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Tunisia: Protests after raising fuel prices for sixth time

April 3, 2019 at 3:12 am

Tunisians hold the Syrian and Palestinian flags as they demonstrate against the Arab League Summit and the United States recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in the capital Tunis on 31 March, 2019 [ANIS MILI/AFP/Getty]

The Tunisian government has announced an increase in fuel prices and sparked a wave of anger within Tunisia’s political sphere and beyond. Opposition parties and trade unions have called on the authorities to reverse the increases, threatening to stage protests and strikes.

This is the sixth increase of its kind in Tunisia since 2017, as part of a package of reforms taken by the government to reduce the budget deficit and to respond to the conditions of the International Monetary Fund, in order to receive a loan of $ 2.98 billion in batches.

The increase was previously blocked

The Tunisian Ministry of Industry justified what it called the partial adjustment of fuel prices by “the continuous rise in oil prices internationally, as the price of crude oil has exceeded the threshold of $ 68 a barrel during the previous period.”

The Minister of Industry, Salim Al-Feriani, denied, a few weeks ago, the government’s intention to increase the price of fuel or planning for it, describing such news as “rumours”.

Al-Feriani said in a statement to the local media that the government has allocated 2.8 billion dinars in the 2019 budget to support the energy sector.

Anger and calls to protest

Opposition parties were quick to express their anger at the increase, warning of the repercussions of such a decision on the purchasing power of the Tunisian citizen, in addition to nullifying the positive impact of the public sector’s wage increases previously approved by the government.

In a statement, the Democratic Patriots‘ Unified Party called on the government to reverse its decision, pointing out that this increase would add weight to citizen’s daily burdens, not to mention institutions and professionals.

READ: Half of Arab leaders absent from Tunisia summit

The opposition party expressed its support for all popular movements, calling on all democratic and progressive forces as well as national organizations to “unite in order to impose the cancellation of this dangerous decision.”

AlTayar AlShaabi also rejected these increases which it described as absurd, warning of its impact on the Tunisian people, on the one hand, and on the economic institution as well as the agricultural sector, on the other.

AlTayar AlShaabi called on Tunisians “to protest in order to reverse such a decision and put an end to the country’s imminent collapse.”

“The government’s deceit”

In a statement to Arabi21, Sami Al-Tahirithe assistant secretarygeneral of the UGTT, accused the government of deceiving the Tunisian General Labour Union and the working class, after agreeing on the increase of public sector’s wages.

He added: “The government gave the wage increases with the right hand then took away these bonuses with the left hand, in a move that has no description other than fraudulent, especially since the Minister of Industry has previously denied any intention to increase fuel prices.

He explained that the UGTT will issue a statement within hours condemning the sudden increase and supporting all forms of peaceful protest against it, stressing that such an increase in fuel prices will deepen the Tunisian citizen’s suffering, as well as institutions and professionals in all sectors.

Trucks blocking roads

The spokesman of the General Directorate of the Tunisian Maritime Guard (Gendarmerie), Hossam Eddin El-Jabbabli, told Arabi 21 that an important number of truck drivers have deliberately parked their vehicles in the middle of roads to hold up traffic as a form of protest against the increase in fuel prices.

Yesterday, roads were blocked and rubber wheels were burned by protesters in several cities, namely, Tunis, Monastir, Sousse, Sidi Bouzid, and Siliana, as a way to express their rage against the increase in fuel prices.

Taxi and share taxi unions have announced plans to stage strikes and sit-ins in front of parliament and elsewhere in order to force the government to cancel the decision.