Tunisia to raise fuel prices, hold off public wages increases

A gas station attendant pumps fuel into a customer’s car at a gas station in Tunis, Tunisia. (Reuters)
Updated 02 June 2018

Tunisia to raise fuel prices, hold off public wages increases

TUNIS: Tunisia will raise fuel prices in the coming days but hold off increasing public wages this year to meet terms of the International Monetary Fund for its next loan tranche, a government official and diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Tunisia has dropped into a deep economic slump following the overthrow in 2011 of autocratic leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Although its successful democratic transition since then contrasts with other “Arab Spring” countries, nine governments have failed to cut the budget deficit and revive an economy hit by a lack of investment and militant attacks on tourists.
Loan talks have been complicated by a row inside the ruling coalition of secularists and moderate Islamists — over the extent of reforms and a possible cabinet reshuffle — that coincided with a visit this week from an IMF delegation.
The new austerity measures are likely to meet resistance from the powerful labor union UGTT and people tired of austerity, galloping inflation and political instability.
Tunisia agreed with the IMF in December 2016 on a loan program worth around $2.8 billion to overhaul its ailing economy with steps to cut chronic deficits and trim bloated public services, but progress has been slow.
The IMF delegation visited Tunisia this week to review with officials the next tranche worth around $250 million which, if approved, would bring total payments since 2016 to $1.2 billion.
The government official said fuel prices would rise by 0.070 dinar ($0.027) a liter in the coming days, the third hike this year but less than the 0.100 dinar the IMF had asked for, as the government has whittled down subsidies on imported fuel.
For 2018, Tunisia had budgeted 1.5 billion dinars in subsidies but with a recent rise in global oil prices it would have to spend 4 billion to avoid a rise in pump prices, he said.
“The IMF is demanding that the (fuel price) increase in all 2018 be about 0.500 dinar, but we want the adjustment to be acceptable to curb inflation,” the official said.
To appease donors, Tunisia also wants to delay a public salary increase considered for 2018 until next year though this needs to be negotiated with the labor unions, he added.
The North African country also plans to sell Eurobonds worth $1 billion over the next two weeks to help fund the budget, the official said.
IMPATIENCE
Western governments, worried about high unemployment driving Tunisians into illegal migration or militancy, have strongly backed Tunis during the post 2011-transition even without much evidence of progress on economic reforms.
But in a sign of increasing donor impatience, diplomats said, the United States abstained when the IMF voted to approve the most recent loan tranche.
The government has been trying to cut the public sector wage bill to 12.5 percent of GDP in 2020 from 15 percent — one of the world’s highest — by offering voluntary redundancies. But few have taken up the offer due to high unemployment.
The UGTT union, the political kingmaker in Tunis, has rejected plans to dismiss public servants and sell loss-making state firms.
To avoid layoffs the government increased taxes and duties at the start of the year, hitting banks and other sectors and triggering two weeks of riots.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said the president’s son had destroyed the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, of which Chahed is also a member.
The president’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is the leader of Nidaa Tounes, had called for Chahed’s dismissal because of his government’s failure to revive the economy. But the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, Nidaa Tounes’ coalition partner, backed Chahed. ($1 = 2.5921 Tunisian dinars)


Turkey to repatriate most of 287 Daesh detainees by the year-end

Updated 21 November 2019

Turkey to repatriate most of 287 Daesh detainees by the year-end

  • Country has repatriation pacts with countries concerned but informs them before sending detainees back

ANKARA: Turkey will have repatriated most of its Daesh detainees to their home countries by the end of the year, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Tuesday, a week after Turkish authorities began the repatriation program.

Ankara says it has captured 287 militants in northeast Syria, where Turkish troops launched an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia last month, and has hundreds more terror suspects in detention.

Speaking in Ankara, Soylu said Turkey was aiming to send six or seven more Daesh suspects this week to their home countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands. Turkish officials were in touch with counterparts there.

“The number of detainees to be repatriated by the year-end depends on how long the processes take, but especially for Europe, the process is under way,” Soylu said.

“I think we will have sent a large part of them to their countries by the end of the year,” he said, adding that certain countries that revoked the citizenships of their nationals were violating international law.

“They do not have the right to leave their citizens without a nationality. They have no such right,” he said. “This is why we held evaluations with certain countries on this, and they are taking them back.”

Turkey has repatriation and extradition agreements with the countries concerned but informs them before sending detainees back.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turkey has accused its European allies of being too slow to take back their citizens who had traveled to the Mideast to join Daesh.

• So far Turkey has repatriated 10 German nationals, one US citizen, and one British suspected fighter.

• European countries are trying to speed up a plan to move thousands of terrorists out of Syrian prisons and into Iraq.

• NATO allies have been worried Turkey’s offensive into northeastern Syria could lead to Daesh suspects escaping from YPG prisons and camps.

Two Daesh mothers, aged 23 and 25, were detained at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on Tuesday evening after being deported from Turkey, Dutch prosecutors said. They are suspected of membership in a terrorist organization.

The women, who were traveling with two children aged 3 and 4, will be brought before a judge on Friday.

Turkey has accused its European allies of being too slow to take back their citizens who had traveled to the Middle East to join Daesh. 

Meanwhile, European countries are trying to speed up a plan to move thousands of terrorists out of Syrian prisons and into Iraq.

Turkey’s European NATO allies have been worried that last month’s offensive into northeastern Syria could lead to Daesh suspects and their families escaping from the prisons and camps run by the YPG.

Ankara, which views the YPG as a terrorist group linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil, has dismissed the concerns, saying the militia had vacated some of the prisons and allowed around 800 radical terrorists to escape.

So far Turkey has repatriated 10 German nationals, one US citizen, and one British suspected fighter. 

Ankara has said that suspects will still be deported to Ireland, France and other mostly European nations in the coming days.