On Thursday January 27, Prime Minister Habib Essid proposed several urgent measures aimed at employment in response to wave of employment protests that have spread across Tunisia in the second half of January.Essid's proposals were as close to declaring an economic 'state of emergency' as Tunisia, with its declining tourism revenues and already massive debts could muster. The proposals (if enacted) are far from a solution to Tunisia's structural economic problems, but they are at long last after two weeks of protests, a response.In a second day of questions at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), after a session on Wednesday which was could be best described as a summary of the Tunisia's economic and social situation, Prime Minister Essid made four major economic proposals on Thursday, which included: accelerating administrative procedures, the announcement of a private sector pledge to hire 50,000 workers in 2016, financial assistance to young entrepreneurs, and a massive increase to annual military recruiting caps.The approval, and feasibility of the proposals remains to be seen, pending further elaboration and the ensuing ARP debates. But in placing the onus on the private sector and limiting the government's role to military recruitment and away from implausible promises of municipal or administrative employment, the intention was to signal a clear break with previous approaches to Tunisia's economic woes. Furthermore Thursday's announcements showed the first tangible signs of life from a government criticized for its thus far lackluster response to a nationwide wave employment protests.Amongst smaller measures, the four major announcements Prime Minister Essid proposed included:
- Increasing annual enlistment in the Tunisian National Army from 5,000 to 30,000.
- Essid also announced an agreement reached Wided Bouchamaoui, the President of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), to create 50,000 private sector jobs in retail and services by the end of 2016.
- University graduates seeking to self-finance their own business initiatives, 'on basis of their diploma' would receive a government financing of 10% of the overall value of the project.
- Administrative requests, excluding those relating to the 'environment and weapons permits', would be automatically approved if no decision is issued within thirty days. Currently administrative requests are considered automatically rejected if no decision is rendered within sixty days.