Tu­nisia loans fol­low Crown Prince visit

The National - News - - NEWS - THE NA­TIONAL

Saudi Ara­bia will lend Tu­nisia $500 mil­lion (Dh1.8 bil­lion) at a favourable in­ter­est rate and will fi­nance two projects worth $140m, two sources told Reuters a day af­ter a visit from the Saudi crown prince. Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man met Pres­i­dent Beji Caid Essebsi in Tu­nis as a part of a re­gional tour. Tu­nisia has strug­gled eco­nom­i­cally and is hun­gry for for­eign fund­ing.

“Tu­nisia will an­nounce in a few days im­por­tant deals with Saudi, in­clud­ing a loan with a low-in­ter­est rate, agree­ments on in­vest­ment and other im­por­tant de­tails,” said Noured­dine Ben Ticha, an ad­viser to the pres­i­dent.

The coun­try is strug­gling to cut its bud­get deficit, sta­bilise fall­ing for­eign cur­rency re­serves and man­age the ex­pec­ta­tions of in­ter­na­tional lenders who are de­mand­ing re­forms, such as trim­ming the pub­lic wage bill.

Tu­nisia’s econ­omy has been in tur­moil since au­to­crat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was top­pled in a 2011 up­ris­ing sparked by anger at un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and record lev­els of in­fla­tion.

Un­der pres­sure from the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, Prime Min­is­ter Youssef Cha­hed aimed to cut the bud­get deficit to about 4.9 per cent of GDP this year, from 6.2 per cent last year.

Prince Mo­hammed said Saudi Ara­bia en­joyed long ties with Tu­nisia. “I can­not come to North Africa with­out vis­it­ing Tu­nisia ... Tu­nisia’s pres­i­dent is like my fa­ther,” he said.

The visit was the fourth leg of his re­gional tour – which in­cluded the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – be­fore he trav­elled to Ar­gentina for the start of the G20 sum­mit on Fri­day.

But hun­dreds of Tu­nisians staged the first demon­stra­tions in the Arab world against Saudi Ara­bia’s crown prince dur­ing his visit on Tues­day, de­nounc­ing him for the mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi at the coun­try’s Is­tan­bul con­sulate. A group of se­nior aides and of­fi­cials have been im­pli­cated and ar­rested for the mur­der, which Saudi of­fi­cials said was car­ried out with­out the knowl­edge of the royal fam­ily.

Some Tu­nisians are also an­gry at Saudi Ara­bia for al­low­ing Mr Ben Ali to live in Riyadh since flee­ing Tu­nis af­ter the 2011 protests.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.