After a year of recovery in 2012 (+ 3.6%), growth slows in 2013 (+ 2.6%) due to the length and difficulty of setting the democratic transition process in motion. Some FDI announced in 2012 have been put on hold and investors remained more fearful in 2013. The strong downward trend, both in the amount and number of projects, is also due to a slowdown in acquisitions and privatisations compared with 2012. The few operations of this type recorded in 2013, include the divesture of 50% of the Tunisian Qatari Bank (TQB) to the Qatar National Bank and the acquisition of stock in Amen Bank by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank.
The energy sector remains the main provider of FDI intentions, with ten oil and natural gas exploration-production projects and the creation of a local subsidiary by the group Fire Energy, based in Madrid and specialising in solar. Telecoms and internet, which have been very dynamic in recent years, do not attract any major investment in 2013. The banking-insurance, transport-logistics and services to businesses sectors remain relatively active, despite a general decline in the services sector.
Tunisia's skills in terms of engineering and equipment for the automotive, railway and aviation industries also attracts new investments from German (Leoni Wiring Systems and ThyssenKrupp), French (Airbus) and Belgian (Prefarails) companies. Finally, two large-scale real estate and tourism projects were announced: the construction by the Libyan Lafico of one to two towers with more than 30 floors in Berges du Lac, including a 5-star hotel, offices and shopping centres, as well as the re-launch of the Tozeur Desert Resort by Diar, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
In terms of origin, Europeans remain the main investors in Tunisia, both in the amount and number of projects, way ahead of the Gulf countries. These general trends are also true for partnership projects, which significantly declined in 2013.
After 14 months of work, the draft of the new investment code was adopted by the Council of Ministers in November 2013. Through its 56 articles, it has been designed to simplify the procedures, introduce more transparency and efficiency, and strengthen safeguards for investors. Submitted to the Assembly in January 2014, this draft was finally withdrawn by the government of Mehdi Jomaa following strong challenges. The development of the new version should be entrusted to the next government.
The Finance Act 2014 nevertheless included a number of favourable measures for foreign investment and international partnerships: the reduction from 15% to 5% of the rate of the withholding tax at source (RAS) on remuneration from export operations; the exemption of the RAS on royalties paid by wholly exporting companies to non-resident persons in Tunisia and the reduction of the cost of investment and employment encouragement.
For its part, the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) intensified its promotion actions: it redefined the geographical and sectoral priorities, targeted Tunisians residing abroad more, strengthened its offices in Europe and opened new representations in Ankara and Doha. It also put in place a support system for investors already established in order to assist them in their search for partners and in the development of their activity.