassinations.
In January, the United States State Department announced that Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia was a terrorist group. The State Department alleged that the AST had ties with al-Qaeda. The Tunisian government responded by banning the group, although there were many subsequent clashes. Included in these uprisings was Mohamed Brahmi, a founder of the People’s Movement in Tunisia.
But the World Bank has pledged its faith in Tunisia. In total, 1.2 billion USD will be given to the country in 2014. This number represents quadruple the amount given in the pre-revolution period and double what has been given in the wake of the uprising.
– Andrew Rywak
Sources: The World Bank, Wamda, Al Jazeera