On the 19th of December 2016, Forward Thinking facilitated a roundtable between leading young Tunisian political activists and two economic experts from the international community – Vladyslav Rashkovan, the former Deputy General Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, and Erik Berglof, the Director of the LSE’s Institute for Global Affairs. The aim of the roundtable was to explore the challenges of carrying out reforms, particularly economic reforms, in transitioning societies. The topic was selected by participants who agreed that delivering effective economic reforms is now the key challenge for the government and Tunisian society in order to secure the country’s democratic transition, and who felt that such a dialogue could be informed by the perspective of those who had dealt with similar challenges in their own context.
Discussions were extremely rich, with participants identifying a number of reform priorities to unleash economic growth, including: reform of the education system (ensuring it equips young people with relevant skills for the job market); tackling tax evasion and broadening the tax base; increasing efforts to tackle corruption; easing access to finance for young entrepreneurs and new businesses and the decentralisation of decision making to the local level. The two experts stressed the importance of vision in delivering reforms, arguing that a simple and clear vision is necessary to guide a reform process, give it energy and ensure it has coherence. The importance of preparing for “tomorrow’s challenges” was also emphasised, with the pace of technological and global change said to be creating a fundamentally new set of challenges and opportunities that policymakers would require fresh tools and ways of thinking to respond to.
In addition to the roundtable workshop, we also held a number of bilateral meetings with key Tunisian policymakers, including: the Minister of Trade, the Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, the Secretary of State for Employment, economic advisors to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, a former Finance Minister, parliamentarians, and leading political party members. Meetings with representatives of the international community in Tunisia were also arranged, including a representative of the EU Delegation to Tunisia. These meetings provided an important opportunity for peer-to-peer dialogue on the challenges of transition.