Tunisians were also abused by the economic crisis in the midst of political stagnation-February 18, 2022 13:04


Billel Jani (AFP / FETHI BELAID) at his store in the Halfaouine market in Tunis, February 15, 2022.

“Our customers live every day and their monthly salary doesn’t cover a week.”: At his store in the Tunis market, Billil Jani fears having to tighten his belt further. Mentions poverty.

Tunisia, which has fallen into a serious economic crisis, has requested the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a third loan for the first time in 10 years.

Fund officials are “virtually visiting” Tunisia until February 22, before formal negotiations begin.

The IMF is calling on the government for reforms, including wage bills for civil servants and reductions in commodity subsidies, raising public concerns about further sacrifices.

“People used to buy in kilos, but now they only buy exactly what they need,” explained Jani of AFP, a grocery store in the Halfaouine market in the city center. To do.

The country, which has been in a political crisis since President Kais Saied gave full power in July, is also in recession.

Delilah Doridi, who is employed by the Ministry of Education, “earns 1,000 dinars (305 euros) a month.” “Usually I left 60 to 100 DT a month, but today I have to borrow to make money,” she told AFP.

Delila Dridi (AFP / FETHI BELAID), an employee of the Ministry of Education, at the Halfaouine market in Tunis, February 15, 2022.

Delila Dridi (AFP / FETHI BELAID), an employee of the Ministry of Education, at the Halfaouine market in Tunis, February 15, 2022.

Her situation began to worsen “when Zine left,” she said, referring to dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the country for 23 years until he collapsed in 2011.

The self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi at the end of 2010 caused a rebellion in a disadvantaged area before arriving at the capital, fleeing Ben Ali and beginning the Arab Spring.

Since then, rather than fighting corruption and structural problems, Tunisia’s young democracy has stalled in an idealistic debate between Islamists and secularists.

According to the IMF, successive governments have tripled the number of civil servants in 10 years to reach 650,000 and count more than 150,000 employees in listed companies to ensure social peace. Adopted on a large scale.

In a recent document, the International Crisis Group warned that the state “covered public sector salaries and had narrow control over repayment of external debt.”

-“Just a spark”-

According to Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisia Economic and Social Rights Forum (FTDES), little is done in poorer areas, and inequality is further increasing.

February 15, 2022, Halfaouine Market in Tunis (AFP / FETHI BELAID)

February 15, 2022, Halfaouine Market in Tunis (AFP / FETHI BELAID)

In recent years, the European Union and other countries have come to support Tunisia “through a large amount of liquidity (loans or donations, editor’s note) to protect economic structures, businesses and employment.” ..

But in 2020, the country was hit hard by the waves of Covid-19. GDP has collapsed by more than 9% and over 80,000 SMEs have gone bankrupt.

“The economy is in a deep recession, debt has reached unprecedented levels, and so is unemployment,” said Saidane, very high among young people.

Unemployment and annual inflation of over 6% have driven the majority of the middle class into poverty, facilitating the massive migration of tens of thousands of young Tunisians in search of a better life.

This situation, which appointed the government in November, is a major challenge for President Kais Saied, who governs the country by law.

February 15, 2022, Halfaouine Market in Tunis (AFP / FETHI BELAID)

February 15, 2022, Halfaouine Market in Tunis (AFP / FETHI BELAID)

The strict professor of the Constitution promised to “clean up” the system, but Ben Amor is worried that “there is no economic or social program.”

“He never meets an economics expert, only a legal expert, although our problem is not legal.”

“The IMF talks about citizens and their needs in terms of numbers: public wage bills, interest rates, debt levels. It doesn’t see people according to their needs: eating, taking care of themselves, traveling.” I’m worried, Ben Amor.

Like economist Saidane, he believes the crisis can lead to more social instability: “It looks calm before the storm. The country sparks just like 2010. waiting”.

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