It is no longer “Tunisia Financial Harbor”, originally designed “with the ambition to become the financial hub opening on Africa, positioned in the heart of the Mediterranean and offering excellent transport connections (…) and will offer access to human capital, investment opportunities from international markets to Africa and vice versa “.
It is now, according to the title of CEO granted by the promoter GFH to Lotfi Ezzar, the “Tunis Bay Project Company”. Clearly, it is a simple but gigantic real estate project.
The external infrastructure, financed by the Tunisian State, would no longer serve to link a financial hub for Tunisia, but villas of very high standing, for sale to foreigners, but also Tunisians.
Videos are currently circulating on social networks calling on Tunisians to invest.
Thus, what was supposed to bring foreign funds to Tunisia could very well, through the technique of sale on plan, become a project financed by the Tunisians.
On all this, we sent our questions to the CEO of GFH, Hisham Alrayes, whose communication services responded, but on behalf of Lotfi Ezzar, the person in charge of Tunisia of the same project.
The answers were ambiguous; almost in obscure language.
There are reports in Tunisia of financial difficulties of GFH, after the former head of this projects in Tunisia, diverted the funds that were destined for this project. The same information indicates an arrangement with the former official. What exactly is it and what the reality of the financial statements of GFH?
We have no financial difficulties and we have not transferred any funds allocated to the Financial Harbor Project in Tunisia to any other entity. We would like to clarify that the investment transfers to Tunisia were made through the Central Bank of Tunisia in accordance with the applicable currency and legislation in force.
According to the agreement with the government of the former Tunisian head of state, you are prohibited from financing the projects by the Tunisian banks, but by importing currency and you are asked for payments in foreign currency to the central bank of Tunisia, to prove your intention to invest and not only for the purchase of the land. Has this been done and if so, on what date and for what amount?
The nature of the investment project requires partnership with foreign investors in local currency only.
Thus, we have always been keen to take this into account upon contracting for the components of the project.
However, the terms of confidentiality included in these contracts do not allow us to provide you with numbers or dates.
More than a decade and the project of the financial harbor is still not started, despite the solemn promise of the highest authorities of your country, at the meeting “Tunisia 2020”. What is the cause of this significant delay?
For the reasons you know, the project was interrupted during 2011 and 2012, but in coordination with the various authorities of Tunisia, the work was resumed at the level of infrastructure and at for other components of the project.
The financial harbor being the essential component of this project, while it seems according to our information that you would like to start with the real estate component. Images and videos of this real estate component already circulate on social networks, calling Tunisian and foreign buyers. How can you sell while the essential component, the financial port, has not even been started and while you have not invested yet and that the extra-murals infrastructures are financed by the Tunisian State?
The financial harbor is part of the components of the entire project and the work schedule requires the completion of the infrastructure works in the first stage and then the rest of the components of the project. As you have mentioned, the Tunisian State has approved the budget allocated to the facilities of the project, including the special road of the X 30.
One of the components of the project, which is the golf course is progressing well, which allows for the marketing of the completed residential units.
Such procedure does not conflict with the terms of the investment agreement as long as it was ratified and the licenses were legally issued.
An agreement would have been made with the group “Soroubat” to start the intramural equipment and be paid, not in foreign currency as stipulated in the agreement with the Tunisian authorities, but in return for lots of land. What exactly is it?
Our relationship with the Soroubat Group is not limited to a contracting agreement, but is a partnership in the development of the project land.
A similar agreement would also have been made with Mr. Samir Jayeb’s Alliance group for the Golf component.
The latter would also have to build the Mall, whereas you had a contract with the Loukil group and that has just announced a Chinese financing for this project. To whom will the Mall return and what is the agreement with “Alliance”?
Our relationship with Mr. Samir Jiyab and the foreign group participating with him is also a partnership relationship that led to the commencement of the golf course with all its components and we hope that this partnership will continue in the rest of the components of the project.
We welcome all those who wish to contribute with us to the completion of the rest of the components of the project in accordance with the master plan and within the framework of the investment agreement concluded with the Tunisian state.
Discussions are currently underway between PGH and the Tunisian Ministry of Development for the revision of the initial contract with Ben Ali. What would you like to change in this agreement and for what purpose?
We have not signed any agreement with President Ben Ali, but our relationship is with the Tunisian State and the investment agreement was ratified by law, and this agreement is in force so far.
We respect the commitments made in the agreement and we have no intention to change them.
We are also in close cooperation with the Minister of Development and Investment and the rest of the central and regional authorities in order to ensure the success of this huge project and complete it in accordance with the highest international standards.