Tunisia’s glory days of being a net oil exporter are long gone. Crude output has nosedived in recent years and in 2018 it only managed 38,400 b/d. That this fall is of a relatively-modest 1% from 2017’s previous 50-year low is only due to the fact that last year’s output was crippled by strikes and blockades (MEES, 19 January 2018). Underlying decline and a chronic lack of investment are the key reason for this year’s further collapse.

With demand rising over the last few years, production is now only enough to meet 39% of consumption (see chart 1). This means rising imports, and a rising import bill. The 2018 trade deficit came in at a near-record $7.2bn, with oil and gas imports making up a record $2.3bn (MEES, 1 February) and accounting for almost all of the 11.6% year-on-year increase in the overall deficit. Stemming the seemingly-inexorable rise in the country’s oil import bill would require higher output. But further falls are more likely. (CONTINUED - 1694 WORDS)