Saturday, December 03, 2016

Qatar Partner in Tunisia's Democratic Transition, Says Rached Ghannouchi of Ennahda
03 Dec 2016 - 21:18
The Peninsula, Qatar

Qatar partner in Tunisia's democratic transition, says Rached Ghannouchi of Ennahda
Ennahda Party chief Rached Ghannouchi (Right) with The Peninsula journalist Mohammed Osman

By Mohammed Osman
The Peninsula

The just-concluded International Investment Conference- Tunisia 2020-  held in Tunis under the initiative of Qatar has reflected the importance Qatar has given to Tunisia and its democratic experience, says Rached Ghannouchi, chief of Ennahda Party, a member of Tunisia’s ruling coalition.

In an exclusive interview with The Peninsula in his office in Tunis, the Ennahda ideologue shared his views about the democratic process in Tunisia and Qatar’s role in developing the Tunisian economy.

“It is a historical event and I expect, after this conference Tunisia will not be the same as it was before. Our people have great confidence in the positive effects this conference will have in bringing opportunities for economic prosperity and a new life to them,” said Ghannouchi.

He said this international conference has presented Tunisia as a country of promise, attractive, stable and worth confidence because the event has hosted one third of the world’s countries.

Ghannouchi described Qatar’s participation and support as “extremely exciting” considering the size of the Qatari delegation and attendance of the Emir HH Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the conference.

“This is not the first Qatari initiative to support Tunisia, but Qatar has been incredibly generous and supportive and a partner in our revolution through the support we have got from Al Jazeera for the democratic transition in Tunisia.Al Jazeera introduced our cause, revolution and its figures to the world.” said Ghannouchi.

Qatar’s moral and financial support to Tunisia continued after the revolution to all successive governments, as Tunis has seen multiple transitions of power since 2011.

Qatar provided with generous loans, and deposits of $1bn in the Central Bank of Tunisia whose due time has been extended to contribute to balancing the budget of the state, Ghannouchi added.

“When Qatar gave millions of riyal to support Tunisia, it is not making a gift to a party but rather to the Tunisian government and administration, and we are happy to have Qatar as a partner and ally,” he said.

He added that Qatar being one of the leading economies in the world, its support has encouraged the world economic and financial institutions to invest in Tunisia.

Underlining the importance of the conference for Tunisia, Ghannouchi said that the international financial institutions like World Bank, IMF, European Banks and counties like Germany, France, Canada and many others have restored their confidence on Tunisia.

Another factor is the strong participation of the GCC states, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE thanks to the Qatari efforts that played a significant role in mobilizing their support.

Asked about the differences between this conference and the first conference held in 2014, Ghannouchi noted that Tunisia has now become stable.

“In 2014, the country was not stable, Ennahda decided to step down from power to maintain stability and the country was facing terror attacks and it was at a crossroad. We are very lucky to have overcome that difficult period and the country approved the constitution and elected President and established a coalition government of five parties. Tunisia today is more stable and managed to curtail terrorism and began to lay the foundation for economic growth and investment,” said Ghannouchi.

“ All these developments have made the country gain confidence of the international community  in the Tunisian democracy,” he added.

“This is not a conference asking for loans but for investment,” he said adding that Tunisia wants to present a win-win situation to the investors convincing that that it is a good deal to invest in a stable country.

“ We hope to increase our partnerships with Qatar, of course. The $1.25bn that the Emir has given to Tunisia need to be invested across various projects, farming, infrastructure etc, and we hope to do much more to promote Tunisian exports. The  Qatari support for Tunisia is a clear signal of its support for not only the democratic changes in Tunisia but also for the economic revolution which our country is moving towards,” said Ghannouchi.

“ Now, as 2016 comes to a close, the Tunisian government, representing liberal and conservative parties, is signaling to the world that it is ready to move forward on building its economy with  security, stability and peace. This has encouraged investors to come, who were not here before,  and countries who have already been investing have increased the volume of their investment,” he added.

Asked about fear of some counties about the Tunisian democratic experience, Ghannouchi said, “Tunisian democracy is not for export, it is only for domestic consumption and for cure of local diseases”.

“Tunisian democracy is not exclusive, it is built on a combination of Islam and democracy. The Tunisian experience in fighting terrorism has proved that fighting terror through democracy is more effective and cost less compared to military solutions,” said Ghannouchi.

“As I travel around the world, I have seen and felt the impact of the Tunisian example in building bridges between Islam and modernity, in combating terrorism through social cohesion, peace, and national consensus,” he added.

Asked about the fair distribution of the upcoming investments Ghannouchi pointed out that the revolution started in the  impoverished regions that had been marginalized for decades under the Ben Ali and Bourguiba regimes.

“Now, we need to pay special attention to building up these regions, to build their infrastructure and encourage greater investment through large-scale infrastructure projects that will make these regions desirable investment locations. We need to build roads, highways, railways, airports, hospitals and schools. Saudi Arabia is going to build a big hospital in the city of Kairouan, and France will do the same in Kasserine,” said Ghannouchi.

About the international award he received from Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation in India recently, Ghannouchi said that the award was for promoting Gandhian values outside of India.

“ In the past this award to given  to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many other notable international personalities who have used peaceful means to solve problems and resolve crises. This gift was not to me as an individual, but to the people of Tunisia and their experience in democratic transition.”

“ This award has opened new prospects for Tunisia –India ties. India is the largest democracy in the world, with more that 700 million voters, a democracy which never experienced rigging or attempt of coup,” he added.

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