A POST-REVOLUTION EVOLUTION

A bi-product of a revolution dating back centuries is violence, extremism, and counter-revolution. Tunisians, Egyptians, and soon we hope our brothers and sisters from Morocco to Baghdad, must learn to deal with the aftermath of overthrowing a dictatorship, and turn that wisdom to very momentous actions. The French revolution of 1789, the Bolsheviks of 1917, the Iranian revolution of 1979 or Eastern Europe ten years later, to list just a few, could provide insights that we can apply today to navigate our way past violence, chaos, and outright barbaric acts, as has been recently reported in Tunisia.

The question that most Tunisians are struggling with today is whether or not to trust the interim government with deciding their future. This is an important question to ask since most, or all of its members at the national and regional levels such as ministers, governors and the security apparatus, were loyal to and handsomely paid by the old regime. Many will take advantage of the confusion and the public lack of understanding policy. Most will dig in even deeper by re-establishing their old “quasi-mafia” networks. This is the strategy utilized in the Ukraine post 2004 elections. The oligarchs remained in power too long after the elections, took advantage of their deeply embedded roots to expand their powers, enrich themselves, and extend the misery of those with no direct ties to the regime. I fear this scenario repeating itself as we debate what is best for Tunisia. I ask that we consider all possible choices presenting themselves to us as citizens of Tunisia. What choices will prevent post-revolution violence and corruption, yet guarantee the rights of all of those who revolted?

Tunisians need to make their interim government accountable for all of its decisions through transparency. Whether it is discussing economic incentives, unemployment compensations, dealing with imprisoned old regime cronies, or discussing a new constitution, there needs to be fairness to and fear of the constituents. A simple of way of making this possible and carrying the spirit of the revolution through the halls of the Parliament would be to televise all political debates. I have not been convinced of all the decisions taking place behind closed doors. It seems that the interim team is very selective in its information sharing. There are more questions than there are answers, especially with regard to national and domestic security, and the fate of those criminals under arrest. For the Tunisian public to trust these politicians, more needs to be brought to the table and discussed in the open. As for the selection of individuals filling certain powerful positions, the public needs to be fully versed on the criteria used for such selection, and the credentials of those chosen as well as those turned away. Most western style democracies conduct thorough background investigations on candidates, and those with questionable pasts or representing possible conflict of interest are not considered as legitimate. Any good leader would tell you that he needs to surround himself with others who complement him and share the vision, ask the tough questions, and not necessarily those who serve as puppets and simply go along for the ride.

The interim and the soon to be elected governments will have a daunting task in front of them. Tunisia needs more than political reform. It needs security, jobs and full bellies. Resolving one while forgetting about the other would encourage post revolution disorder. The responsibility of projecting normalcy is critical. It will alleviate any concern for others who consider Tunisia as a vacation and investment area. This will go a long way into putting thousands of people to work. Labor laws and the right to hold a strike may have to be revisited, and certainly revised in the case of employees of companies, public or private, providing essential services. Recent strikes have done nothing but aggravate and weaken an already very sick economy.

Tunisians need to trust their future to a representative government that drafts a solid working economic, social, and political plan.

First, I will focus on the economic strategy, because it is the primary concern of most Tunisians today, closely followed by social reform.  I will not discuss our GDP or debt service. Instead, I will offer a bottom-up approach of how to allocate resources and put everyone that is willing back to work, and get our country back on track. This will be the subject of my next post.

Lotfi Saibi

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