18 January 2011
Tunisia is in the midst of difficult times and how it will affect Desertec and the Dii goals is yet to be seen. President Ben Ali stepped down last Friday and immediately fled out of the country, the country is currently in a state of emergency, and the military is patrolling the streets of Tunis after heavy rioting took place with arson and looting.
People took to the streets to protest the bleak economic outlook that resulted from widespread corruption. While the overall unemployment rate is reported with 14%, some 30% of the young people are unemployed despite the fact that many are well educated. Even employment is tied to bribery and connections. According to a latest estimate of the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), over one billion US dollars per year was lost by “corruption, bribery, kickbacks, trade mispricing, and criminal activity” in the past years.
The revolution in Tunisia hits the Dii project at its weakest point: The political instability of future partner countries in the Maghreb. The political framework is the one variable upon which the Dii makers have little influence. Dii CEO Paul van Son has stated in a social community blog on Saturday that the events in Tunisia may perhaps delay Dii’s work temporarily, but he feels confident that the long-term goals of the initiative are not in danger. Geographically, Tunisia is the smallest of the countries that are in the focus of the Desertec activities in the MENA region, but at the same time also lies in the centre of the Maghreb states. With its vicinity to Sicily and therewith Europe, the country also plays a strategic role in the long-term Desertec plans.
Confidence is needed at present. The revolution in Tunisia has gathered a lot of attention in the Arabic world, and there are already voices that say the revolutionary spirit could spread to other totalitarian-led countries in the region. However, the ousting of the President in Tunisia also bears a good chance for a new model of a true democratic state in the Maghreb world.
Written by Andreas Breyer, Contributing Editor--Germany