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Economy 10 North Africa Times Sunday 20-26/4/2008

Health Tourism Booms in Tunisia


By Jamel Arfaoui boom in health tourism, according to
Abou Bakr Zeghama, president of Na-

T
he waiting room at cosmetic tional Syndicate Chamber of Private
surgeon Taher Djemal's Tunis Clinics.
clinic is a busy place these days. Helen K., who came to Tunisia from
It is filled with Tunisians, Moroccans Switzerland for abdominal liposuc-
and Europeans of all shapes and sizes. tion, said while recuperating at one of
But despite a wide assortment of lan- the hotels in Tunis' northern suburbs.
guages and nationalities, the prospec- "I feel as if I have removed tons of fat
tive patients have one thing in com- from my body. My life has changed,
mon; they have all come to change and I'm happy with the result," she
their faces, reshape their bodies or fix said. She became interested in seeking
a defect that has spoiled their self im- her cosmetic surgery In Tunisia after
age. Many of the visitors are nervous, seeing the big difference in one of her
but three decorative paintings of Ve- friends. "She had a lifting that turned
nus, the goddess of beauty, give them her into a young woman again".
strength and hope. to a January report from the National far away as Sweden, Russia and the and after winning the trust of our cli- Another European patient, trav-
Beginning with the patient's very Syndicate Chamber of Private Clin- United States. Rym El Balti, a mar- ents, who then advertise our work elled from France for a breast enlarge-
first appointment, Dr. Djemal's assist- ics. keting employee at Estetica Tour, a through the word of mouth. Many of ment operation. She saw a French TV
ants work hard to create a comfort- The concept of health tourism is leading travel agency in the field of the people who contact my clinic are programme called "Right to Knowl-
able atmosphere. "We have to put the nothing new; the British have long cosmetic surgery tourism, said that people who have seen changes in the edge" last year which featured cos-
client at ease, psychologically," says headed to Pakistan or the Philippines the majority of prospective patients lives of a neighbour, friend or a col- metic surgeries in Tunisia, she said,
anesthesiologist Noureddine Azri. for cosmetic surgery. With Tunisia's come from France, Belgium and Swit- league at work." He acknowledges that and decided to get her procedure after
"The stress he or she feels is perfectly debut on the market, however, many zerland. Approved and regulated by "the western media, and especially the hearing "reassuring and encouraging
normal and natural and our role is to foreigners are now choosing clinics Tunisia's ministries of tourism and French media, plays an important role testimonies from many women" on the
answer all questions, even if they are like Dr. Djemal's for their proximity health, cosmetic tourism specialists in marketing cosmetic surgeries in Tu- episode. After the programme aired in
boring," he adds. and affordable prices. can organise every aspect of a visi- nisia, which put an end to the logic of France, she added, TF1 received more
The majority of Tunisia's cosmetic Indeed, only a short flight from Eu- tor's stay, from booking air tickets and 'North medicine' as compared to the than 10,000 telephone calls from peo-
surgery clients are European women rope, Tunisia appeals to those short on scheduling appointments to arranging 'South medicine.'" ple looking for the addresses of cos-
whose visits are co-ordinated by Tu- time and who want to save money. For comfortable accommodations, usually Dr. Djemal recognises the chal- metic surgery clinics in Tunisia.
nisian travel agencies focused spe- instance, the cost of a face lift in Tu- at beach hotels, to allow patients to lenge of facing doubts over his per- However, a Tunisian surgeon who
cifically on what has quickly become nisia is 3,200 euros. The same opera- comfortably convalesce. formance because he is "a surgeon in worked and studied in the United
known as "health tourism". tion in France would cost 5,000 euros A few years ago, Dr. Djemal says a developing country". He adds, "As a States expects that cosmetic proce-
Three years ago, the number of or more. Breast enlargement surgery he could count the number of patients cosmetic surgeon from a South coun- dure costs in Tunisia will soon ap-
health tourists visiting Tunisia was no costs 6,000 euros in France, but if per week on one hand. Most of them try, I had to succeed. I have to do this proach those found in Europe. "We no
more than 2,000. In line with Tunisia's done in Tunisia, the procedure price is were either from the Maghreb, he throughout my practice of this profes- longer need to prove our worth," Dr.
overall growth in the tourism sector, 2,600 euros. adds, or else they were "low-income sion, in which the science of surgery Amir Chaibi said. "Personal work is
travel agencies saw the surgery mar- Word that Tunisia provided mod- Europeans" unable to afford cosmetic is mixed with the art of drawing and the thing that distinguishes a good sur-
ket's potential and opened specialised erately-priced cosmetic surgery soon procedures in their own countries. It is psychology." geon from a bad one," he explained,
offices throughout the capitol and in spread to other European countries a different story today. Growing recognition of both the adding, "The competition in the future
cities such as Nabeul and Djerba. By and beyond. Now, clients looking for Now, he says, "We perform cos- competence of Tunisian surgeons and will not be among those who offer the
2007, 150,000 of Tunisia's 6.4 million an affordable makeover and vacation metic surgeries on a daily basis after the country's good health sector infra- lowest prices, but among those who
visitors were health tourists, according wrapped into one jaunt come from as we have proven our worth in the field structure has contributed to the recent are the best."

