Tunisia's Kais Saied to limit imports of 'luxury items' amid a growing economic crisis
Tunisia's president Kais Saied has called on the government to restrict importing "luxury items" amid the economic crisis in the country.
On Monday, Saied lambasted the ongoing imports of "luxury items" such as cosmetic products, perfumes, and animal food, amid the lack of essential products in the Tunisian markets.
"How can one explain the supply of special food for domestic animals or the supply of cosmetics from foreign perfume houses (…), while most citizens complain about the lack of the minimum necessities of life," said Saied during his meeting with the government, according to the Tunisian presidency press statement.
For weeks now, Tunisia's shops and supermarkets have been facing a severe shortage of goods, from dairy to bottled water, as the cash-strapped country grapples with a mounting economic crisis.
In Tunis, several supermarkets have been displaying half-empty shelves with signs restricting customers' ability to buy only a specific amount of supplies to alleviate the worsening situation.
Last week, a video picturing tens of Tunisian citizens fighting over sugar in a supermarket was widely shared over social media, raising alarm over the situation in the North African state.
Tunisia's economy has struggled since the Arab uprising of 2011. However, its problems have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Kais Saied's power grab, the undoing of state institutions and the fallout from the Ukraine war.
According to the World Bank, public debt as of 2020 was 70 per cent above GDP, current debt levels could be much higher. Unemployment has soared to nearly 18.5% as of third-quarter 2021.
The trade deficit during this year amounted to 16.9 billion dinars (more than US$5 billion ), compared to 10.14 billion dinars (about US$3 billion) in 2021, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics.
China, Turkey, Algeria and Russia topped the list of countries with which Tunisia suffers from a trade deficit.
A scene in a Tunisian supermarket as people wrestle for Sugar...— Souhail Khmira (@SKhmira) September 25, 2022
It's horrible watching scenes like this ...#Tunisia#TunisiaDeservesBetter pic.twitter.com/2kphUHGLNI
The cash-strapped country is also struggling to pay for subsidies as it waits for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail it out from a decade-long economic crisis.
The recent criticism of Saied's politics by The US, the largest financial contributor to the IMF, may hinder Tunis' chances of receiving the IMF aid package.
In addition to his controversial political moves, Saied has been criticised lately for "the crazy expenses" of Carthage palace.
The accusations came after a leaked document of the presidential palace's budget was posted on social media.
The document says Carthage palace ordered August one million and 141 thousand dinars worth of red meat (about US$ 450 thousand).
The presidency has not reacted to the document yet.