05 January 2013 4:22 pm | | 4

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Deputy Minister of Finance Slim Besbes

A recent news report by the state news agency TAP that treasury reserves have fallen below the necessary amount to cover operational expenses has sparked a new wave of political discontent, even as government representatives hasten to characterize the report as a misrepresentation of the facts.

TAP reported on Friday, January 4, that the state might not be able to pay public sector employees as the state’s treasury bank account had only 129 million dinars ($83 million) in December while public sector salaries for the month of January will cost significantly more than that.

The report sparked angry reactions from Tunisians on Facebook and Twitter, with many accusing the government of making unnecessary budget cuts, supporting a bloated bureaucracy, and paying the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) members exorbitant salaries.

@M_Ksila: The Tunisian state doesn’t have enough liquidity in order to pay salaries of the next month, are you still talking about a revolution!

Tunisian blogger Tarek Cheniti posted on his Facebook page: “It’s been a year since we’ve been “barking:” cut the expenditures, give up the services of the 80 ministers and deputy ministers, stop the salaries of the members of the constituent assembly, give up the administrative cars and free gas receipts, stop traveling and fun missions from one country to another. You don’t want to listen to us, and you want to enjoy the money of Tunisians, go ahead and be responsible for this right now! Don’t come back complaining about how the state went bankrupt, it’s God’s will. Give back the people’s money!

But officials contacted by Tunisia Live  roundly contested the TAP report.

The treasury account had 1.38 billion dinars on January 3, according to a source from the Ministry of Finance who wished to remain anonymous. The source explained that the report published by TAP was a misunderstanding. The treasury’s bank account, like any other bank account, is constantly in flux and changes according to income and expenses, the source said.

Economics expert and NCA member Moncef Cheikhrouhou said he was surprised by the TAP report, adding that the TAP journalist was wrong in jumping to the conclusion that the State could not afford its expenses, even if done unintentionally.

“I do represent the opposition. But I also represent the people at the NCA, and it is not acceptable to give such an image of our country,” he said.

Cheikhrouhou said that the incorrect information might harm the country’s potential investment opportunities in the Arabian gulf region and elsewhere.

“This new democracy means that we are building our nation’s credibility… It’s a lesson for all of us to be always aware,” he said.

According to Cheikhrouhou, the state of the treasury’s account is subject to constant change, depending on deals, expenses, and salaries. He added that the state has more than just one bank account.

Deputy Minister of Finance Slim Besbes clarified yesterday to TAP that the state will be able to pay public sector employees, adding that the budget has additional resources that do not appear on its treasury’s bank account.

“There is no need to worry,” he told TAP.

The minister of finance will be questioned before the NCA on Tuesday, January 8, in order to clarify the misunderstanding, Cheikhrouhou said.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Jawed says:

    There should be an independent General Accounting Office in charge of reporting and informing the parliament and the Tunisian public of state expenditures and the financial state of the country. Neither the Ministry of the Treasory nor the Central Bank are transparent institutions leaving the door wide open for speculation on the financial state if the country. This state of affairs is prevalent in all dictatorships and failed states. After the Revolution the Tunisian people deserve a government, that’s competent and transparent, not one that keeps on denying rumors.

  2. mark says:

    I am happy this has been outed now maybe people will see how these people are incompetent to run a country. The are not qualified ..its simple the people deserve much better than this. When trust in the government has gone then so is everything else….with all the money that Tunisia has been given, granted or loaned the country should not be in this state. There are no appreciable programmes that have been started that would be using money, the quality of life for the everyday Tunisian has not improved, there are no areas being targeted for employment growth….There is lots of talk but not action.

    Maybe its good that this is exposed now before the elections so people are no longer walking around with hope for this group of incompetents who call themselves leaders……If this article is true there are now a large amount of government employees who will not be getting paid or being thrown into chaos until this mess is sorted

    Very sad and very bad

  3. Truthteller says:

    Where has all the loan money from the EU, Libya, Arab Gulf countries, US, etc. been going? All the foreign money slated for investements in the interior and elsewhere? More importantly, what are the terms of these loans? The blogger Cheniti is right: representatives that have been elected or appointed for a TEMPORARY period have been squandering the people’s money on the trappings and outward displays of wealth and power, giving themselves raises and perks first. Why doesn’t “austerity” apply to the public servants of the state/people?

  4. Volker Molt says:

    Wouldn’t it be useful, if the government shows figures where all the money goes, which Tunisia received since the revolution, there had been huge amounts. We can not see any improvement in education, programs for the public, too many lower level state employees just interested in
    their financial investment instead of more dedication to those entrusted to them.

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