Algerians Decry Food Price Spike While


Oil Revenues Soar
By Said Jameh In an attempt to alleviate the crisis, the gov-
ernment allocated $2.5 billion to subsidise milk

A
lgerian citizens angry over skyrocketing and flour, and is currently studying subsidising
food costs are blaming the government dry legumes such as beans, chick-peas, lentils
for failing to monitor the market and set and oils.
affordable prices. “Speculators, however, are out to destabilise
They complain that once the government an- the market,” Minister of Commerce Elhachemi
nounces it will keep the price of a certain item in Djeaboub told legislators.
check, the cost of other items immediately goes Financial analysts agree that outside interests
up. Since last summer’s unprecedented increase are undermining Algeria’s measures to stabilise
in the price of flour and potatoes, food costs have its domestic market.
been debated in political, economic and social “The fact of the matter is that the govern-
forums, while newspapers and state-owned TV ment has set aside tens of billions of dollars from
and radio stations constantly tackle the topic. this year’s budget to take care of the social crisis
Algerians, meanwhile, remain infuriated. Civil [and] designated a budget for subsidy, [but] pric-
servants in particular claim that their salaries are es have…adamantly refused to go down,” said
insufficient to feed their families and the upsurge Tayeb Nouari, head of the financial committee at
in food prices has rendered their 2008 pay raise the People’s National Assembly.
meaningless. The long-term solution “hinges on fighting
A recent report from the National Office of unemployment and creating job opportunities for
Statistics confirmed that the cost of food had youth through encouraging national and foreign
risen more than 4% over the past year, attribut- investments”, Nouari said, adding that govern-
ing the price inflation to international markets. It ment support of small and medium-sized corpo-
also noted that Algerian consumption rates have rations, services and agriculture along with mega- Politicians and economists have called on the government to take practical measures to better control prices and avoid social upheaval
dropped, as people are no longer able to afford projects in transportation and public utilities can ice workers, he replied, “It is not that simple.” “Algeria has sufficient resources to keep us
some of the overpriced goods. create job opportunities and protect consumers Increasing employee pay must not depend on from suffering from world market instability. Oil
Politicians and economists have called on the from any such market tremors in the future. non-renewable revenue, he said. That argument revenue amounts to billions of dollars. The price
government to take practical measures to better Algerians are even more annoyed about their makes little sense to Latifa, a civil service em- of an oil barrel keeps soaring every day, but to no
control prices and avoid social upheaval. The shrinking wallets because the country’s oil rev- ployee. “I feel marginalised in my own country. I avail to us,” she added.
National Human Rights Commission of Algeria enue reached a record $51 billion last year. When am greatly disappointed when I go to the market, “It is safe to say,” Latifa said, “that Algeria is
also asked public authorities to bolster citizens’ we asked Nouari if oil export proceeds could for being unable to buy even the basic needs,” rich, though its people are poor.”
purchasing power. be channelled into higher wages for civil serv- she said.