Tunisia to halve deficit in three years – PM

Tunisia’s government wants to halve its budget deficit and trim the public wage bill in the next three years as part of a reform package to revive the economy, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Monday.

“We are preparing an economic plan to relaunch and salvage the Tunisian economy,” he told parliament five days after naming a cabinet including a new minister in charge of economic reforms. “This is needed to balance our finances.”

Chahed said the government aimed to reduce the deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 from 6 percent expected this year. He said growth was expected to hit 5 percent that year; in the first half of this year, the economy expanded by 1.9 percent.

Though Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress after the 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, successive governments have failed to advance in economic reforms to trim deficits and create jobs and growth.

Backed by the International Monetary Fund, the North African country is looking to reduce subsidies, overhaul its pension system and shrink its large public sector. But worries over social unrest have kept authorities from advancing with reforms.

Chahed said the government planned to reduce the public wage bill to around 12.5 percent of GDP from the current 14 percent – one of the highest ratios in the world.

In an effort to boost foreign currency reserves, he said the government would also loosen currency controls to allow Tunisians to hold foreign currency accounts locally and introduce an amnesty for illicit foreign currency trade.


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