Summary: A look at how Microsoft representatives describe GNU/Linux behind the scenes
THE scandal of Microsoft in Tunisia has received a lot of press attention. It now has a detailed Wikipedia page about it. Techrights looked into several other cables from Tunisia and found the following Cablegate cable which says: “Microsoft gave the example of PC procurement, in which the GOT procurement commission does not specify an operating system in their RFPs. This results in the PCs being shipped with the Linux,s open source operating system, which does not support Microsoft software. The Microsoft representative argued that this has encouraged piracy and resulted in GOT PCs using pirated Microsoft software. She continued that the fact that the EU Commission and the African Development Bank accept these GOT procurement laws only encourages the GOT to maintain government procurement on lowest cost basis.”
To Microsoft, “Linux” and “piracy” are interchangeable. Microsoft wants officials to believe that nothing except Windows can ever be used. Here is the cable in its entirety.
VZCZCXYZ0002 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHTU #1286/01 2640644 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 210644Z SEP 07 FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS TO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3899 INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0928 UNCLAS TUNIS 001286 SIPDIS SENSITIVE SIPDIS STATE FOR EEB (DIBBLE), NEA/MAG (HOPKINS AND HARRIS) STATE PASS USTR (BURKHEAD) USDOC FOR (VINEYARD AND MASON), ADVOCACY CTR (JAMES), USDOC PASS USPTO (ADAMS, BROWN AND MARSHALL) CAIRO FOR FINANCIAL ATTACHE (SEVERENS) LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER EB/CBA (WINSTEAD), EB/TRA/AN(FINSTON), CASABLANCA FOR FCS (ORTIZ) E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ECON [Economic Conditions], EFIN [Financial and Monetary Affairs], ETRD [Foreign Trade], TS [Tunisia] SUBJECT: TUNISIA: US BUSINESSES BRIEF ECONOMIC DELEGATION ON BUSINESS CLIMATE REF: A. TUNIS 1249 B. TUNIS 1261 ------- Summary ------- ¶1. (SBU) During the September 9-12 visit of an interagency business delegation (reftels), EEB PDAS Dibble met with representatives from a cross-section of US businesses currently operating in Tunisia to discuss the business climate in general and the issues that impede their operations. PDAS Dibble gave an overview of the delegation's meetings with the GOT and the unique nature of this delegation. She indicated that the primary purpose of this visit was to push the GOT for improvements in the investment climate and to discuss the way forward in the US/Tunisia bilateral economic relationship. Department of Commerce DAS Holly Vineyard outlined the IPR points that were presented to GOT representatives from all relevant ministries attending the delegation's meeting with the Minister of Development and International Cooperation. USTR Director for European and Middle Eastern Trade Affairs, Paul Burkhead outlined the Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the USG's objective of an eventual Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Tunisia. US companies said that Tunisia is a central location for entering other markets, but bureaucracy and lack of transparency hinder their expansion. End Summary. ----------------------------- What Tunisia has Going for It ----------------------------- ¶2. (SBU) Nearly all of the US business representatives agreed that Tunisia is an attractive base from which to target and serve the Mahgreb, European, and Sub-Saharan African markets. They emphasized that the business climate is improving and the mobility and quality and talent of available human resources is above average. Tunisian employees are highly educated and interested in learning new technologies. The US IT firms represented opined that Tunisian interest in new technologies presents an opportunity to sell and to install the latest technologies. Business representatives also said that the comparatively favorable cost of labor also makes Tunisia an attractive venue for investment. -------------------------------- Frustrating Impediments to Trade -------------------------------- ¶3. (SBU) While Tunisia has many good qualities, it is the domestic impediments to operating a business in Tunisia that have some US businesspeople thinking twice about investing in or expanding their investment in Tunisia. Issues raised included a lack of transparency and predictability, lack of access to the local market, GOT procurement laws, limits on the number of expatriate employees permitted in country, visa issues, the slowness and arbitrarily high price of internet service, and the language barrier. ------------------------------- Transparency and Predictability ------------------------------- ¶4. (U) Company representatives explained that GOT decision-making is extremely slow and there is no central contact for a company to approach and receive a definitive answer to their particular concerns. Information on upcoming projects or tenders is also difficult to obtain and major projects are often pre-awarded before a tender becomes public. One US representative stated that the lack of predictability affected his ability to do long-term business planning/forecasting. Participants noted that, because US businesses forecast based on risk, the lack of predictability in Tunisia makes them more reticent to invest. --------------------------------------------- ------------- Access to the Local Market & Government Procurement Policy --------------------------------------------- ------------- ¶5. (U) In general, the GOT seldom permits foreign businesses to compete on the local market but instead encourages FDI in the off-shore and manufacturing for export sectors. US companies told PDAS Dibble that establishing a subsidiary branch in Tunisia is not cost-effective unless