North African state. At the 2004 census the population of the Maghreb republic was 9,911,000 residents (2,600,000 residents In 1936). The very high rate of demographic growth was slowed down (0.9 % in the five-year period 2000-2005) by a government program of family planning and the phenomenon of emigration. Nonetheless, the population, two-thirds urban and especially concentrated in the capital Tunis and the surrounding area, is among the youngest in the world (over a quarter of the residents are under 15 years). This figure, which involves a strong demand for social services, is associated with a high unemployment rate estimated at around 15 %. In 2006, the most significant indicators of the level of socio-economic development (life expectancy at birth: 73.5 years ; adult literacy rate: 74.3 %; annual per capita income: 7768 dollars) concurred in determining, according to the United Nations, an average human development index value (87th place in a world ranking comprising 177 nations). During the three decades that followed independence (1956) Tunisia followed a socialist economic model, with strong state control over the economy. However, a balance of payments crisis that occurred in 1986 forced the authorities to move towards economic liberalization programs that were supported by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The government, after successfully completing some reforms around the mid-1990s, managed to stabilize the economy by turning to an export-oriented production model, attracting foreign investments with low labor costs and incentives such as preferential access to European markets. The annual change in GDP marked an increase of 5.8 % in 2004 and 4.2%% in 2005 (in 2002 the increase had reached a minimum of 1.9 % due to the drop in tourist revenues as well as the damage to agriculture caused by drought). The composition of the gross domestic product by sector of economic activity (2004) saw the services sector in first place (54.4 %), followed by industry (31.8 %) and agriculture (13.8 %). The primary sector is characterized by the production of cereals (wheat and barley), olive growing (T. is among the world’s leading oil producers) and viticulture. Fruit crops (citrus fruits, almonds, dates) are of great importance. The breeding is mainly sheep. In 2003 the fish sector produced almost 93,000 tons of fish (mainly tuna and sardines). The subsoil of Tunisia contains important mineral resources: hydrocarbons in the first place (2.7 billion m 3 of natural gas in 2004 and 3.34 million tonnes of oil in 2005). Another important resource are phosphates, of which Tunisia is one of the main world producers. Industrial activities include steel, metallurgical and mechanical plants, chemical plants, cement plants, as well as food plants (oil mills, sugar refineries), textiles and so on. Many manufacturing industries are concentrated in the special economic zones of Bizerte and Zarzis, where they can benefit from tax breaks reserved for foreign investors.
Tourism offers the largest contribution to the service sector and directly or indirectly employs about 300,000 local workers. After experiencing strong growth in the Eighties and Nineties, this sector went through an unfavorable economic period at the beginning of the new millennium following the attack on the synagogue of Djerba (April 2002), a crisis quickly overcome, so much so that already in 2006 saw excellent results. Relevant for the economy are the remittances of emigrants. Large Tunisian communities are found in France, Italy and the Gulf countries.
Twenty years after the inauguration of President Zayn al-̔Abidīn Ben ̔Alī, who came to power in 1987, Tunisia’s hopes for the development of a truly pluralistic regime appeared more than ever unfulfilled. Political life, dominated both by the entourage of the president and by the RCD ( Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique ), the ruling party, did not guarantee any transparency and was also strictly controlled the activity of the opposition and all the media. For Tunisia history, please check ehistorylib.com.
In 2001, while the demand for reforms grew in the country and some protest voices were raised against the work of the president, who was accused of nepotism and corruption, the RCD announced the proposal for a constitutional amendment to abolish the limit of three terms presidential elections and thus allow Ben ̔Alī to run for a fourth office. Approved by the members of the National Assembly with an overwhelming majority and welcomed by the popular vote on the occasion of the referendum held in May (99.5% of consensus), the new rule no longer bound the election of the highest state office to time limits, effectively paving the way for Ben ̔Alī’s re-election. The referendum also approved the establishment of a second branch of parliament, the House of Councilors, an organ in charge for six years whose members were for 1 / 3 presidential nomination and the remaining parts of representatives of the major professional associations and trade unions , governorates and municipal councils.
In April 2002, an attack on the synagogue on the island of Djerba caused the death of over twenty people, including several tourists, and was claimed in June by al-Qā̔ida. Between the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, Ben ̔Alī undertook a reorganization of the council of ministers in an attempt to improve the efficiency of the executive: some ministries were merged or suppressed and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights was created and the Ministry of Labor. Meanwhile, the government’s repressive policy towards the opposition did not diminish in August 2003the hunger strike proclaimed by the lawyer R. Nasraoui, committed to the defense of the civil rights of her people and a great accuser of the regime for the alleged use of torture on political prisoners, drew the attention of the international community. In the months preceding the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for October 2004, while Ben ̔Alī ensured maximum transparency and respect for the rules and invited international observers to the country, the Parti démocratique progressiste announced its withdrawal from the competition in consideration the impossibility for its candidates, as well as for other political activists, to have access to the big media . Ben ̔Alī gets 94.4% of the votes, while only 3.7 % won the candidate of the PUP ( Parti de l’unité populair ), M. Bouchiha, and the other two candidates did not even reach 1 %. The success of the RCD was discounted, which won 152 of the 189 seats in the Assembly, while the remaining 20 % of the seats (37), as established by a 1998 rule, were divided, in proportion to the votes collected, among the opposition parties and the most voted among these, the MDS ( Mouvement des Démocrates Socialiste ), obtained 14 seats. The following year, in May, the municipal elections confirmed the overwhelming majority of the RCD, victorious in 4098 councils out of 4366. Meanwhile, the repression of dissent demonstrations grew between 2004 and 2005: the main victim of this climate was the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH), which in May 2006 was also banned from the congress in an attempt to reduce it. to silence. At the end of 2006, a few months after Ben ̔Alī wanted to release many political prisoners, including some members of the Islamist movement al-Nahda , Tunisia saw armed terrorism appear within its borders, most likely a relapse of the strategy of spreading jihadist movements throughout the Maghreb; at the same time Ben ̔Alī launched his own campaign against the veil, considered an element foreign to the culture and history of Tunisia, of which in 2007 the president was preparing to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of independence.