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April 29, 2005



Sorry mate, but really this is off in the wilderness.

Tunisia a nasty place? If you're in opposition, perhaps, but otherwise the country delivers real economic growth year on year, and has generally made the lives of Tunisians far, far better than its neighbors.

This is not Cairo or any of the other basket case governments, and while I agree Ben Ali is a mean bastid who should move on, the government at least delivers. Bush gets lots wrong on MENA, but not taking a whack at Tunisia is not one of them.

the aardvark

C - I know it's not a bad place for tourists or for businessfolks, but it's a *very* bad place for Tunisian journalists (opposition or not). Guess it comes down to whether you buy the Singapore model that's all the rage with "modernizing" Arab governments - economic development from the top down, hold the political freedoms and human rights. Kind of what Jordan wants to be when it grows up.


Aardvark: I grant readily it's not a great place to be a journo, but there are limited resources in the world, and I'd rather the cluster of whinging incompetent morons in Washington take on the disaster waiting to happen in Cairo than Tunis. Some noises to manage the hypocrisy angle a bit are fine.

I rather admire what Tunisia has done over the past decade and while it could be better, and probably needs to transition out of the Singa model as you rightly put it, it's still a better place to be born as an ordinary Mohammed than any of its near or middling neighbors.

matthew hogan

One day Col will get over his Attaturk-methodology soft spot.



I like economic growth. Makes people richer.

I do admit that I have short changed the Aardvark's note on MEPI, but then the last time I met MEPI twits they were blithering on about setting up some ludicrous "entrepreneurship training center" and "enabling SME finance." Clueless gits. No clue about the region, no clue about the economies, no clue about anything. Rather like my old CPA idjits.

Nur al Cubicle

As counterpoint to Mr. Cruel Businessman and Laissez-Faire's paen to Tunis, this is what I learned in Le Monde's archives today:

In the October 2004 elections, International Media Support measured for an 8-day period radio and tv news concerning the campaign. State media consecrated 70.44% of airtime to Ben Ali's party, the RCD, vs 0.7% to the Ettajid opposition movement. There were also two "alibi candidates" put up by Ben Ali: Mohamed Bouchiha and Mounir Beji who got 13% and 12% of newscast airtime, respectively. The Democratic Initiative's candidate, Mohamad Ali Halwani, got 1% of that airtime.

As to the economy, the review Confluences Méditerranée gave Tunisia a poor report card and there has been none of the democratic transition promised after the riots of 1988.

Benali's Ministry of the Interior has penetrated the street, the schools, the neighborhood, business and sports. There are commissaires and spies every

Al Hayat has been outlawed since 1998.

All newspapers have to deliver daily 6 copies of their daily edition to the Interior Ministry's censors before distribution to newsstands. In 1992 there were six opposition papers--today there are two.

In December 2003, Colin Powell praised Tunisia for "its remarkable advances in the domaine of human rights."

During the US Presidential campaign of 2004, all publications were ordered "from on high" to refrain from printing photos of Democratic challenger John Kerry "to please the Bush administration" and from printing any criticism of Bush's occupation of Iraq.

Recalcitrant journalists are imprisoned in a "house arrest" arrangement (not their houses) in the south of the country so far away that their families cannot afford the visit.

Dave L

Collounsbury makes perfect realist sense.

But that's not the line the Bush administration is pushing, is it?

Please, bring back Brent Scowcroft, and deliver us from neocon "idealism", which is really just a way of putting fancy clothes on a policy of "my enemy's enemy is my friend".


Well, Cubicle Light, I really don't see a refutation to my note. You've reiterated what I readily grant, Tunisia has a lousy record in regards to opposition politics and journalism generally. One party state with all the confidence of.... well a one party state.

However, no refutation on the economics, a hand waving cite to some journal without any meat, and slide over to the journo angle. Hint, want to refute the economics, you need the economics.

The reality is the economic data, while not perfect, is pretty good for Tunisia over the past ten and even fifteen years. The country has made serious progress economically. Better than impoverishment.

Else, yes the Bush Admin. shows precious little realism. A lot of fuzzy thinking.

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