The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive 28-day campaign of protests in 2011 that led to the removal of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Triggered by issues like high unemployment, expensive food, corruption, and a lack of freedom, the revolution marked a significant change for Tunisia. It not only brought democracy to the country but also became a symbol of success during the Arab Spring.

Following the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced significant economic challenges. According to the World Bank , the country’s economy struggled to grow between 2011 and 2019, with an average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.7%. The situation worsened due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, which slowed down economic recovery. Despite some improvement in GDP following a substantial -8.8% contraction in 2020, Tunisia has not fully recovered. In 2021, GDP grew by 4.3%, followed by a 2.4% increase in 2022. The country is also experiencing double-digit inflation, reaching 10.2% in 2023, accompanied by a 14.6% increase in food prices. As of 2023, unemployment rates remain high at 15.2%, particularly affecting the youth (38.8%) and those with higher education (24%) . Additionally, poverty rates have risen, with one-sixth of the population now classified as impoverished, and recurring food shortages have become a widespread issue.

These economic challenges after the revolution show that Tunisia is still dealing with difficulties in trying to become stable and prosperous. In this essay, we’ll look into where these problems come from, what they mean, and how Tunisia can move forward.


  1. I) Tunisia’s Political Journey: Successes, Struggles, and the Path Forward
  1. How Tragedy Shaped Tunisia’s Politics


Tunisia’s political journey since the Arab Spring in 2011 has been intricate, reflecting both successes and challenges. Despite being a standout success in the region, political instability has made its way into the fabric of the country’s post-revolutionary path.


The tipping point emerged with the tragic assassinations of Chokri Belaid on February 6, 2013, and Mohamed Brahmi on July 25. Both were prominent leftist leaders, and their untimely deaths prompted a strong reaction from the predominantly secular opposition. These events triggered a political crisis, prompting the mainly secular opposition to organize protests against the ruling Troika alliance, which Rashid al-Ghannushi’s Islamist Ennahda Movement dominated.


   2) Tunisia’s Struggle with Consensus and its Consequences

Tunisia showcased its strengths in navigating the aftermath of these assassinations. The military and security forces maintained neutrality, and political parties sought consensus. Yet, the emphasis on consensus brought unintended consequences. While it helped overcome immediate crises, it led to compromises on crucial demands like justice, security reform, and economic restructuring.

Leaders like Beji Caid Essebsi and Rached Ghannouchi, despite controversy surrounding them, played significant roles in forming grand coalitions, transcending political differences. However, the consensus-driven approach left many supporters dissatisfied, contributing to the rise of more extreme parties in the 2019 elections and deepening political polarization.


    3) Security Struggles: The Impact of Tunisia’s Challenges on Stability

The security sector, initially advantageous, posed challenges to stability. A small military and weak coordination with other security forces created a security vacuum, resulting in incidents like the attack on the U.S. Embassy in 2012 and major terrorist attacks in 2015. The weak security sector diverted attention from crucial reforms, perpetuating issues like police abuses and hindering economic development.


 Tunisia’s post-revolutionary journey, marked by political assassinations, consensus politics, and challenges in security and civil society, presents a nuanced picture. Ongoing challenges highlight the imperative of sustained efforts to address political, economic, and security issues for lasting stability and prosperity.


  1. II)  The Impact of economic Cartels on Tunisia’s economy


In Tunisia, the supposed liberalization of the economy since the 1970s has concealed a prevailing “Cartel economy,” shrouded in secrecy since the early years of the Revolution. Economists and diplomats, speaking off the record, attribute the sluggish pace of economic reform to this hidden reality.


Following the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis, there is a growing call for a shift in the economic model. Elyès Jouini, economist and author of the “Jasmine Plan” for economic reform, argues that the Cartel economy, rooted in the monopoly of a few, is an outdated social organization that inhibits progress. The system, justified in the 70s and 80s to stimulate entrepreneurship, has outlived its purpose, yet persists. This rentier economy is blamed for the absence of major Tunisian companies on the international stage, hindering economic growth.


Since 2011, the anticipation of economic rejuvenation has been met with disappointment. The existing rules for sharing prosperity lack a democratic debate, preventing the economic engine from restarting. Tunisia’s cartel economy, not reliant on natural resources like neighboring Libya and Algeria, hinders business opportunities and profitable sectors. Family cartels, operating through a system of authorizations and licenses, control economic activity, intertwining it with the political sphere and administration.

Analysts argue that the cartel economy extends beyond the business realm, permeating society and producing funds through administrative controls and the power to grant authorizations, licenses, credit, and customs clearance. This economic lock-in gives rise to crony capitalism, where privileged connections with political decision-makers secure situational funds, impeding competition and the public interest.

Despite changes in the political system, Tunisia continues to grapple with crony capitalism. While the distribution of favors may have shifted from a single clan to multiple intermediaries, the impact remains, with cartels persisting due to state passivity and the absence of a robust competition authority. The cost to the community is substantial, running into billions of dinars.


III) Tunisia’s Financial Crisis: Facing Bankruptcy Risk

Tunisia is facing a severe financial crisis that could lead to bankruptcy, posing significant risks across the central Mediterranean region. The country’s economic challenges stem from the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, compounded by militant attacks in 2015, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and agricultural setbacks. Inaction by governing coalitions over the past decade, coupled with powerful business interests hindering competition, has worsened the situation. Alarming financial indicators include a budget deficit of 10% of GDP, debt at 77% of GDP, and external borrowing needs exceeding $5 billion for the current year.

Signs of strain are evident, with disruptions in subsidized goods and medicines, delayed state salaries, and diminishing foreign currency reserves. The looming danger includes the risk of default on sovereign loans, with Fitch rating Tunisia’s debt deep in “junk” territory. The proposed $1.9 billion IMF bailout, aimed at putting Tunisia on a sustainable financial path, faces hurdles as negotiations stalled months ago, leaving the country in a precarious financial position. Urgent action is crucial to prevent further economic deterioration and potential social unrest.



In summary, Tunisia, once known for its successful Jasmine Revolution, is facing a complicated crisis involving economic, political, and security challenges. Despite the initial hopes for democracy after removing President Ben Ali in 2011, the country is now dealing with ongoing economic problems, especially due to a system favoring a few powerful groups. The political landscape is marked by compromises and divisions, stemming from tragic events, and security concerns highlight the need for significant changes. To overcome these challenges, Tunisia needs to update its economic system, promote unity in politics, and address security issues. Despite the difficulties, the resilience of the Tunisian people offers hope for a better future.


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