The country is a net importer of hydrocarbon products. Domestic crude production is 91,380 barrels per day, but refining capacity is only 34,000 barrels a day. Proven reserves are approximately 400 million barrels. Tunisia has one oil refinery on the north coast in Bizerte and in May 2006 awarded a tender to Qatar Petroleum for a second at La Skhira, near Gabes. Natural gas production is currently approximately equivalent to 3 million tons of oil per annum. Proven reserves are about 65.13 billion cubic feet, two-thirds of which are located offshore.
Manufacturing industries, producing largely for export, are a major source of foreign currency revenue. Industrial production represents about 31.1% of GDP. It primarily consists of petroleum, mining (particularly phosphates), textiles, footwear, food processing, and electrical and mechanical manufactures. Textiles are a major source of foreign currency revenue, with more than 90% of production being exported.
The trade weighted average tariff rate is prohibitively high at 16 percent, with non-tariff barriers further raising the cost of trade. Despite efforts to attract more foreign investment, growth in long-term investment has been inhibited by heavy bureaucracy and recent political uncertainty. The weak financial sector is fragmented and dominated by the state. Access to credit is limited, and capital markets are underdeveloped.
The future security of property rights in Tunisia is uncertain due to political instability and ongoing changes. The rule of law has become uneven across the country. Protection of property rights is not enforced effectively, with an independent and fair judicial system poorly institutionalized throughout the economic system. Corruption continues to erode the foundations of economic freedom.
Tunisia is governed under the constitution of 1959 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected for a five-year term, with no term limits. The bicameral legislature consists of the 189-seat Chamber of Deputies, whose members are popularly elected every five years, and the 126-seat Chamber of Advisers, whose members are either appointed by the president (41) or elected by indirect vote (85) and serve six-year terms. The prime minister, who is the head of government, and cabinet are appointed by the president. Administratively, the country is divided into 24 governates.
Occupying the eastern portion of the great bulge of North Africa, Tunisia is bounded on the west by Algeria, on the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the southeast by Libya. The capital and largest city is Tunis.
Tunisia is more prosperous than its neighbours and has strong trade links with Europe. Agriculture employs a large part of the workforce, and dates and olives are cultivated in the drier areas. However, unemployment is chronic in some regions.
Home of the ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia has long been an important player in the Mediterranean, placed as it is in the centre of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes.
In the 7th century the Arabs arrived from the east, bringing Islam with them. Despite continuous Berber belligerence, the Arabs ruled Tunisia until the 16th century, leaving behind the strongest ongoing cultural impact of all of Tunisia’s invaders.
The unit of currency is the Tunisian dinar (TD), which is divided into 1000 millimes (mills). It’s illegal to import or export dinars and they are not accepted in the duty-free shops at Tunis Airport.