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President Ben Ali's address to extraordinary session of GabE?s Regional Council.

President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali chaired, on Wednesday, an extraordinary session of the GabE s Governorate Regional Council, during which he delivered the following address: "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate Ladies and Gentlemen,<p>I am pleased to chair today this special session of the Regional Council of the Governorate of GabE s, as a confirmation of the continuous attention we accord to the promotion of development in this region, and as part of our constant endeavour to enhance quality of life in all regions and for all social categories.

I take this opportunity to convey my greetings to the citizens of the Governorate of GabE s, to whom I pay tribute for their adherence to the choices and policies of the Change and their contribution to the development of their region.

Since the Change, a special attention has been granted to the Governorate of GabE s where large strides have been made on the road to comprehensive development, thanks to the economic and social achievements accomplished in this region, with costs amounting to 2,900 million dinars, including 1,400 million dinars of public investments. In the agricultural sector, great efforts have been exerted to mobilise the available water resources, by digging 146 deep wells and 1,800 surface wells.

This has made it possible to develop over 9,000 hectares of irrigated and geothermal lands, and to implement a palm-grove rehabilitation project covering 46 oases over a total area of 5,000 hectares.

In addition, large efforts have been made to preserve natural resources, to combat desertification over a total distance of 3,300 kilometers, and to establish dunes over an area of 9,000 hectares.

As regards transport infrastructure, 4 bridges were constructed, peripheral roads were rehabilitated, and national and regional roads were improved. This in addition to the implementation of the first phase of the GabE s Airport, the construction of the central bus station, and the consolidation of the commercial port.

As part of the attention granted to human resources, the Governorate of GabE s has witnessed a major qualitative leap in all fields of education and training.

In terms of higher education, achievements included the creation of the University of GabE s. Besides, the number of higher education institutions has been increased to reach 15 institutions during the current academic year, with an in-take capacity of 24,000 students.

This in addition to the expansion of the network of educational institutions, through the creation of 37 elementary and secondary schools, and the enhancement of the vocational training system in the region.

The health sector has also known a significant promotion, through the enlargement of the regional hospital and the establishment of three auxiliary hospitals and 33 healthcare centers. This has helped bring health services closer to citizens, and improve health indicators.

On the other hand, numerous and various achievements have been made in the sector of culture, youth and sports in different regions of the Governorate.

These achievements include the construction of 10 public libraries, a cultural complex, an open-air theatre, a cultural and youth complex, a camping center, 13 youth centres, and 15 playing fields.

To improve living conditions in the region, drinking water projects have been launched, such as the water desalination station in Grand GabE s, and the used-water purification stations in GabE s, El-Hamma, ME[umlaut]touia and Mareth, in addition to controlled dumps and waste treatment centres.

We have consolidated these achievements through additional projects financed by the National Employment Fund, and presidential projects targeting areas with specific needs. These include 14 integrated rural development projects, and a project in El-Hamma as part of the integrated urban development programmes.

The private sector has contributed to the development of the region, through investments amounting, since the Change, to 1,500 million dinars. This has allowed to diversify and consolidate economic activities, particularly as regards geothermal agriculture, the areas irrigated with thermal water and devoted to the production of early fruits and vegetables having increased from three hectares in 1987 to 52 hectares currently, which means an annual production of 8,000 tons, 46% of which are destined for exports. This has allowed the Governorate of GabE s to hold top rank in this field.

In the industrial sector, the volume of investments has reached 450 million dinars, providing some 7,200 jobs. These projects and programmes have helped enhance quality of life in this region, the rural electrification and water supply rates having both reached 98%. Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are keen on enhancing and constantly enriching the process of development in the Governorate of GabE s, particularly through the projects and programmes we have decided as part of the 11th Development Plan, so as to further improve living conditions in urban and rural areas, combat pollution and desertification, and establish a diversified economic platform. The volume of investments devoted to the implementation of these objectives amounts to 1,550 million dinars, including 550 million dinars from the public sector, and 1,000 million dinars from the private sector.

We are keen, as part of the 11th Plan, on promoting development in this region, particularly in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, industry, tourism, integrated development, infrastructure, and environment protection.

In the sector of agriculture and fisheries, we will endeavour to further mobilise water resources, through digging 11 exploratory wells and 8 control wells, rehabilitating and consolidating 880 hectares of irrigated areas around deep wells, developing 1,500 hectares of irrigated perimeters, pursuing the second phase of the irrigation water conservation project in oases, which covers 2,700 hectares spreading over 18 palm-groves, rehabilitating 25 hectares as part of the water and soil conservation project, and establishing 120 units for watering and water-table feeding.

