President of Banks Association: Tunisia Could Become a "Regional Financial Hub"

Article Summary
According to Habib Ben Saad, the president of the Tunisian Association of Banks, Tunisia is currently beset by economic difficulties as a result of the tumultuous Jasmine Revolution. However, if the new government takes advantage of the country’s close relations with Libya, its banking expertise and its highly skilled labor force, Tunisia will be well positioned to become a regional financial hub.

The president of the Tunisian Association of Banks, Habib Ben Saad, says that the situation in Tunisia is critical and requires cooperation on all levels to escape the current economic and social predicament with minimal losses—especially considering that the 2011 growth rate will be zero at best. Ben Saad is satisfied with the elected leadership’s political discourse and hopes that the government’s economic program will meet present needs and contribute to the establishment of a prosperous future.

Ben Saad says that banks will play a key role during the next phase. He hopes that the banking sector will attract positive attention and that legislation necessary to raise the bar of the banking sector will be passed. If there is a real demand for banking operations that comply with Islamic law, he says that demand could be addressed by granting licenses for the establishment of new banks and encouraging banks to open Islamic “windows” [departments of conventional banks offering Islamic financial services].

He adds that the positive developments in Libya will help solve the Tunisian crisis. According to Libyan government sources, more than two million workers from different disciplines are required for Libya’s reconstruction. Tunisia’s severe unemployment crisis could be alleviated if Tunisians receives 10 percent of Libyan job opportunities [an arrangement that would be possible because of Tunisia and Libya’s special relationship]. Ben Saad pointed out that the special and historic relationship between the two countries deepened during the Libyan Revolution and is now becoming even more profound. Therefore, Libyans would likely give top priority to Tunisian labor, especially to graduates, skilled laborers and experts in education, engineering, medicine, banking, hotel management and information technology.

According to Ben Saad, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s planned tour of the Maghreb and a number of Gulf countries will yield positive results, increasing cooperation between Tunisia and the countries that have attracted Tunisia’s skilled laborers in the past. Ben Saad therefore welcomes the promotion of banking cooperation between Tunisia and its neighbors as a means of achieving Tunisia’s goals, foremost of which is to become a regional hub for financial and banking services. Ben Saad adds that conferences should be held to highlight the role of Tunisian expertise in modernizing the banking sectors of neighboring countries and the history of longstanding cooperation between these countries.

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