Tunisia: Prime Minister pledges to stop ‘economic bleeding’

©The Middle East Monitor

Tunisia’s new Prime Minister, Hichem Mechichi, stressed the need to stop the country’s “economic bleeding” as his government officially assumed its duties on Thursday.

Mechichi is the seventh prime minister since the first democratic elections were held in the wake of the 2011 revolution. He took over from Elyes Fakhfakh, whose whole government resigned. Fakhfakh is facing charges related to a conflict of interest.

“This government’s assumption of its duties comes at a difficult time,” said Mechichi, with an unstable situation and great expectations by citizens for a tangible change in their lives.”

The new government will have to deal with the “rescue” mission, he added. The economy is facing a stifling crisis, and is expected to contract by 7 per cent this year. Unemployment, meanwhile, exceeds 20 per cent and there is annual borrowing of 15 billion dinars ($5.5bn).

The task facing Mechichi will not be easy, mainly because of the political crisis between the presidency and parliament, and the war of words that accompanied the formation of the new government. “We will face challenges… and we count on cooperation with the presidency, parliament and the active forces consisting of parties and organisations,” he explained.

Initially, major parties in parliament objected to the technocratic government presented by Mechichi, and accused President Kais Saied of manipulating its membership from behind the scenes to exclude parties from power. Nevertheless, most of them gave the government a vote of confidence in parliament.

Mechichi has identified five main priorities for his administration, including the revival of public finances by restoring faltering production, especially in vital sectors such as energy and phosphates.

The prime minister also intends to initiate a dialogue with international donors as part of his plans to mobilise financial resources to support the state budget; to review public spending; to support institutions affected by the Corona pandemic; to reform the administration; and to strengthen the remote working system.

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