Tunisia's industry minister said on Friday the industrial sector, the most labor intensive one in the country, is expected to be hit by the world downturn in 2009, and called on local firms to reform structures and enhance productivity.
"We expect that 2009 will be a difficult year for our companies as the country's industrial sector was under pressure of the global financial and economic crisis since November," Industry Minister Afif Chelbi was quoted by the official TAP news agency assaying.
"So it's important for our companies to improve their productivity, to list on Tunisia's bourse and restructure their financial structures in order to upgrade their competitiveness," Chelbi added.
The crisis, however, will create new chances for Tunisian firms to improve their positioning as a good destination for foreign cash as they offer qualified workforce with costs lower than those by eastern European countries after they joined the European Union(EU), according to the minister.
The country drew 352.3 million dinars (250.92 million U.S. dollars) over the first nine months this year, creating 10,149 jobs, according to government data.
The North African country eyes to double industrial exports, especially to the European bloc, its main trade partner, to 30 billion dinars by 2016.
Tunisia, whose industry accounts for 28 percent of the national wealth, launched an upgrading competitiveness program in 1996 to provide local firms with the needed financial and technical aid in order to improve productivity. (1 U.S. dollar = 1.404 dinar)