Tunisia Pins Hopes on Second IMF Loan Tranche

  • Premier’s economic adviser Ridha Saidi comments in interview
  • IMF last year expressed concerns over pace of reforms

The Tunisian government is pinning its expectations for the release of a second International Monetary Fund loan tranche on a delegation visit in late March or early April.

“We hope the upcoming visit will be positive and the second tranche of the loan will be disbursed soon,” Ridha Saidi, the prime minister’s economic adviser, said in a telephone interview in Tunis. Tunisia secured a $2.88 billion loan last May, when $319 million were disbursed.

The IMF didn’t release $321 million in December. During its last visit earlier this month, the Washington-based lender expressed concern over the pace of reforms, especially with regard to wages and the retirement age, according to Saidi. The government plans to cut 20,000 public jobs through early retirements and by offering severance packages.

Six years after an uprising that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off similar revolts elsewhere in the Arab world, economic growth in Tunisia remains below the long-term average.

The IMF predicts Tunisia’s budget deficit will fall to 5.6 percent of gross domestic product this year, higher than the initial target, due to slower growth and fiscal-policy slippages. It said urgent action was needed to protect public finances, increase public investment and accelerate delayed structural reforms.

The government is considering selling some of its stakes in three public banks and some private lenders, including one in Banque Zitouna that had been confiscated from an associate of Ben Ali in 2011.

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