The World Factbook (1990)/Tunisia


World Factbook (1990) Tunisia.jpg

See regional map VII


Total area: 163,610 km²; land area: 155,360 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than Georgia

Land boundaries: 1,424 km total; Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km

Coastline: 1,148 km

Maritime claims:

Territorial sea: 12 nm

Disputes: maritime boundary dispute with Libya

Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south

Terrain: mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara

Natural resources: crude oil, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt

Land use: 20% arable land; 10% permanent crops; 19% meadows and pastures; 4% forest and woodland; 47% other; includes 1% irrigated

Environment: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Note: strategic location in central Mediterranean; only 144 km from Italy across the Strait of Sicily; borders Libya on east


Population: 8,095,492 (July 1990), growth rate 2.2% (1990)

Birth rate: 28 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 6 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 40 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 68 years male, 70 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 4.0 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Tunisian(s); adjective—Tunisian

Ethnic divisions: 98% Arab, 1% European, less than 1% Jewish

Religion: 98% Muslim, 1% Christian, less than 1% Jewish

Language: Arabic (official); Arabic and French (commerce)

Literacy: 62% (est.)

Labor force: 2,250,000; 32% agriculture; shortage of skilled labor

Organized labor: about 360,000 members claimed, roughly 20% of labor force; General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), quasi-independent of Constitutional Democratic Party


Long-form name: Republic of Tunisia; note—may be changed to Tunisian Republic

Type: republic

Capital: Tūnis

Administrative divisions: 23 governorates (wilāyat, singular—wilāyah); Al Kāf, Al Mahdīyah, Al Munastīr, Al Qaşrayn, Al Qayrawān, Aryānah, Bājah, Banzart, Bin ‘Arūs, Jundūbah, Madanīn, Nābul, Qābis, Qafşah, Qibilī, Şafāqis, Sīdī Bū Zayd, Silyānah, Sūsah, Taţāwīn, Tawzar, Tūnis, Zaghwān

Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)

Constitution: 1 June 1959

Legal system: based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

National holiday: National Day, 20 March (1956)

Executive branch: president, prime minister, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale)

Judicial branch: Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation)

Leaders: Chief of State—President Gen. Zine el Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Hamed KAROUI (since 26 September 1989)

Political parties and leaders: Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (RCD), President Ben Ali (official ruling party); Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS), Ahmed Mestiri; five other political parties are legal, including the Communist Party

Suffrage: universal at age 20

Elections: President—last held 2 April 1989 (next to be held April 1994); results—Gen. Zine el Abidine Ben Aliwas reelected without opposition;

National Assembly—last held 2 April 1989 (next to be held April 1994); results—RCD 80.7%, independents/Islamists 13.7%, MDS 3.2%, others 2.4% seats—(141 total) RCD 141

Communists: a small number of nominal Communists, mostly students

Member of: AfDB, Arab League, AIOEC, CCC, FAO, G-77, GATT (de facto), IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB—Islamic Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, ILZSG, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOOC, ITU, IWC—International Wheat Council, NAM, OAPEC, OAU, OIC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Abdelaziz HAMZAOUI; Chancery at 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20005; telephone (202) 862-1850; US—Ambassador Robert H. PELLETREAU, Jr.; Embassy at 144 Avenue de la Liberte, 1002 Tunis-Belvedere; telephone [216](1) 782-566

Flag: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam


Overview: The economy depends primarily on petroleum, phosphates, and tourism for continued growth. Two successive drought-induced crop failures have strained the government's budget and increased unemployment. The current account fell from a $23 million surplus in 1988 to a $390 million deficit in 1989. Despite its foreign payments problems, Tunis appears committed to its IMF-supported structural adjustment program. Nonetheless, the government may have to slow its implementation to head off labor unrest. The increasing foreign debt—$7.6 billion at yearend 1989—is also a key problem. Tunis probably will seek debt relief in 1990.

GDP: $8.7 billion, per capita $1,105; real growth rate 3.1% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 10% (1989)

Unemployment rate: 25% (1989)

Budget: revenues $2.9 billion; expenditures $3.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $0.8 billion (1989 est.)

Exports: $3.1 billion (f.o.b., 1989); commodities—hydrocarbons, agricultural products, phosphates and chemicals; partners—EC 73%, Middle East 9%, US 1%, Turkey, USSR

Imports: $4.4 billion (f.o.b., 1989); commodities—industrial goods and equipment 57%, hydrocarbons 13%, food 12%, consumer goods; partners—EC 68%, US 7%, Canada, Japan, USSR, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria

External debt: $7.6 billion (December 1989)

Industrial production: growth rate 3.5% (1988)

Electricity: 1,493,000 kW capacity; 4,210 million kWh produced, 530 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), textiles, footwear, food, beverages

Agriculture: accounts for 16% of GDP and one-third of labor force; output subject to severe fluctuations because of frequent droughts; export crops—olives, dates, oranges, almonds; other products—grain, sugar beets, wine grapes, poultry, beef, dairy; not self-sufficient in food; fish catch of 99,200 metric tons (1986)

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $694 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $4.6 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $684 million; Communist countries (1970-88), $410 million

Currency: Tunisian dinar (plural—dinars); 1 Tunisian dinar (TD) = 1,000 millimes

Exchange rates: Tunisian dinars (TD) per US$1—0.9055 (January 1990), 0.9493 (1989), 0.8578 (1988), 0.8287 (1987), 0.7940 (1986), 0.8345 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 2,154 km total; 465 km 1.435-meter standard gauge; 1,689 km 1.000-meter gauge

Highways: 17,700 km total; 9,100 km bituminous; 8,600 km improved and unimproved earth

Pipelines: 797 km crude oil; 86 km refined products; 742 km natural gas

Ports: Bizerte, Gabes, Sfax, Sousse, Tunis, La Goulette, Zarzis

Merchant marine: 21 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 160,172 GRT/218,970 DWT; includes 1 short-sea passenger, 4 cargo, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 2 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 6 chemical tanker, 1 liquefied gas, 5 bulk

Civil air: 13 major transport aircraft

Airports: 30 total, 28 usable; 13 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 7 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 7 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: the system is above the African average; facilities consist of open-wire lines, multiconductor cable, and radio relay; key centers are Şafāqis, Sūsah, Bizerte, and Tūnis; 233,000 telephones; stations—18 AM, 4 FM, 14 TV; 4 submarine cables; satellite earth stations—Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT and 1 ARABSAT with back-up control station; coaxial cable to Algeria; radio relay to Algeria, Libya, and Italy

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 1,997,197; 1,149,141 fit for military service; 88,368 reach military age (20) annually

Defense expenditures: 2.7% of GDP, or $235 million (1989 est.)