they are allowed to compete on the local market. There are several US companies who have been authorized to compete on the local market. They admitted that it was neither easy nor quick to obtain such permission, but indicated that GOT ministers are open to hearing about specific proposals. Further, if a company can demonstrate the benefits of its projects/products, the relevant ministers can obtain authorizations to compete on the local market. Several of the high tech companies said that the product registration and certification process is extremely long and must be conducted for each reseller. In order to simplify this process, they would like to see a homologation law passed which would authorize registration and certification on a per product basis. ¶6. (SBU) Companies also complained that the GOT government procurement law and policy, which is based on lowest price rather than best quality, excludes them from competing in the marketplace. A Prime Ministry commission controls procurement and, instead of requiring that a product meet certain specifications or technical standards, its requests for proposals (RFPs) always go for the lowest priced product. US companies selling quality products cannot compete on a price basis. Microsoft gave the example of PC procurement, in which the GOT procurement commission does not specify an operating system in their RFPs. This results in the PCs being shipped with the Linux,s open source operating system, which does not support Microsoft software. The Microsoft representative argued that this has encouraged piracy and resulted in GOT PCs using pirated Microsoft software. She continued that the fact that the EU Commission and the African Development Bank accept these GOT procurement laws only encourages the GOT to maintain government procurement on a lowest cost basis. ----------------------- Authorized Expatriates ----------------------- ¶7. (SBU) Tunisian law currently allows foreign companies to obtain visas for only four expatriate employees at any given time, but companies report that this number can be increased on a case-by-case basis. (Note: GOT officials had indicated to EmbOffs last year that the law was going to be updated to allow 10 expatriates per company, but this has not yet been implemented. End Note.) This limitation on expatriates is a problem for US companies particularly when they are initially starting up their operations in Tunisia. For example, Parsons Corporation, a major US engineering firm currently considering investing in Tunisia, said that this restriction would present a problem. The Parsons representative argued that his company has a quality product to deliver and an excellent reputation to maintain. Thus, if it were to invest in Tunisia, Parsons would need to bring in a minimum of 12 expatriate Parsons engineers per project. The GOT has told Parsons that the number of expatriates allowed is negotiable, but the company would prefer that the law be repealed, so that there would be not uncertainty. Most US companies present concurred. Similarly, US companies mentioned that their ability to provide quality services to their clients was impeded by the difficulty some of their expatriate staff face in obtaining visas to enter Tunisia on a temporary basis in order to train Tunisian employees or to provide expertise on a particular project. --------------- Internet Access --------------- ¶8. (U) US companies said that 95 percent of business today is conducted over the Internet. Thus, reliable and cost-effective Internet access was paramount to their success. Most of the companies present at the roundtable complained about the slow speed of Internet connections in Tunisia and the high cost of dedicated leased lines between two points. Another issue related to Internet access was GOT's encryption requirement that all encryption keys must be provided to the National Digital Encryption Agency (ANCE). Providing such information was described as a nonstarter by US companies providing services where protection of fiscal or personal data was critical. While most companies indicated that they could find ways around this requirement, they nonetheless argued that the encryption key requirement should be abolished. -------- Language -------- ¶9. (U) Several participants raised English language capabilities of the Tunisian work force as an important factor when considering whether to set up business operations in Tunisia. Acknowledging that most US company executives are not multi-lingual and conduct business in English, all companies said that English language capability was a necessary element to allow the Tunisian subsidiary management to effectively communicate with its employees and with its US headquarters. Several Tunisian nationals representing US companies noted, however, that the GOT recognizes the importance of English and has made efforts to address this issue. They pointed out that Tunisian schools now encourage English language study from the primary to the university level. ------- Comment ------- ¶10. (SBU) Although the business roundtable was a late addition to the economic delegation,s program, it proved to be an excellent opportunity for all. Members of the delegation were able to learn first-hand about the benefits achieved and drawbacks faced by US businesses in Tunisia. At the same time, US businesses were able to learn about USG advocacy for an improved business climate in Tunisia. The general consensus drawn from this discussion seems to be that despite the shortcomings, US companies investing in Tunisia have made the right decision. End Comment. ¶11. (SBU) This cable has been cleared by EEB/PDAS Dibble. GODEC
Worth noting is the part which says: “Business representatives also said that the comparatively favorable cost of labor also makes Tunisia an attractive venue for investment.”
This is how they value people, eh? █