Chad Deploys Police as Protests Against Austerity Measures Loom

  • Labor unions threaten general strike if wages are reduced
  • Government tries to comply with wage ceiling under IMF bailout

Security forces deployed in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, after labor unions and civil-society groups called for protests against austerity measures announced by the government as it grapples to pay off its debt amid an oil slump.

Schools remained closed on Thursday and internet services were unavailable in the central African nation. Labor unions will begin an immediate general strike if wages of civil servants, including teachers, are reduced, according to a joint statement late Wednesday from the association of labor unions UST and the teachers union, Synecs. Civil-society organizations said they planned to march Thursday.

Police detained more than 100 people on Monday as transporters held a strike to protest a planned increase in fuel prices. The strike was suspended the following day after the government said it’s negotiating with China National Petroleum Corp., which operates the Djemarya refinery, to reduce the prices in a way that doesn’t affect the state budget.

The oil-producing nation said Jan. 5 it has to cut between 5 to 45 percent of wages for some public-sector workers to enable it to comply with a wage ceiling agreed under a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. The Washington-based lender approved a $312 million extended credit facility for Chad in June as the country is looking to restructure its obligations to creditors, including a loan from Glencore Plc that’s more than $1 billion.

While the government later submitted revised proposals to the unions, talks to ward off a strike have so far been unsuccessful. Chad is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, ranking 186th out of 188 in the United Nations Human Development Index. Out of $271 million in oil-sales revenue in 2016, debt-service costs paid to Glencore reached $231 million, which left only $40 million to the Treasury, according to the IMF.

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