Amor came to Tunis to support his brother and all left out of the Gafsa mining region. "Tunisian media, came film the reality in the mining area," says the sign. Nawaat.org/Sana Sbouaï

The delicate social climate in most inner regions of Tunisia is a reminder of the tension that unemployment has created over the years. Gafsa, home to one of the largest employment producing companies in the region, the Gafsa Phosphate Company (Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa, CPG), is a prime example of the unbalanced social atmosphere. The CPG is the world’s fifth largest phosphate producer, and one of the the country’s largest job providers. Whenever the company announces the list of new employees to be hired, police presence is incumbent.

The Gafsa Phosphate Company announced the results of its latest hirings in the city of Mdhilla […] We noted the large security presence, who made it clear that they will not leave the city until all appeals have been submitted and people have been calmed. (Le Capsien)

The competition is neck-in-neck – it was only this past weekend that clashes erupted once again following another CPG hiring round announcement, which left many of Gafsa’s youth jobless. Yet, some new development projects are slowly taking shape in the rest of the country. Sidi Bouzid, which has been receiving a lot of attention from the government since the overthrow of the former regime, has been enjoying the introduction of several projects in the region. Someof the projects that the government has already approved include:

– Faculty of sciences.
– Agricultural research center.
– Building an emergency department in the regional hospital.
– Significant tax breaks to encourage local and foreign investment.
– Activation of the local (Miknasi) mining area.
– Connecting farming areas to the local electricity grid.
– Preparing 14 hectares for new industrial projects

The spotlight placed on Sidi Bouzid is leading the residents of many other regions to see the establishment of new government-sponsored projects as unequally distributed. The residents of Bizerte, a state in the north of Tunisia, have recently organized a conference looking to involve civil society in the development of the region. Below is a video created by Bizerta Blog covering the event:

However, not all new (and ongoing) projects benefit local communities entirely. In some cases, the projects can be detrimental to the environment and the people living in it. For example, in Makthar, large slabs of marble have been kept in the south of the city for “decades” – they have been extracted from the region by private investors using “temporary” permits, continuously renewed under the former regime due to relationships the Ben Ali family had with the investors.

Since marble is an important source of investment in the region, greatly contributing to job creation and reducing the level of unemployment, it has become necessary to encourage investment in the marble sector, and to guard its interests, however – the investors must also abide by a set of legal regulations (such as signing a contract to restore the land to its original condition upon leaving the premises, guaranteed by a sum of money that is paid upon signing). (Maktaris News)

The environmental impact of regional development has yet to be fully studied. The Ministry of the Environment must coordinate wisely with local governorates, municipalities, and especially with the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Planning and Regional Development, to ensure the sustainable livelihoods of local residents. Eagerness to bring new investment to Tunisia, particularly in the underdeveloped, interior regions, should not eclipse environmental interests – which guarantee the foundation of a stable society, built responsibly on the pillars of social and environmental sustainability.