Tunisia plans a voluntary lay-off programme for more than 50,000 public sector employees starting this year, Minister of Public Functions Abid Briki told Reuters yesterday. The move is part of a programme to reduce government spending levels.
Briki added that the reform programme will start this year but did not provide details on how long the changes, likely to be politically sensitive, would take. "Our goal is that more 50,000 employees in public jobs will leave voluntarily to reduce the volume of high wages, and this will be very important for Tunisia's budget," he explained. The minister pointed out that the government will give laid-off employees two years' pay and help them to get bank loans for private-sector projects.
Tunisia has been under pressure from multilateral lenders to reduce spending in order to cut its budget deficit. The North African country's public sector wage bill, worth 13.5 per cent of GDP, is one of the highest in the world.
The minister said that the international lenders support the reform, which "cannot be delayed any longer." The cost would be announced during the first quarter, he said. "The burden of costs in the public sector with 650,000 employees has become a major threat for the state budget. This must stop immediately; these costs should go to development projects."
In December, the Tunisian finance minister announced that the country would need $3.7 billion in foreign loans in 2017 to cover its budget deficit.
Since its pro-democracy uprising in 2011, Tunisia has been backed by foreign partners and multilateral lenders keen to see its transition succeed. However, economic reforms to tackle joblessness and high public spending have lagged behind political changes.