Tunisia is facing some financial challenges around its trade deficit, which is bloating to over $4 billion.
Reuters has reported a widening of the national trade deficit during the first part of the year, according to the country's State Statistics Institute. Reuters called the trade deficit “one of the main dilemmas” facing the Tunisian government and marked the impact on the country's foreign currency reserves.
Reporters on the scene have said that the media is imposing restrictions on some imports to try to stem the flow.
“Tunisia didn’t get into this problem overnight,” Gary Patterson told Maghreb News Wire Oct. 3. “They won’t get out of it overnight.”
Patterson runs FiscalDoctor, a Georgia-based company that helps business leaders create sustainable profitable growth. He said a good strategy to combating a trade deficit in general involves two main components.
First, he said, you have to try to defend the national economy by creating some restrictions on trade -- similar to what Tunisian officials seem to be poised to do.
In describing how this works, Patterson cited a rumor he heard about how French officials dealt with trade imbalances some years back, in the automotive industry. What France allegedly did, Patterson said, was cut back auto import customs work to one single inspector, at a single port in Marseille, who would only work one eight-hour shift per weekday.
This “rationing,” Patterson said, allowed France the breathing room to assess the situation, and get back on its feet.
“You need to play some games,” Patterson said. “You need to buy some time.”
Secondly, Patterson said, the country needs to address the underlying issues that led to the trade deficit in the first place -- like innovating and bringing new products to market.
That one-two punch, he said, can be helpful to a national economy under pressure.
Look for more news as we follow the Tunisian economy through the fourth quarter of 2017.