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Tunisia Govt, UGTT Union Sign Deal on Economic Reforms

Tunisia Govt, UGTT Union Sign Deal on Economic Reforms

Wednesday, 31 March, 2021 - 17:00
Tunisia's Prime Minister Hichem Mehcichi. (AFP file photo)

Tunisia's government and the powerful UGTT labor union signed an economic reform package on Wednesday that tackles subsidies, taxes and state firms, Prime Minister Hichem Mehcichi said.

The deal, which comes as Tunisia grapples with unprecedented financial problems, could open the way for an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

"It is a historic agreement on important battles in our country," Mechichi said.

The agreement includes a plan to start reforms for seven state companies, including Tunisair and the STEG Electricity Company.

Details of the reforms plan will be unveiled later.

The IMF urged Tunisia to cut its wage bill and limit energy subsidies to reduce a fiscal deficit, putting more pressure on the government amid a severe financial and political crisis.

"A very good step that shows that we are the ones who choose our reforms and agree on them without anyone dictating them to Tunisia," Finance Minister Ali Kooli told Reuters.

Kooli said that a Tunisian delegation would start discussions with the IMF over a financing program in two weeks, adding that reaching a deal with IMF would improve Tunisia's credibility and allow it to mobilize foreign loans.

Tunisia’s 2021 budget forecasts borrowing needs of $7.2 billion, including about $5 billion in foreign loans. It puts debt repayments due this year at 16 billion dinars ($5.75 billion), up from 11 billion dinars in 2020.

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