President Kais Saied has said that Tunisia will develop more projects in the country with support from Beijing.
"We will work together with our Chinese friends to carry out many megaprojects that will meet the aspirations of Tunisians," Saied reportedly said at the inauguration of the recently completed University Hospital in Sfax that was built by a Chinese contractor with financial support from Beijing.
The 246-bed hospital is the largest Chinese-aided project in Tunisia. The main contractor was China State Construction Engineering Corporation and work began on site in December 2016.
China is playing an increasingly important role in Tunisia’s construction sector. Gulf countries have in the past been a main sources of funding for construction projects in Tunisia.
While some Gulf-backed projects have been completed and will proceed, many have failed to move ahead, which has created an opportunity for other investors.
China is the most likely country to fill the void. A report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in June this year stated that “Europe and the US will continue to be the country’s primary economic partners, but China, which has been steadily increasing its investment in Tunisia, could seize the opportunity to take on some of the large, showy projects that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have funded in the past". These include stadiums, ports and healthcare facilities, as well as tourism projects such as Tunis Economic City and Tunis Lake District.
“Even in a booming economy, the Gulf states have often failed to make good on their investment pledges," the report said. "A pause of Gulf investment is therefore likely, leaving China the room it needs to grow its footprint in a country with great geostrategic importance due to its position between Europe, Africa and the Middle East.”
Foreign investment will also help support Tunisia’s public-private partnership (PPP) plans.
The government has selected 33 projects worth about $5bn to develop as PPPs. To support this drive, Tunis is working with the OECD to activate a new PPP law, which was voted through by Tunisia’s parliament in November 2015 with the aim of promoting the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of public spending in the country.
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