To consolidate these programmes, we give instructions for developing a plan to expand irrigated and geothermal agriculture over an area of 350 hectares, through rehabilitating the irrigated and geothermal perimeter of ME[umlaut]touia over an area of 80 hectares, digging, equipping and electrifying a deep geothermal well in Bechima El Borj, El- Hamma, constructing a well to enrich the irrigated perimeter of Limaoua-3, southern GabE s, constructing a well to feed the irrigated perimeter of Matmata-5, rehabilitating and asphalting a three-kilometer by-road linking the irrigated perimeter of Sehib to the zone of Teboulbou, Delegation of southern GabE s, enhancing complementary irrigation over an area of 40 hectares in the zone of El Hicha, through digging, electrifying and equipping a deep well, building a water tower, and installing canalisations in ME[umlaut]touia.

On the other hand, we give instructions for further promoting oasis agriculture, over an area of 7,250 hectares, through reinforcing the irrigation of the palm-groves of higher GabE s in Chenini, over an area of 250 hectares, enhancing farming activity over an area of 7,000 hectares in dilapidated palm-groves, providing maintenance to drainage systems and agricultural tracks, and cleaning out the palm- groves of GabE s, Mareth and El-Hamma.

As regards geothermal and biological agriculture, the 11th Plan provides for increasing two-fold the areas devoted for the production of early fruits and vegetables and bio- agriculture, and for further mastering the system of production, conditioning and marketing; thereby valorising the region's characteristics, improving the profitability of the agricultural sector, opening wider prospects for the export of agricultural products, and increasing farmers' income.

To promote the development of pastures, preserve natural resources, and enhance integrated agricultural development in the region, we give instructions for launching the study of the second phase of the agricultural development project in GabE s, by including the delegations of Matmata, Nouvelle Matmata, Menzel Habib, Mareth, El-Hamma and ME[umlaut]touia in this project.

This will help promote agricultural production, reinforce the cattle-breeding sector, launch micro-projects, and improve living conditions for rural inhabitants.

As part of the attention we grant to promoting the fisheries sector, we give instructions for accelerating the rehabilitation of quays and the maintenance of the equipments of the GabE s fishing harbour, while advancing to 2010 the date of launching the harbor protection project.

As far as industrial and technological development is concerned, we give instructions for the setting up of a technological and industrial park which takes into consideration the region's characteristics and enhances development in all industrial added value sectors. Such project aims at boosting innovation, technological and industrial progress and guaranteeing interaction between the business fabric and higher education, training and research institutions.

The technological and industrial park will be made up of a principal site and supplementary sites in the region. The principal site will be located in GabE s and will include an industrial zone, a research centre to be developed by the Tunisian Chemical Industries Holding (Groupe Chimique Tunisien), as well as outsourcing shops, a studies incubator and a teleworking centre.

The supplementary sites will be made up of an industrial zone in Mareth and another one in Al Ouinet, industrial infrastructure in El Hamma and Mareth, handicrafts villages in El Hamma, ME[umlaut]touia and Mareth, teleworking centres in El Hamma, Menzel Habib and Mareth.

This park will equally contribute to the polarisation of foreign investments for promising sectors, accelerate the rhythm of start-ups and employment, namely for higher education graduates and the emergence of a new generation of added-value projects.

Aiming at boosting success opportunities for such endeavours, we give instructions to set up a business corporation to undertake the mission of creating, operating and developing the GabE s Industrial and Technological Park with a capital of twenty million dinars, with a contribution of the Groupe Chimique Tunisien, amounting to 80%, as well as the SociE[umlaut]tE[umlaut] de DE[umlaut]veloppement et d'Investissement du Sud.

In the tourism sector, we give instructions to launch the management of Chatt El Hamrouni for the development of a tourism area over 325 hectares. We equally give instructions to launch the management of the infrastructure in the outskirts of the tourism and thermal zone at El Khabayet in El Hamma and to set up a studies and investment company to be in charge of developing the project.

We also give instructions to proceed to the restoration of the village of Toujane (Delegation of Mareth), the Berber village of Taoujout (Delegation of ancient Matmata), the village of Zraoua (Delegation of new Matmata) and to provide additional care to El Hamma's thermal water resources, the GabE s sea shore palm oases and endeavor to boost cultural tourism.

Within the integrated development projects, we aim at striking balance between the various regions of the governorate, promoting the integration of the rural environment into the dynamics of economic activities; improving the population's revenues and living conditions.

To this end, we give instructions out to realise three integrated development projects in the districts of Mareth, new Matmata and El Hamma, as part of the presidential projects benefiting priority areas.

To consolidate the region's infrastructure, the 11th Development Plan scheduled ten roads management and development projects involving main roads connecting the Governorate of GabE s to other neighbouring governorates.

