Tunisian Central Bank
Tunis – Nabil Zaghdod
Tunisia's tourism industry, has rebounded in the first four months of 2012 after taking a hit following the uprising that toppled president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, official data has revealed Tuesday.
A relative improvement of agricultural production, a drop in exports for Mechanical and Electrical Industries, clothing and shoes, as well as a recovery of the tourist trade are the main indicators of the economic situation for the period ranging between January 1 and May 15, according to the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT).
In a sector-based analysis , the bank reveals that: "the agricultural production indexes relating to livestock and fishing posted a relative improvement in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period in 2010 and 2011".
In regards to the industrial sector: "fallouts from the economic recession in the Euro zone on the national economy, started to be felt as a drop in the mechanical and electrical industries in April 2012 was seen (-4.1 percent against 25.2 percent during the same period of the previous year), and in clothing, leather and footwear industries (-22.4 percent vs. 19.2 percent)".
The imports of capital goods, raw materials and semi-finished products respectively dropped by -2.7 percent and -2.8 percent.
Tourism has carried on its recovery since last April, recording a rise in the number of tourists' arrivals in the first four months of the current year (+ 51.8 percent in terms of annual shift against -41.8 percent in 2011) and in foreign currency earnings (696.3 million dinars , up by 34.1 percent vs. 519.2 MTD and -30.5 percent in 2011).
Regarding the external payments, the general balance of external payments recorded a 725-MTD deficit during the first four months of 2012, a significant fall compared with the same period last year (2316 MTD). This was followed up with a firming-up in the surplus balance of financial operations and capital, whereas the current deficit continued to widen considerably.
The current payments deficit reached 2071 MTD in 2012, i.e. 3 percent of GDP compared to 1619 MTD (2.5 percent of GDP) during the same period in 2011. This is due to the worsening in trade deficit (+ 38.8 percent), standing at 3314 MTD after a rise of 13.4 percent in imports, and a fall of 6 percent in exports, respectively 5.9 percent and 11.1 percent the previous year.
The impact of the trade deficit was reduced by a better surplus balance of services by 175 MTD during the first four months of this year, thanks to the increase in tourism revenues on the one hand, and the shrinking in the deficit of factor income and current transfers (223 MTD), due to the increase of labor income by 22.5 percent on the other hand.
The first four months of 2012 have seen a surplus balance of financial operations and of capital which amounted to 1346 MTD, against a deficit of 697 MTD in the same period of 2011. This is in line with the increase in direct foreign investments (19. 3 percent), as well as the firming-up of the surplus balance of loan-borrowing and other commitments reaching 840 MTD.
As a result, net assets in foreign currencies now stand at 9857 MTD, until May 15, or 101 days of imports, against 113 days at the end of 2011.
According to the central bank, inflationary pressure went up in April 2012, with the consumer price index having recorded a rise of 0.8 percent, compared with March of the same year.
In terms of annual shift, the increase came to 5.7 percent, while the inflation rate reached an average of 5.5 percent, considered high when compared with that of 3.5 percent which was recorded in 2011.
In the economic budget of 2012, the government is expecting an inflation rate of 4.8 percent.
According to the central Bank, the levels of most core inflation indexes recorded a rise.
Faced with the ongoing shrinking of bank liquidity over April 2012, the BCT interventions on the money market rose to an average of 3462 MTD in April, against 3351 MTD in March.
As for pressure on bank liquidity, this pressure beagn from the beginning of the current month. Hence, the banks' needs for refinancing at the Central Bank have increased, which have generated a higher average interest rate for the money markets, posting 3.72 percent during this period against 3.64 percent last April.
The global amount of bank deposits, increased by 3.5 percent in the first four months of 2012.
Financing of the economy, grew at a slower pace than the one which was recorded during the same period last year (4 percent).
Debit accounts, outstanding payments and consolidations credits represented the largest share of the overall increase of loans, which reveals more difficulties in regards to debt collection, as consumer loans increased in turn sharply.
By sector, manufacturing industries accounted for 45.2 percent of this rise, whereas tourism and real estate accounted for 18.8 percent and 14.3 percent respectively, of the overall increase.