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NEWS: IMF said to have reached deal with Tunisia

While in Tunisia late last month for the World Social Forum, I noted in a campaign blog an Al Jazeera news article that reported, “The alter-globalisation activists are not the only people to have paid North Africa a visit in recent weeks. The International Monetary Fund has also been knocking on doors in both Tunisia and Egypt, ‘assisting’ the governments in both countries to introduce their standard set of ‘structural reforms’. …Critics attribute (IMF) policies (in Tunisia over the past 30 years) with perpetuating the kind of inequalities and systemic unemployment that pushed the young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, to set himself on fire and trigger the events that toppled longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.”

Today, Reuters reports, “The International Monetary Fund is very close to reaching an agreement with Tunisia on providing a precautionary credit line worth $1.75 billion, a senior IMF official told reporters on Tuesday. Tunisia has asked for IMF support to ease financial problems suffered since a revolution that toppled the former regime two years ago; a deal was delayed by political uncertainty after the killing in February of opposition politician Chokri Belaid. Amine Mati, head of an IMF mission to Tunisia, said talks on the precautionary credit line were at a very advanced stage and would continue in coming days. …On Monday, a senior Tunisian official, who declined to be named, said an agreement on the loan had effectively been reached, and it would be signed next month.”

Earlier this month, Blue Planet Project water campaigner Meera Karunananthan wrote, “Until the revolution, the International Monetary Fund had promoted the authoritarian state as a structural adjustment poster child. …When the revolution erupted, (Tunisian president) Ben Ali who had already privatized 160 state-owned enterprises since the late 80s, was about to start selling off the country’s water and sanitation services, SONEDE. …It appears that what Ben Ali failed, (Tunisia’s governing party) Ennahda would pursue. Despite the well-document evidence (about the negative impacts of) water privatization, …the Tunisian government appears to be pursuing the privatization of the water and sanitation utility.”

Today’s Reuters report adds, “Although it has not publicly commented in detail on the policies which it wants Tunisia to adopt, the IMF is believed by analysts to want cuts to fuel and food subsidies to strengthen state finances – policies which are politically sensitive.” There is no word yet as to what impact this deal may have on water and sanitation services in the country. Still, as critics have commented, it appears that Tunisia’s economic policies will continue to be written by bankers rather than for the Mohammed Bouazizis of the world.

To read Karunananthan’s blog ‘Water Justice for Tunisia: Regime change is not enough!’, please go to Blogs related to the Blue Planet Project’s intervention at the World Social Forum in Tunisia can be read at