President Saied's palace 'spent $350,000 on red meat' as he told Tunisians to tighten their belts
Tunisian President Kais Saied has come under fire after activists posted alleged details of the Tunisian presidential palace's expenditures online.
Screenshots posted by the activists purported that the Tunisian presidency had spent 1,141,000 dinars ($345,500) on red meat since the beginning of this year.
The screenshots were reportedly from tenders submitted by the presidency and published on a website dealing with public expenditure.
The New Arab was not able to independently verify their content.
Saied was accused by activists of wasting public funds and subjected to scathing criticism on social media due to a recent call for Tunisians to reduce their expenditures in the face of a severe economic crisis.
The president, who last year suspended the Tunisian parliament and sacked the Tunisian prime minister in events widely called a “power grab” and a “coup”, had also promoted an image of himself as an austere and ascetic leader.
His power grab was largely justified by the president's supporters, as a necessary step to stamp out corruption.
Ziad Elhechmi, an MP in the suspended Tunisian parliament published a picture of the purported tender on Facebook and commented: "The country is in a state of famine and the people literally can't find anything to eat. There is no sugar, oil, or water and you're calling on the people to be austere. The president of this same country orders 1,141,000 dinars on red meat for his palace!"
Saied recently enacted a controversial new constitution for Tunisia giving himself almost unchecked powers after a disputed referendum. The constitution was condemned as "authoritarian" by human rights groups.
Elhechmi said that this new system of government allowed Saied to spend public money without any oversight.
Jaouhar ben Mbarek, a former government minister, called for a "serious investigation" into the presidential expenditure on red meat.
"The value of the meat going to the palace in 2019 was not more than 180,000 dinars (US$54,500), but today under Saied it’s nearly 1.5 million dinars," ben Mbarek said.
Saied was elected president of Tunisia in October 2019, a few months after the death in office of his predecessor Beji Caid Essebsi.
Since the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic the Tunisian economy, which was heavily dependent on tourism, has suffered a severe downturn with supermarket shelves empty and people struggling to buy basic necessities.