Tunisia's lesson : Century City

Jordan Times - 14/08/2007
(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Yusuf Mansur

"Dubai has invested so far in Tunisia over $3 billion. The new investment is likely to push the investment level of Dubai in Tunisia to $7 billion, and as the model goes, the Dubai investments will rise to $16 billion.
Sama Dubai, with an investment portfolio of $38 billion around the world, is one of the largest three real estate investment companies in the world.
The investment in Tunisia will not only create so many jobs for Tunisians, it will also host 2,500 international firms. Clearly the investment is a boon to Tunisia, a country that strategically manages its economy with an eye to the future and the challenges it brings. Most importantly, the executive branch of government seems to have worked out what it takes to attract quality investment.
When large investors go to Tunisia, they call upon the Large Projects Commission, a small body of highly qualified technicians whose role is to deal with projects that are larger than $1 billion.
This small body of five or so executives comprises engineers and MBAs, and is headed by a senior government executive (Slim Tlatli, ...........) with the rank of minister, who reports directly to the president of Tunisia.
All negotiations with large investors are handled directly by this commission, not by investment promotion bodies and the regular bureaucracy. The task of the commission is to ensure that investors are encouraged to invest in Tunisia without sacrificing Tunisia's interests.
Questions that were asked, for example, were around the number of jobs to be created, the type of investments to be attracted, sources of funding (whether local or foreign), future outflows of capital once the project concludes, etc. All were strategic issues that are likely to affect the future of the economy.
On the other hand, huge tracts of land, 8,300,000 sq. m., by a lake within minutes from downtown Tunis, were provided at nominal prices by the government. The issue for the government was job creation, not money creation through land sale. After all, land holdings that set there as dust bowls cannot create jobs, only more dust.
The impact of this investment on the future flows of foreign direct investment to Tunisia is a hundred fold. Such a large deal signals to the world's mega investors that Tunisia is the place to be; consequently, other large firms will follow.
Furthermore, Emaar Properties and Dubai Investments have already announced new projects in telecom, tourism and infrastructure, injecting $700 million into Tunisia's economy.
The way Tunisia handled this mega investment is a best practice that should be emulated by others. The lessons learnt from the important role of this commission and the significant role it played in facilitating such a giant investment should not go unnoted or appreciated."


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