Jebali focused on Tunisia improvements
By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 10/05/12
Tunisian Interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali responded to criticism of his first 100 days in office while presenting Tunisia with his plan of action and budget.
"The country is now in a state of massive destruction given the volume of corruption, injustice, poverty and unemployment left behind by the former regime," Jebali said on April 26th as he detailed his 2012 supplementary budget for the Constituent Assembly.
According to Jebali, the Tunisian revolution erupted from rural areas because of provincial disparity.
In that vein, the head of the Tunisian government spoke about five priorities - putting an end to the suffering of disadvantaged provinces, vulnerable sectors, employment, and putting an end to the high cost of living and rising prices.
Jebali noted that his government would earmark 6.4 billion dinars (3.2 billion euros) for provincial development. Funds estimated at 511 million dinars (255.5 million euros) would be allocated for employment.
Ennahda MP Sabhi Atig urged the government to pay attention to poor neighbourhoods around the capital.
On this point, Jebali said that his government would complete 60 large projects; two projects in each province. He also stressed the need to provide security.
He also stipulated in the budget that it would provide 25,000 jobs in the public sector and 50,000 jobs in the private sector, which would equate to a growth rate of 3.5%.
However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that current conditions in Tunisia would not allow the country to exceed a growth rate of 2.5%, which suggests that it is impossible to create the 75,000 jobs reflected in the budget.
On the street, Tunisians complain about rising costs of living.
Jebali admitted that his government bears partial responsibility for controlling the prices of goods.
Some say that controlling prices may be easier said than done; however, the situation remains a challenge.
Trade ministry control teams conducted 216,000 field inspections between February 2011 and February 2012, reporting 10,500 violations, the ministry announced last week.
According to Economic Affairs Minister Redha Saidi, the Tunisian government has reached an agreement with Libya to curb smuggling. However, trafficking has continued and prices have continued to rise.
Nonetheless, Jebali expressed commitment to the issue. He promised to cut prices before Ramadan "at whatever cost".
In response to the prime minister's plan, many critics weighed in with scepticism.
"It would be difficult to achieve within eight months," said Nedia Ben Chaban from the Democratic Opposition bloc. Ben Chaban added that Jebali's presentation was only an "election platform promise".
Aymen Zouagui of the al-Aridha al-Chaabia (Popular Petition) party accused Jebali's government of lacking sufficient courage and ability to find solutions for the problem of high prices.
Nejib Chebbi of the opposition's Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) said that he wouldn’t approve the supplementary budget law in its current form.
Other members' questions and criticisms, however, focused on the primary issues- completion of the constitution and preparation for the upcoming elections, as well as compensation for former prisoners and torture victims.
Samir Betaieb of the Democratic and Social Way Party focused on the government's intention to pay compensations to former prisoners, saying that Nelson Mandela didn't do that; rather, he was paying a part of his salary for social work.
This statement prompted Finance Minister Houcine Dimassi to say that it was not the government's intention to pay such compensations, adding that the payments "don't exist" in the complementary budget.
The prime minister said in his speech that despite some admitted delays, all indicators show that Tunisia is taking daily steps toward improvement. He also went on the record by saying that the country would hold its election before next summer.
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