Tunisian trade unions unhappy with IMF loan deal

Tunisia’s largest union on Monday criticized the government’s handling of negotiations with the IMF over a loan to save the North African nation as it sinks deeper into debt. Tunisia is seeking a nearly $2 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, on the condition that any aid for a range of reforms.

When Noureddine Taboubi of the General Confederation of Labor of Tunisia (UGTT) gave a May Day speech in the capital Tunis, protesters in Sfax, the country’s second city, denounced “an IMF government”, say “No to colonization”.

“We support the position of President Kais Saied, who last month rejected what he called the IMF’s ‘order’ for Tunisia to receive the loan,” Taboubi said. Despite an agreement in principle on the loan in October, negotiations with the IMF stalled for months due to Saied’s failure to commit to restructuring state agencies and eliminating commodity subsidies. .

The IMF has called for legislation to restructure more than 100 state-owned companies, which hold monopolies over parts of the economy and are in many cases heavily indebted. Taboubi said on Monday that the president was “aligned” with UGTT to oppose the sale of state-owned companies and the lifting of subsidies.

“That makes us wonder if the government should negotiate with the IMF,” he said. Taboubi said the conditions imposed by the IMF for the bailout would “further impoverish the Tunisian people” in a country where inflation is already above 10% and unemployment is above 15%. Late last month, UGTT said there were major differences between Saied and the government led by Prime Minister Najla Gouden, which it said was engaged in “secret negotiations” with the world lender.

In a statement, he attacked “global lenders seizing such opportunities to dictate terms and dominate the economies of countries going through crises like our own.”

On Monday, Taboubi also demanded the release of unionists arrested in recent weeks, including one arrested on Friday for allegedly anti-Saied social media posts.

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