Tunisians' Economic Confidence Hurt After First Attack

Tunisians' Economic Confidence Hurt After First Attack

Tunisians' Economic Confidence Hurt After First Attack

The FINANCIAL -- Tunisians' confidence in their national government and their new president remained high after the terrorist attack in March. Nearly half of Tunisians said in May 2015 that they were confident in their national government (48%) and approved of the job that President Beji Caid Essebsi was doing (49%). However, the second attack in late June may affect this nascent trust, particularly given residents' increasingly shaky confidence in the Tunisian economy.

The past year has been a crucial one for Tunisia, with peaceful elections in October that removed the Islamist parties that had dominated the political scene since the fall of the former regime in January 2011. Confidence in the first elected national government was as high as 56% in 2012, but dropped to 31% later that year, and remained in the 30s until late 2014, as the public may have felt that the elected government could not deliver on what it had promised.

The patterns in approval ratings for the country's two subsequent presidents have followed a similar trajectory. After he was elected in late 2011, former President Moncef Marzouki enjoyed a 62% approval rating, only to slide to an average of 24% between late 2012 and 2014. Essebsi's rating in May (49%) is twice as high as that of the previous president's average in 2012-2014.

Economic Confidence Shaken After March Attacks

While confidence in the new political leadership in Tunisia is up, it is also dependent on the government's ability to deliver on its campaign promises, which included building a stronger economy and supporting the tourism industry's recovery. Tourism accounts for about 15% of Tunisia's gross domestic product and is estimated to employ nearly half a million Tunisians.

Last year, Tunisians were evenly split in their perceptions of whether the economy was getting better (31%), staying the same (31%) or getting worse (34%). Two months after the attack on the Bardo National Museum, 51% said the economy was getting worse and 17% said it was getting better. Based on this pattern, the deadly attacks in late June are likely to further erode Tunisians' already shaky economic confidence.

Implications

Tunisia can take pride in being a functional democracy after two free, peaceful national elections since the fall of the former regime. But while confidence in the national government and in the new president remains high, few Tunisians are as confident in the direction of the country's economy.

Tunisians' perceptions reflect the fragile state of the country's economy and highlight fears that the two attacks this year could have devastating repercussions. In fact, Essebsi, who declared a 30-day state of emergency this weekend, predicted another such attack would "cause the country to collapse."