Optimistic Tunisia forecasts 3.5% annual growth

Tunisian unemployment has reached 19 percent

TUNIS - The Tunisian government will present its economic and social plan to parliament by the end of the month and base it on a growth forecast of 3.5 percent for 2012, a cabinet minister said Monday.
The plan by the government that took office last December was "developed in concert with all social parties" and experts, economic minister Ridha Saidi told the TAP news agency.
In 2011, the year that began with the downfall of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian economy contracted by 1.8 percent and foreign direct investment plummeted 29.2 percent.
For its new programme, the government is relying on growth in tourism, a sector severely damaged by the Arab Spring revolution that brought down Ben Ali.
Tourism revenues plunged by a third in 2011.
"The government is also optimistic of registering an exceptional agricultural season, which could contribute to growth of 2.9 percent in the sector," Saidi said.
With Tunisian unemployment at about 19 percent, job creation is another priority for the government led by Islamist prime minister Hamadi Jebali.
The government intends to create 25,000 new public sector jobs, said Saidi, and the projected economic growth rate should permit the creation of about 70,000 jobs in total.