The Tunisian government is in agreement with the IMF on the terms of an emergency loan package, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Oumaya Saharaoui told Tunisia Live, and will sign an agreement in May or June after final arrangements are made. An IMF delegation is currently in Tunis to discuss the agreement.
The loan accord has been controversial, with critics arguing that the negotiation process has not been sufficiently transparent and that the deal would improperly cede authority over Tunisian economic policy to outside actors. The Finance Ministry rejected this criticism.
“This is on the level of the country, and since when do we ask people about things such as loans and major financial issues?,” asked Saharaoui, disputing the notion that the procedures were undemocratic.
The deal would provide for a stand-by loan worth $1.78 billion, but Tunisian officials have asserted that this money would only be used in an emergency and that they do not anticipate drawing on these funds.
The agreement is a “precautionary measure to help support the country during the transition period and, if need be, cope with exogenous shocks that could come from the global environment,” according to an IMF statement released in February.
Finance Minister Elyes Fakhfakh told Bloomberg that it is important to gain a guarantee from the IMF to shield Tunisia against financial instability within the country and the economic crisis in Europe.
Tunisia would be required to commit to a set of structural economic reforms to secure the loan, but Fakhfakh said that reforms have already been underway in Tunisia, with the IMF requirements are “very small” in comparison.
Lobma Jribi, member of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) subcommittee on finance and member of the Ettakatol party, said the NCA will approve the agreement after it is signed by the government.
Hizb Ettahrir party has been a vocal critic of the IMF agreement, protesting the arrival of the IMF delegation on April 8th. Party leader Ridha Bel Haj told Tunisia Live he opposes the loan because it advances a political agenda aimed at controlling Tunisian affairs and would force future generations of Tunisians to pay back the debt.
Bel Haj said that Tunisia, as an Arab and Islamic country, has a duty to follow sharia (Islamic law) in its financial decisions. He asserted that an IMF agreement would be incompatible with Islamic principles, and that it is also not the correct decision for a sovereign state.
“It’s humiliating to knock doors to get money,” said Ben Haj, who suggested that agreements with neighbors such as Libya may be a viable option.