NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tunisian Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed said on Tuesday he expects a sharp rise in his country’s economic growth in 2012 after anemic activity in the wake of a people’s revolution that ousted long-time ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
“For 2012 we are hoping to exceed 5 percent. The objective is 6 percent,” Ayed said of the outlook for growth in gross domestic product, in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the New York Forum.
That would mark a sharp rebound from the 1 percent growth rate expected for 2011, a level Ayed said he considered a “maximum.”
Ayed said the North African nation’s economy needed to diversify away from its reliance on tourism and export-oriented industries such as manufacturing or technology components.
On Saturday, Ayed said he will present plans to the cabinet of interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi for establishing two investment funds to help spur economic development. Ayed said the meeting was being changed to Saturday to accommodate his travel schedule.
One fund will be publicly sponsored and will focus mainly on infrastructure projects. A second fund, seeded with about 2.5 billion dinars of government money, called the Generational Fund, will work with the private sector to invest in Tunisia.
“We believe with the leverage effect, the multiplier effect they will promote, we can contemplate making about 50 to 60 billion dinar investments in the next five to seven years,” he said.
He expects it will take up to a year to get the legal and regulatory framework plus management of the funds in place before they can start deploying money.
Tunisia’s currency, the dinar, is not fully convertible and has been on a slow path of depreciation over the last 25 years, Ayed said.
He said he expects full convertibility “in the next two to three years. The dinar has been a little bit depreciation prone, and I expect that will continue to be the case.”