IMF begins Tunisia visit in boost for $4 billion loan appeal
Tunisia is hoping to conclude the deal before the third quarter of 2022 to help support the country's budget, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.
Central bank governor Marouane El Abbasi has said the budget deficit will rise to 9.7 percent this year instead of the previously anticipated 6.7 percent, given the strength of the dollar and rise in grain prices.
IMF Middle East and Central Asia director Jihad Azour is leading the fund's delegation and, according to Reuters on Sunday, he will meet with President Kais Saied, suggesting official negotiations on the loan deal could begin soon.
The IMF delegation will meet with El Abbasi, who has previously said Tunisia needs additional financing worth $1.6 billion and the loan "has become necessary".
It comes amid continued political and social turmoil in Tunisia, which has remained high since a power-grab by President Kais Saied last July that opponents have called a "coup".
Prime Minister Najla Bouden's government earlier this month revealed an economic reform plan it said it would implement from 2023 to 2026, including a gradual removal of food and energy subsidies and voluntary public sector redundancies.
The powerful UGTT trade union cast doubt on the government's reform programme, alleging that it has submitted a tougher plan to the IMF.
The UGTT urged Bouden to release the document given to the IMF.
The strike comes as Tunisia prepares to enter formal talks with the IMF on a new bailout plan for its debt-laden economy https://t.co/q6Q1bc9zMW— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) June 17, 2022
UGTT Secretary General Noureddine Taboubi previously told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed he would not meet any IMF delegation and that he rejected the negotiation of a programme that would impact the rights enjoyed by workers.
He wants talks on economic reforms postponed until Tunisia's political institutions are stabilised, saying the government, appointed by presidential decree, has no right to implement reforms affecting people's livelihoods.
Sources within the UGTT told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed Taboubi's view on the IMF delegation's visit did not change after the recent strike and there would be no meeting.
Like the UGTT, the popular Constitutional Free Party has rejected economic reforms demanded by the IMF.
Reuters contributed to this report.