|General background: Following independence
from France in 1956, President Habib BOURGUIBA established
a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for
31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing
rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation.
In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned
stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has
sought to diffuse rising pressure for a more open political
Area comparative: Slightly
larger than Georgia.
in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers;
desert in south.
in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges
into the Sahara.
Population: 9,815,644 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish
and other 1%
Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish
and other 1%
Language: Arabic (official and one of the
languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on French civil law system
and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative
acts in the Supreme Court in joint session.
Economic overview: Tunisia has a diverse economy,
with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism,
and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of
economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened
over the past decade with increasing privatisation,
simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent
approach to debt. Real growth averaged 5.4% in the
past five years, and inflation is slowing. Growth
in tourism and increased trade have been key elements
in this steady growth, although tourism revenues have
slowed since 11 September 2001 and may take a year
or more to fully recover. Tunisia's association agreement
with the European Union entered into force on 1 March
1998, the first such accord between the EU and a Mediterranean
country. Under the agreement Tunisia will gradually
remove barriers to trade with the EU over the next
decade. Broader privatisation, further liberalization
of the investment code to increase foreign investment,
and improvements in government efficiency are among
the challenges for the future.
Communication/Telephone system: Above the African
average and continuing to be upgraded.
Places of interest: Tunisia's list of visitor
attractions would do justice to a country twice its
size. You'll be pleasantly surprised with what Tunisia
has to offer.