Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated against “government policies” outside the country’s parliament in the capital Tunis yesterday amidst a heavy security presence.
Local media reported that the protestors had a number of demands, most importantly “to cancel the government’s recent decision to increase fuel prices.”
The protests coincided with the parliament’s session yesterday, which was reported to have discussed the “current situation of Tunisia’s health sector”.
On Saturday, the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises said it would increase the price of a litre of petrol and Gasoline Sulfur by 0.080 Tunisian dinars, reaching 2.065 dinars ($0.68) and 1.825 dinars ($0.60) respectively. The ministry also increased the price of a litre of normal gasoline by 0.090 dinars, reaching 1.570 dinars (about $0.51).
The secretary-general of the Tunisian taxi union, Union National des Taxi – UNT, Naji Bin Sultan, recently said that the protests had come “to express the citizens’ rejection of the government’s decision to raise national fuel prices and to demand solutions to the matter.”
“This increase will force us [taxi drivers] to raise taxi fares for passengers,” Sultan noted.
Tunis has dropped into a deep economic slump following the overthrow in 2011 of autocratic leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The government has been implementing several austerity measures under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which agreed to a $2.8 billion loan programme in 2016. The international lender has been pressing Tunisia to trim its budget deficit and increase fuel and electricity bills to offset a rise in oil prices that is pressuring already strained public finances.
The government has been trying to cut the public sector wage bill to 12.5 per cent of GDP by 2020 from 15 per cent – one of the world’s highest – by offering voluntary redundancies But few have taken up the offer due to high unemployment.