Friday, April 8, 2011

Post-Revolution Tunisia Faces Economic Woes

April 8, 2011
(NPR News) - In Tunisia, a transitional government is in the midst of tackling predictable challenges like how to agree on a constitution and how to organize an election.
A Tunisian man walks by craft shops in the medina in February. Today, the shops are suffering for lack of tourists. "The tourism is catastrophic in Tunis today," says Said Ayari, who sells handicrafts like traditional pointed leather shoes.But there's another problem the government faces: the state of the economy.
In the warrens of the medina — the old city of Tunis — merchants in their covered stalls, packed with every sort of merchandise, know that tourists may avoid a country that's working its way through a largely peaceful revolution, with an occasional protest that turns violent. And they're not happy about it.
Said Ayari sells handicrafts like traditional pointed leather shoes. He says there used to be many tourists at the market — but not anymore.
"The tourism is catastrophic in Tunis today," he says.
The tourism sector is in a "deep crisis," says Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, an economist and a senior member of one of the bigger Tunisian political parties — The Ettajdid, or Renewal Movement.
"This sector is a very important for us," he says. "It's thanks to this sector that I would say 400,000 to 500,000 people live."
'Big Damage'
In this country of 10.5 million, tourism represents more than 5 percent of the economy.