Regional disparities in Tunisia are structural and institutional. Overall, coastal regions (such as Cap Bon, Sousse, Sfax, Mehdia) tend to be wealthier than inland regions (western, central, and southern regions); but these disparities are much more severe in Tunis, largely due to the political dominance of networks centred on the political regime. Factories (and employment prospects) have long been concentrated along Tunisia's coast, while the interior regions were isolated from these hubs of economic activity not only by distance but, more significantly, by lack of infrastructure, transportation, and information networks. Population and economic activities are mainly concentrated in the northeast (governorate of Tunis) and the mid-east (governorate of Sfax) with coastal regions accounting for 75 per cent of non-agricultural jobs. This has been the source of a significant gap in average consumption and poverty across costal and interior regions.

In 2010, while the poverty headcount (national average) stood around 15.5 per cent, regional disparities in poverty levels were much more significant. Considerable disparity in employment opportunities across regions has persisted for decades. For instance, on average, since 2004 the unemployment rate has exceeded 22.6 per cent in the regions of Jendouba, Le Kef, Kasserine, and Gafsa. Patterns of government spending have largely failed to address these persistent regional disparities in development. Close to 65 per cent of public investment is allocated to coastal areas. As a consequence, healthcare needs in the mid-west region are largely unmet and youth illiteracy remains significantly high.

A recent World Bank study[1] on inequality across the Middle East and North Africa regions suggests that marginal improvements in transportation and digital connectivity networks entail significant welfare gains for disadvantaged regions.

  • [1] Brisson and Krontiris (2012).
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >