Good morning everyone. I am delighted to be here to participate in this special event. I want to thank our fantastic host, Mr. Chawki Tabib, as well as our local and international partners, the media, and each of you for taking the time to join us for this signing ceremony.
As you know, corruption distorts markets, hinders economic growth, and serves as an invisible tax that all Tunisians pay, through higher prices and fewer opportunities to compete. According to the World Bank, the average income in countries with high levels of corruption is only about one third of the average income of countries with low levels. Corruption in the way deals are made, contracts are awarded, or work is carried out hurts everyone. Bribes make it harder for Tunisians to get vital services such as seeing a potentially life-saving doctor. And money wasted on bribes could be used instead to build wealth and create much-needed jobs.
This is not news to anyone, and the government has been clear in making the fight against corruption a priority, focusing on legislative and institutional reforms to deter, prevent, and counter corruption. New institutions have been established, such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Financial Judicial Pole. New laws have been enacted to reinforce the legal framework such as the whistleblower law, the law to combat illicit enrichment, and most recently the law on asset declaration. These efforts are vital and deserve praise. But there is always more to be done. So, today we are launching seven new projects supporting Tunisia in its fight against corruption.
Winning this struggle requires government and civil society to work together. The partnership between the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judicial Financial Pole, and the National Center for State Courts is a perfect example of government and civil society working together to root out corruption and improve society, and is a partnership the United States is proud to support. These projects will help both the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judicial Financial Pole to be better equipped to investigate and prosecute corrupt people.
These projects will complement the work of I-Watch, Errawassi, the Association for the Development of Rural Women, the Jasmine Foundation, Culture and Development Association, and Les Grandes Ecoles de Communication to help citizens fight corruption at the municipal and governorate level throughout the country. Together, our work will encourage better governance and challenge corruption in the health care sector, public procurement, and municipality services. The United States is also continuing work with the Financial Services Volunteer Corps and the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development to support Tunisia in implementing its Open Government Partnership Action Pan. I am proud to announce that our contribution to these projects totals over 20 million dinars. Of course, the real change will come from the hard work of the many Tunisians engaged in these projects, and they should be applauded for their efforts.
Before I conclude, I must thank all of you for your dedication and diligence and for always striving for excellence. I look forward to signing the grants for each of the seven projects represented here today, and I wish you all great success in your critical work fighting corruption.