What is the government trying to do?

What is the government playing? Has he studied the financial implications of his decision to introduce an import visa? That the head of state understands nothing about the economy, everyone has understood that, but that the government also gets involved is a little too hard to swallow. Back to a decision that could cost Tunisia dearly.

The curtain was raised last weekend by a leaked document. The joint press release from three ministries, trade, industry and health, announces new measures for the import of certain products that require an import visa for operators and a series of procedures to be carried out in advance. This would complicate the importation of a very large list of products in the famous perfumes that the head of state mentioned in one of his speeches given a fortnight ago.

A copy of this document reached Business News, which decided not to disclose it as they had doubts about its authenticity. This document is only signed by one of the three aforementioned ministries. Today, the vice-president of the Trade Union Chamber of International Trade Companies under the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts (Utica), Zied Jaouadi, said at Myriam Belkadhi’s microphone in her show La Matinale de Shems FM, that the document entered into force on 17 October, proving its authenticity.

So what’s the problem? For Mr. Jaouadi, this decision will prevent imports that cause shortages of these products and inflation, in addition to their development of the parallel market.

We agree with the rationalization of imports, the problem lies in the method and manner. The sector was not asked to participate in this important decision involving it. To me this is a strategy to limit importers from the official circuit and the application is scheduled for October 17 “, he declared.

He also stated: We learned the information from social networks via the document circulating on the web! A document requiring an import visa that never made it to Utica “.

The new measures will impose an enormous amount of paperwork at a time when digitization is recommended, with a file containing eight documents and any other additional document that the administration would require (factory invoices, certificate from the competent authorities of the country of origin to verify that the company is legal, to prove that the manufacturer follows the quality monitoring system, a list of the types of products to be imported, the registration of the brand in the country of origin to avoid counterfeiting, the model of visa for the products to be imported, the certificate of free sale issued by the authorities in the country of origin and the documents proving the quality of the product). In addition, no response time is specified from the submission of the visa application, therefore no visibility for importers. And knowing the Tunisian administration, the answers will drag out and the famous ” come back tomorrow will be appropriate.

Of course, all this will happen at the expense of the consumer, because the cost of the products in question will increase and delays will be recorded in the arrival of these products to the Tunisian markets, knowing that certain products are raw materials, still according to the vice president of the Trade Union Chamber of international trading companies.

Therefore, the products available in the markets will decrease, inflation will explode and government revenues will decrease.

Another major problem revealed by Mr. Jaouadi is the requirement to import directly from production facilities, practically impossible to meet.

In fact, the manufacturers have several production units spread around the world, some of which are located in Tunisia, and each factory manufactures certain products. Everything is then collected in sales centers or on logistics platforms to be sent back to the destination countries.

So who will benefit from these new measures? The parallel market, which has no obstacles and is completely free, which brings back products that do not meet the requirements, which are sometimes dangerous to health, and which does not pay anything to the state.

Fraudsters will also be able to take advantage of certain loopholes such as to import will be exempt from this visa without consideration or without currency transfer.

So everything is done to make it difficult for the most conscientious. Furthermore, Zied Jaouadi believes that these decisions will decimate the SMEs in the sector. Larger companies need to find solutions easily.

These new measures will also benefit local producers, for whom the ministry should carry out quality control. Several of them produce for the Tunisian market of mediocre quality and sometimes not according to specifications or even to their own specifications, while the same operators export high quality abroad. These operators should first learn to respect the Tunisian consumer because no one will resort to buying an imported product if he finds an equivalent national production offered at a cheaper price.

The full knowledge that the goods in question represent only 1,600 MD is nothing compared to 50,000 MD of the country’s imports.

Even if we completely ban the import of the products on the list, it will not solve the problem of the deficit, which will only decrease by 2 or 3%. “, Hammered Zied Jaouadi explained that the deficit comes from energy.

In fact and referring to the figures published by the National Institute of Statistics (INS) in August 2022, the majority of the trade deficit is due to the imbalance between imports and exports of raw materials and semi-finished products. It represents 38.95% of the total deficit. Then we have the energy deficit which monopolizes 35.71% of the total deficit and then the food deficit which represents 12.74% of the total deficit. These three expenditure areas alone account for 87.74% of the total deficit.

Thus, it appears that the impact of the import of luxury goods is not as great as claimed by the head of state or as put forward by the members of Harak on July 25, stating figures that seem important but are insignificant in comparison with the total deficit and the state budget.

In fact, the new measures will have more disadvantages than advantages. In addition to supply disruptions, shortages and the resulting inflation, the decline in activity in certain sectors will push them towards layoffs and layoffs. Everyone knows that the real problem is the lack of external resources and the failure to conclude the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which blocks any other contribution of currency. Looking at the list of products, several parts of the economy will be affected, and for SMEs, a cessation of activity is equivalent to certain death.

Another important point, several Tunisian brands do not produce locally: they import their products. Therefore, Tunisians will also be surprised by the absence of several products known as Tunisian brands.

In this context, let us remember that several industrialists had sounded the alarm bells years ago about the disappearance of the Tunisian industrial structure. A cry that is passed over in silence, and for which Tunisia must pay the price today.

Actions that can be considered outrageous when we consider the populism of certain government decisions aimed at making Tunisians swallow the bitter pill. In these difficult times, and while we are talking about restrictions and rationalization, the government has mobilized funds in foreign currency for the Umrah rituals, which, it must be remembered, are not considered obligatory in the Muslim religion. Thus, fifty million dinars were mobilized there.

The amount is certainly not very large, but reveals the schizophrenia of the authorities. At the latest, a few weeks ago, the head of state spoke against the import of care and beauty products and considered that they were not a priority…

That being said, nothing is lost. The government can work for the future and speed up several projects, especially renewable energy projects, especially if entry into production is hampered beyond the industrial units that have been waiting months for the green light from the authorities to get started. Another aspect is to grow a larger part of our grain needs ourselves, so that we are no longer dependent on others. Something the current government has promised to do this year.

Mr. Jaouadi also mentioned the need to promote exports, which for him is easy, that does not require funds from the state, but simply a change in the laws, especially those of the stock exchanges. In addition to promoting national production and, above all, protecting it from competition from foreign products, especially those flowing through the parallel market, which do not pay taxes and compete illegally with national products.

It is important to rationalize imports, but this must not be done at the expense of the consumer and in such a way as to accelerate inflation, which has already reached a record level not seen in forty years. The government will have to start by telling Tunisians the truth about the state of public finances and convincing them of the need to implement structural reforms. Strike while the iron is hot. Tunisians have never been so aware of the seriousness of the situation, some have had to spend the night in their cars to fill up with fuel. Because Tunisia’s salvation is closely linked to the implementation of reforms that will allow the country to move forward and invest in the sectors that really matter to it and not be satisfied with going into debt to pay its loans and salaries .

Meanwhile NOUIRA

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