It is its social and foreign policies that have given Tunisia the moderate, liberal image it has in the Western world.
In the eyes of Westerners and the Tunisian intelligentsia the harshness and intolerance of the regime are serious shortcomings. But for the mass of the population, it must be said, President Ben Ali has been a success.
The government has certainly been successful in implementing budgetary and financial reforms, but the structure of the country's economy is changing more slowly that it pretends.
The government has been particularly cautious in its approach to privatisation, but the tax system was reformed, the annual budget deficit had been cut to below 2 per cent of GDP, exchange controls were removed on all current transactions and the banking system was changed to a free market model.
It is the view at the top of the Tunisian government that the quickest, most decisive way of modernising the economy is to link it more closely to Europe.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-bibliothek | 9.1. 1998