On 28 November, the second phase of the integrated regional development plan for all regions was signed in Tunis, in the presence of the Minister for Regional Development and International Cooperation, Amine Deghri. The plan aims to launch development projects in all 24 regions of Tunisia, to drive the local economy and create jobs, particularly aimed at graduates. The contracts were signed by the Minister and seven regional governors from Siliana, El Kef, Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, Tataouine, Gafsa and Kebilli.
According to the contracts, a total of 36 projects will be launched in the regions, totaling 203.2 million Tunisian dinars and generating 9000 jobs. The Ministry has launched this second phase of the plan after evaluating the first phase to have been a success, with the implementation of 54 projects across various regions up to October 2013, with 275.3 million dinars being spent and another 141.8 million promised.
In a statement to the press, the Minister said that the government had committed 520 million dinars to the regional development plan between the end of 2011 and 2013. This was in addition to various national programmes and private sector programmes which would benefit 3 million residents and create 25,000 jobs, including 2,300 jobs reserved for graduates.
The projects are financed from the state budget, as well as a 40% contribution from the Arab Fund for Economic Development. The body responsible for delivery of the projects is the Public Authority for Regional Development. Its head, Mrs. Najwa Belhaj, clarified that financing for the projects is provided in two ways –infrastructure projects within the plan are financed by the government while financing for individual projects is provided in association with banks, as part of the programme for entrepreneurs, which is presided over by a joint panel made up of representatives from the Ministry for Social Affairs, the Ministry for Regional Development and International Cooperation and the Tunisian Solidarity Bank.
The regions represented at the signing are among the most deprived inner regions of Tunisia, including Sidi Bouzid where the Tunisian revolution started. The inequalities between wages, living standards and unemployment rates between the regions, particularly between the coastal regions and inner regions of Tunisia, were one of the key factors in the uprising which began on 17 December 2010 and led to the fall of the Ben Ali regime. Regional development has remained a key concern and topic of debate in Tunisia since the revolution, with protests taking place in a number of regions in November to protest against the lack of job opportunities, particularly for graduates.