Sihem Boughdiri defends financial law before the OECT

A meeting-debate on the contributions and recovery imperatives of the 2023 financial law was organized on Thursday, January 12, at the initiative of the National Order of Chartered Accountants of Tunisia (OECT). On this occasion, Finance Minister Sihem Boughdiri defended the text, which has been heavily criticized since its publication. The minister particularly noted the government’s “limited room for maneuver” in the face of the economic situation it inherited, and above all, and several times, the “international framework” that places the entire world economy in all its states.

The minister’s intervention followed an introduction by Walid Ben Salah, president of the OECT, who, in turn, blamed the “lack of a clear vision” and, like all critics of the financial law, on “excessive financial pressure”. further affects the competitiveness and stability of companies, which have been weakened for several years, as well as the purchasing power of citizens…. The state budget, which reached 70 billion dinars, increased by 15%, Ben Salah noted, which is 43.5% of GDP contane. exceeds international standards. Public expenditure has become a heavy burden for the economy, with up to 86% of administrative expenditure and social assistance taking precedence and relegating investment expenditure (6.7% of the budget) to the second plan. Walid Ben Salah believes that the 2023 budget will help inflation by reducing subsidies and increasing the prices of inputs in the production and distribution of most products, including energy. The president of the OECT insisted that the new financial law does not contain new investment incentives, except for certain measures aimed at expanding the provisions to support SMEs in difficulty.

For his part, economist Hachemi Alaya, founder of the TEMA think tank, was very pessimistic about the contributions of the financial law and the prospects of the Tunisian economy. The professor said that Tunisia does not need reforms, but “pure and simple transformation of its economic model”. He added that the country “has been in crisis for a long time” long before the health crisis and the upheaval caused by the war in Ukraine. Tunisia failed to achieve the rapid growth that allowed several countries to return to pre-crisis levels; Noting that the GDP for 2022 at constant prices is still far from the level of 2019, Hachemi Alaya reminded that Tunisia has become poorer in the last three years against the background of the trend observed since 2010. the economy is deeply structured and originates from the inadequacy of economic choices made over several years. For the financial law itself, Hachemi Alaya stated that Tunisia’s tax burden is the African champion, according to him, its level is equal to that of the rich countries of the OECD. The Tunisian company is one of the most heavily taxed companies in the world, as evidenced by a report by Price Waterhouse, the expert added, adding that the tax rate on profits (including all other mandatory levies) is “more than 66%”. Added to this is stifling bureaucracy, which remains one of the main obstacles to investment. For Hachemi Alaya, the political context in Tunisia and the onset of recession among its main partners in the Eurozone leave little room for optimism for 2023, where expected growth is already low as only 1.8% growth is budgeted for. .

In turn, Faychal Derbel, Honorary President of the Order of Accountants, took the floor to present the key figures of the 2023 budget and changes to the financial law. The expert noted that 2022 was combined with an unprecedented level of inflation, a trade deficit reaching 25,216 billion dinars, which is twice as much as in 2020, a very high food balance deficit, and shortages in a number of products. , and finally the key interest rate, which reached 8% for the first time after three increases by the Central Bank.

Responsible accountant Mohamed Derbel, for his part, recalled the recommendations of the 2013-2014 tax reform, which were only “weakly implemented” and in any case outdated. According to the expert, Tunisia has only added layers to the tax maze year after year, with the options mainly focused on direct taxes for successive governments. From 2013 to 2023, more than 560 tax measures were added to the system consisting of 508 articles, 4003 positions were taken and 222 joint notes were issued, Mohammad Derbel emphasized. Thus, managing the system has become very difficult for both the tax payer and the administration, he added; Today, we find ourselves with one in two taxpayers not paying their returns, with limited opportunities to carry out audits, in addition to very limited revenue from the fixed rate system. For the chartered accountant, it is time to review and above all simplify the tax system by continuing to widen the tax payer base for an equitable distribution of the tax burden. Successful reform also involves taking care of the mismatch between taxation and accounting, which only leads to heated and tedious litigation for everyone. Mohamed Derbel insisted on the importance of modernizing the tax administration by providing it with the necessary tools to fully fulfill its role.

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