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Investing in Tunisia

Butchers wait for customers in a market in Ben Guerdane, near the Tunisia-Libyan border, Tunisia, (File)

"The next step – economic reform – is essential if the revolution is to fulfill the ambitions of the Tunisian people."

Tunisia has undergone a historic transition from dictatorship to democracy. But this political shift is only part of what is needed, said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

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"The next step – economic reform – is essential if the revolution is to fulfill the ambitions of the Tunisian people."

While the Tunisian government has taken some important first steps, more reforms are necessary to encourage investment and to create an environment for widespread job creation.

One of these areas includes Tunisia's investment code. It needs to be streamlined and simplified. Clarifying the investment code will incentivize business formation and competition, and send a signal to investors that Tunisia is open for business.

Tunisia's banking system is burdened by too many non-performing loans. Bank reform is necessary to support the creation of new, viable businesses and a bankruptcy law that protects risk-takers and permits failure must be part of that reform.

Another area in need of change is Tunisia's current tax and customs system, which remains unpredictable, inefficient, and too discretionary. Tunisia needs a transparent, reliable and modern tax structure with equitable tax brackets that incorporate the informal economy into the broader market.

Finally Tunisia would benefit from a strong public-private partnership law that increases transparency and predictability for domestic and foreign firms that want to invest in the country.

In order to help jump-start Tunisia's economic development, the U.S. has announced a series of new programs.

Among them is the Department of Commerce- supported public-private partnership called the Regional Investments to Support Entrepreneurship – or RISE. This new platform is a partnership between the Department of Commerce and Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Pfizer, and Medtronic to promote trade and investment between the U.S. and Tunisia, increase market access, and strengthen commercial rule of law.

The State Department has also just launched a partnership with a Detroit-based organization, “Detroit Soup,” a pioneering crowd-funding model that will help start-up Tunisian social entrepreneurs and creative businesses through a competition based on democratic voting that distributes capital raised from private participants for the best ideas.

The United States, said Secretary Pritzker, will stand by Tunisia as it continues to fulfill the promises of its revolution — a government that adheres to the voices of Tunisia’s citizens; an economy that advances opportunity for Tunisia’s families; and the freedom for all to speak out and determine their destiny.