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Tunisian protesters oppose austerity measures

Dozens of supporters of Tunisia's Popular Front opposition alliance yesterday demonstrated in the capital Tounis against austerity measures and the 2017 budget, which was approved by the government the day before.

The country's national unity government, led by the Nidaa Tounes party, approved the 2017 budget, which includes 32.7 billion dinars in spending ($ 14.8 billion), an increase of about 12 per cent from the previous budget.

Prime Minister Youssef AlShahed said that he wants to implement reforms, including raising taxes, cutting down subsidies, and postponing wage increases, in order to strengthen budget revenues and control the deficit.

Protesters held banners that called for revising the "impoverishment and starvation budget". They also chanted slogans including "No to austerity, no to starvation"; "Employment, freedom and national dignity"; and "Austerity is not the solution".

The Popular Front's leftist leader Hamma Hammami told demonstrators: "It is important today to prepare for the struggle against the budget of starvation, impoverishment and violation of national sovereignty."

He alleged that this budget means putting a freeze on wage increases and jobs, and that it would lead to price hikes. He described the economic measures entailed by the budget as harmful for the Tunisian people, especially the weak and working classes. Hammami warned that small and medium-sized enterprises would bear the brunt of the economic crisis in the absence of serious measure against evaders and smugglers.

Tunisia has announced that it will need to take a number of foreign loans in 2017 to ensure its economic survival.

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