The Tunisia Economic Monitor compiled by the World Bank in December 2020 noted that “Tunisia is expecting a sharper decline in growth than most of its regional peers, having entered this [COVID-19] crisis whilst already experiencing slow growth and rising debt levels.” Tellingly, on the tenth anniversary of the revolution, few Tunisians were celebrating in Sidi Bouzid, the place where it all began when a poor street vendor operating without a permit set himself on fire as a desperate protest against bureaucratic harassment.
Unsurprisingly then, pollster Arab Barometer’s 2019 country report on Tunisia found that confidence in democratic institutions had “fallen dramatically” and Tunisians were “far less likely to trust the government or parliament than at the time of the revolution”. In fact, more than half (51%) of the Tunisians surveyed said democracy is “indecisive”, 42% said it “leads to instability” and 39% blamed it for “weak economic outcomes”.
Most people judge democracy by the extent to which a democratic state manages accountable institutions, competent governance, rules that apply equally to everyone and the provision of basic universal services.
By that argument, democracy, in and of itself, has no intrinsic value. It’s only purpose is its function in giving people the chance of a better life. In those terms, Tunisia’s experiment with democracy has been less than successful.
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