There will be a renewed focus on public-private partnerships (PPP) in Tunisia, Mehdi Jomaa, minister of industry for Tunisia, told the World Islamic Economic Forum and GTR in London yesterday.

“We are looking to develop infrastructure and we are open to private investment and PPPs,” Jomaa said.

Tunisia is preparing for large investments in its economy and is looking to strengthen its trade links as a result, for which it needs high-quality infrastructure.

Over 80% of its trade, he said, is with Europe and, while they intend to maintain or strengthen this, the hope is to increase trade with other countries in Mena.

“We are geographically close to Europe but we are also part of the Arab world,” said Jomaa.

In May this year, Tunisia’s minister in charge of economic affairs Ridha Saiidi presented a draft law on PPP that looks to encourage financing of infrastructure using PPPs. The OECD will be assisting with the new law and provided a grant of US$3.85mn to support the country in implementing the law.

Tunisia is preparing for great investment, Jomaa commented.

This trend is being carefully looked at by other Mena nations, many of whom are hoping to implement similar reforms in their own countries.

Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation, Ibrahim Saif, spoke of a new progressive investment law that the government will implement. This law is again designed to encourage PPPs “so the private sector can get involved in utilities and infrastructure where they have not really been involved before”, he commented.

Bahrain has also been developing its infrastructure using PPPs. In 2011, Samsung Engineering Consortium closed its US$280mn PPP project in Bahrain’s wastewater sector.

Kuwait has followed suit, this year settling a PPP for the development of the Az-Zour North power plant, which will open in 2015.

Should Tunisia open the door to PPPs, investors and financiers alike will be keeping a very close on proceedings.