Pressure piles on Tunisian prime minister amid economic crisis

Pressure piles on Tunisian prime minister amid economic crisis
2 min read
16 July, 2018
Tunisia's president has called on hiws premier to resign,following months of clashes over reforms and economic policy.
Tunisia, an Arab Spring success story, has struggled to revive its economy [Getty]
The president of Tunisia on Sunday withdrew his support for Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and called on him to resign or seek a confidence vote if the country's political and economic crisis continues.

"If this situation continues, the prime minister must resign or go to the parliament to ask for confidence," President Beji Caid Essebsi told local Nesma TV.

"There is a difference between the parties and national organisations about the government, between government and key players like UGTT and some parties," Essebsi added.

This comes after the prime minister and the president's son, who leads the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, have clashed in the past few months on reforms and economic policy.

In May, President Beji Caid Essebsi's son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, called for Chahed's dismissal saying his government has failed to revive the economy.

His call was supported by the powerful UGTT union, which rejected economic reforms proposed by the prime minister, Reuters reported.

For his part, Chahed accused the president's son of destroying the ruling party and fomenting political instability.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has been pressing ahead with economic policies that will raise taxes and put thousands out of work, despite resistance from labour unions and business associations.

The North African country is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to speed up policy changes and help its economy recover from militant attacks in 2015 that hurt its vital tourism industry.

Tunisia had plans to raise value-added and other taxes and make about 10,000 government workers redundant as part of the 2018 budget to cut its budget deficit.

Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress after a 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. 

But successive governments have failed to make the changes needed to trim deficits and create growth.

Under the 2018 budget, the deficit will fall to 4.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, from about 6 percent expected in 2017.

Tunisia hopes to raise GDP to about three percent next year against 2.3 percent this year.