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Tunisia government given special powers to handle coronavirus crisis

Tunisian security forces warn people as they take security measures after a partial curfew declaration on March 18, within precautions against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Bizerte region of Tunis, Tunisia on March 28, 2020 [Nacer Talel / Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian security forces warn people as they take security measures after a partial curfew declaration on March 18, within precautions against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Bizerte region of Tunis, Tunisia on March 28, 2020 [Nacer Talel / Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia’s parliament on Saturday ceded some powers to the North African country’s government for two months to help it handle the coronavirus crisis and the expected economic fallout, reported Reuters.

The decision, backed by all political parties, will allow Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh’s government to issue decrees, strike purchasing agreements and seek finance without consulting parliament.

Tunisia has 495 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 18 deaths, and has imposed a national lockdown until April 19 to slow its spread.

Fakhfakh, who was confirmed as prime minister on February 28 after months of wrangling between rival parties to form a government, said the move was a “necessary weapon” to allow fast decisions to tackle the crisis.

Read: Tunisia releases 1,420 prisoners over coronavirus

His government has announced a financial package that includes aid for the poor as well as tax and loan repayment holidays. Fakhfakh has said the government may impose exceptional taxes on companies to cover this if the government cannot find the money elsewhere.

Tunisia, which embraced democracy after a 2011 uprising to overthrow veteran autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has struggled to develop its economy over the past decade.

An International Monetary Fund loan programme expires this month and Finance minister Nizar Yaich told Reuters in March the government had started negotiations with IMF on a new agreement. Last Sunday, the European Union has announced granting Tunisia 250 million euros in aid to help it cope with the economic and social effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Watch: Tunisia robots enforce lockdown

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AfricaCoronavirusNewsTunisia
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