As of 2014 Tunisia has a population of 11 million. Its GDP was estimated at around 47 billion USD in 2013, with an annual growth rate of 2.5%. In the same year, the Government debt amounted to 46% of the GDP and the unemployment rate reached almost 16%. In 2010 it was estimated that about 15.5% of the population fell beneath the national poverty line. Its tax-to-GDP ratio amounted to 21% in 2012.
Tunisia is currently undergoing a transition process following the popular uprising that started in December 2010, which drove off former dictator Ben Ali and has since led to a new constitution being passed with a large majority in 2014. It holds important articles on the subjects of women's rights (Article 20 and 46), accountability and social justice (Art 10 and 14), essential services (Art 38, 39 and 44) and decentralization of the ultra-centralist state (Chapter 7).
The Public Finance System in Tunisia, which was established in the 1960s and has no citizen participation mechanisms and regulatory measures in terms of accountability and transparency, has given room to inefficient management of public funds at several levels and has been a determining factor in the considerable rise in inequalities. It has led to an inequitable distribution of public expenditure between regions, as well as an unjust tax system disfavoring poor and middle classes.
Main points of concern for the Tunisian tax system:
- An unsatisfactory level of fiscal transparency, resulting in key information remaining unavailable.
- The heavy tax burden on employees especially, who contributed to over 46% of direct taxes in 2013.
- The disproportionate tax benefits given to private companies even though their contribution to job creation is very low.
- No tax measures guaranteeing positive discrimination in favor of women and marginalized youth in the regions.
- The expansion of the informal economy, which currently accounts for over 40% of GDP, and causes a shortfall in tax revenues.
In light of the decentralization process described in the new Constitution of 2014, municipalities now have an opportunity to promote their institutional and budgetary autonomy and increase their revenues, which in turn will improve the quality of services provided to citizens.

CRAFT Country Strategy 2015-2018

In the coming years our CRAFT work in Tunisia will focus on accountability of public finances at the community level through an active involvement of citizens, especially youth and women. Oxfam and our local partners (Al Bawsala, Observatoire Tunisien l’économie and Forum Tunisie des droits économique et sociaux) will undertake a power analysis and construct an efficient advocacy strategy to influence the legislative framework.
We will work on civic education to increase citizens’ awareness of the importance of taxation at the municipal level. By empowering local communities, the quality of social services can be improved, which in turn contributes to a better awareness and involvement of citizens at the local level. Finally we will also make sure relations with local media are strengthened.
Oxfam and its partners in Tunisia will focus on advocating for tax reforms that ensure social justice for the poor and middle classes. Our specific focus areas will involve Tax in Extractive Industries, Tax Evasion, Fiscal Fraud and Illicit Financial Flows, the Informal Sector and General Tax System Reform.