On February 5, 2020, outgoing Tunisian prime minister Youssef Chahed announced via his Twitter account that Tunisia had (metaphorically) struck gold. “Historic day for Tunisia,” declared PM Chahed, noting that daily gas production at the Nawara field in Tataouine, which would approximate 2.7 million cube meters of gas, was a “game changer” for the Tunisian energy sector.
Nawara is Tunisia’s largest energy project. It is expected to increase the country’s gas production by 50% while decreasing its trade deficit by 7%. The Nawara field, which is held by OMV and the Tunisian Government-controlled ETAP at 50% each, was discovered in 2006, with development work starting two years later. It was only in 2019 that the start-up process at the field was launched. Operations at the field had stalled for years as a result protests the like of which have long crippled other industries within the local extractive sectors such as in the phosphates in Gafsa.
PM Chahed’s February 5th Tweet generated several moderately positive reactions online by Tunisians. Many responses, however, expressed a level of scepticism as to Tunisia’s ability to take advantage of the Nawara production; with some pinpointing to the country’s “extensive history of mismanagement” and the absence of “any monitoring or accountability… in all sectors” as a major hinderance to meaningful development. The launch could nevertheless be said to have been win for the unpopular PM Chahed who is expected to resign imminently from his position.