Tunisia to lift retirement age by two years, official says

Updated 19 November 2017
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Tunisia to lift retirement age by two years, official says

TUNIS: The Tunisian government has reached a deal with a major labor union to lift the retirement age for public servants by two years, a government official said on Friday, a key reform demanded by its lenders to stabilize state finances.
The North African country is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to speed up reforms and help its economy recover from militant attacks in 2015 that hurt its vital tourism industry.
State social security funds suffer from a deficit of about $1 billion as the economy has been in turmoil since the 2011 uprising, according to officials.
“The government has agreed with the UGTT (labor union) to lift the retirement age in the public sector by two years to 62 years and optionally for who those want it to 65 years starting from 2020,” said Kamal Madouri, an official in the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Madouri said the agreement will be signed in the coming days between the government and the UGTT.
“There is an agreement in principle to raise the retirement age, but it was within a package of other measures about social security funds reforms which must be all implemented,” said Abd Karim Jrad, deputy secretary general of UGTT.
In April, the IMF agreed to release a delayed $320 million tranche of Tunisia’s $2.8 billion in loans, on condition that it raise tax revenue, reducing the public wage bill and cut popular energy subsidies.
The government has proposed in the 2018 budget to impose a 1 percent social security tax on employees and companies to cut the deficit, but parliament has yet to approve the bill.
The proposal has been rejected by the federation of owners of companies UTICA, which threatened to shut down companies if the government continues what it calls “fiscal punishment against companies.”
Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress since 2011 but successive governments have failed to push through potentially painful reforms 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 also seeks to raise GDP growth to about 3 percent next year against 2.3 percent this year.
It seeks to lay off about 16,500 public sector workers in 2017 and 2018, a senior government official told Reuters last month.


Militants claim responsibility for Iran troops abduction

Updated 59 min 19 sec ago
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Militants claim responsibility for Iran troops abduction

  • Jaish Al-Adl says they were kidnapped and taken to bases inside Pakistan
  • Islamabad said last week it was actively looking for missing men

TEHRAN: A militant group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of 12 Iranian security personnel near the border with Pakistan, Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA reported Monday.
“The terrorist group Jaish Al-Adl (Army of Justice in Arabic) has posted two photos... claiming that those in it are the forces abducted” on October 16, ISNA said.
Jaish Al-Adl, formed in 2012, is a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God) which has carried out a spate of attacks on Iranian security forces in recent years in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.
The photos show seven members of the elite Revolutionary Guards force and five police commandos, all in combat gear, according to state news agency IRNA.
The Iranians, including intelligence officers, were abducted near Lulakdan, a village 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan.
They were “made unconscious” by a “single infiltrator” and then kidnapped and taken to bases inside Pakistan, said Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, quoted by IRNA.
The photos also show a haul of automatic weapons and sniper rifles, rocket launchers, machine-guns, grenades and ammunition, apparently seized from the Iranian forces.
Sistan-Baluchistan has long been a flashpoint, with Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and militants carrying out regular cross-border raids against Iran.
The province has a large, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchi community which straddles the border.
A delegation led by the Guards’ ground forces commander Mohammad Pakpour visited Pakistan on Monday to follow up on efforts to free the Iranians, the force said on its website.
Pakistan said last Wednesday that it has launched “active” efforts to locate the missing men.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has blamed the kidnapping on “our common enemies unhappy with the existing close, friendly relations between Pakistan and Iran.”