These projects cover 111 kilometers of national classified roads and 24 kms of structured urban roads, the construction of a bridge on Oued El Hamma, the management of 75 kms of rural tracks, the construction of a road transport station in GabE s, the completion of the city's airport extension works and the rehabilitation of the region's railway line. Eager to boost such projects, we give instructions to launch the construction of the Sfax-GabE s motorway as the studies have been completed and the necessary funds have been collected. The realisation of this important project will give the region more advantages namely in the polarisation of investments so that the region becomes a hub in the trans- Maghreb motorway project.

We also give instructions to provide for a real estate reserve along this motorway in order to provide the necessary space for future settlements, the extension of a 7-km road in El Aoumer, in Mareth, and the management of the ME[umlaut]touia northern entrance over a distance of 2.600 meters.

Regarding environmental protection, we are deeply concerned with the need to remedy to the severe pollution of the GabE s Gulf waters with phosphogypsum by relying on international studies developed by specialised competences as the project is quite complex namely the distance to cover between El Mekhachrama and Ghannouche to transfer the dissolved phosphoric acid. This distance -twenty-two kms - represents the longest connection in the world in this field.

It is for these reasons that we give instructions today to launch a call to tender to begin the management work for El Mekhachrama phosphogypsum intake.

Within the same context of environmental protection and the fight against atmospheric pollution, we give instructions for the setting up of a new ammoniac emission processing unit to process the DAP Ghannouche plant emissions and to fight against atmospheric sulfur pollution at the port of GabE s. A forestation program around the GabE s chemical industries plants will equally be launched.

Because of the paramount importance we give to human resources and implementing the strategic human choices in our projects, we will concern ourselves with the development of higher education in the region by ordering the construction of additional buildings for the Arts and Crafts Higher Institute, the Water Sciences and Technologies Institute, the Industrial Systems Institute as well as the extension of Applied Sciences and Technologies Institute.

In the field of education and training, the schools network will be further extended, and the existing schools' pedagogical and scientific means will be improved.

As for culture, youth and sports, the 11th Development Plan has scheduled a large number of projects aimed at consolidating the infrastructure in these fields.

With a view to materialising the care we provide to intellectuals and to young people, we give instructions for the construction of a public library at El Nahal (western GabE s) and for the launch of the works for the construction of a cultural centre in Ghannouche, the development of the Youth Center in Ouedhref, the creation of rural youth clubs in El Moncef (western GabE s) and the equipment of the municipal stadium in ME[umlaut]touia. Besides these projects, we give instructions for the construction of a pilot youth complex in southern GabE s made up of a multi-sports gymnasium, an amphitheatre, specialised clubs and recreational areas including playgrounds.

In the health sector, the 11th Plan has projected the construction of a regional blood transfusion centre, a regional cancer care centre and the development and extension of the GabE s regional hospital, as well as the upgrading of a number of supplementary healthcare centres.

Committed to further develop the health sector and improve the services delivered, we give instructions for the construction of a new emergency ward at the GabE s regional hospital, the creation of a bone surgery ward at southern GabE s hospital and of gynecology, obstetrics and maternity wards at El Hamma hospital.

To continue improving living conditions in the region, continuous efforts are aiming at improving drinking water supply to the cities and local communities in the region to reach the objective of global coverage by 2011. Similarly, the extension of the electricity network has been the subject of continuous development. In this context, we give instructions to extend the drinking-water network to the communities of Ouled Zayed, Ouled Khalfallah, El Hamila, Ouled Messaad and Chemilat (area of Es-Sagui, Menzel Habib) and to extend the electricity network to the areas of eastern Zegaba (Mareth). We equally instruct to launch the projects for the rehabilitation of the towns of El Manara (Mareth), El Izdihar (Ouedhref), western El Hamma and 2 Mars in Bouchemma (western GabE s) which together have about 26,000 inhabitants. We also give instructions for the rehabilitation of El Metouia park.

Efforts aimed at protecting towns against floods will include continuing the project for the protection of Matmata and the launch of the projects for the protection of GabE s, Ghannouche and Chenini-Nahal. Ladies and gentlemen,

We are determined to work relentlessly to boost the foundations of comprehensive development, promote a balanced development between the regions and to exploit rationally the opportunities and potential provided by our country capitalising on the never-ending will of Tunisian men and women to overcome obstacles and meet challenges.

I am confident that the citizens of this Governorate, like all the Tunisian citizens, are aware of the achievements and realisations made in their region and the implemented projects and programmes benefiting them.

I trust Tunisian citizens will spare no effort to persevere and enrich these achievements and contribute actively to the progress of our country on the path to invulnerability and global welfare."

Tap 2009

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Publication:Agency Tunis Afrique Press
Date:Sep 23, 2009
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