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Tunisia lawyers set for general strike against austerity budget

Lawyers and doctors in Tunisia have staged walkouts over the proposed austerity budget [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 December, 2016

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Lawyers in Tunisia have taken industrial action against the government's new austerity bill for 2017, which could see further woes for struggling workers.

Lawyers in Tunisia will begin an open general strike in all courts commencing 5 December over disagreements related to Tunisia's 2017 finance bill, the board of the National Association of Tunisian Lawyers [ONAT] said on Saturday.

The lawyers are demanding that Articles 31 and 32 of the bill be annulled, while also calling for the resignation of Finance Minister Lamia Zribi. He recently suggested that of the country's 8,000 lawyers, only around half pay their tax.

The new austerity budgest proposes all lawyers pay a tax ranging from roughly $8 to $25 per file presented to court.

The scheduled strike will be a continuation of action taken by the lawyers' association against the finance bill, after last month saw a number of protests staged against new austerity measures.

Doctors in Tunisia have also staged walkouts and protests over the new bill, which includes a measure requiring doctors to enter their tax ID on prescriptions.

Tunisia is facing pressure from its international creditors to cut back on spending, as well as to create jobs and expand the country's economy.

To this end, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has proposed a number of austerity measures. However, he has had to balance this with dealing with public backlash against it amid high unemployment and stagnant wages.

In 2017, Tunisia is expected to increase its external financing by almost double by seeking $2.78 billion in foreign loans. This borrowing will aim to - among other things - address the country's fiscal deficit which is projected to be 5.4 percent of the country's GDP.

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