Tunisia tightens import restrictions to tackle trade deficit

Tunisia’s central bank has ordered local lenders to stop financing the importation of hundreds of products — from fish to perfume — as the country tries to curb a record trade deficit.

A document seen by Reuters showed that banks had been told not to provide loans to finance imports of some 220 consumer products unless the importer deposits enough funds to cover the cost of the import.

The products listed include tropical fruits, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics products and air conditioners.

A senior government official told Reuters that Tunisia hoped the import restrictions would help maintain its foreign reserves and halt a slide in the dinar against the dollar.

The local currency traded at 2.92 against the euro and 2.49 against the dollar on Monday.

Tunisia’s trade deficit reached a record 11.480 billion dinars ($4.61 billion) last month after widening 23 percent year on year in the first nine months of 2017.

Praised for its successful democratic transition after a 2011 uprising, Tunisia has struggled with tough economic reforms to reduce public spending agreed with its international lenders.

Earlier this month, the prime minister’s economic adviser Ridha Saidi told Reuters the government would raise taxes on some goods imported from abroad, such as cosmetics and some agricultural products, to help narrow the trade deficit.

($1 = 2.4892 Tunisian dinars) (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Catherine Evans)


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