Tunisia president Kais Saied rejects IMF ‘diktats,’ casting shadow over bailout

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Tunisia’s president on Thursday gave his clearest rejection yet of the terms of a stalled $1.9 billion IMF bailout package when he said he would not accept “diktats” and suggested that subsidy cuts could lead to unrest.

Tunisia reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for the loan in September, but it has already missed key commitments, and donors believe the state’s finances are increasingly diverging from the figures upon which the deal was calculated.

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Without a loan, Tunisia faces a full-blown balance of payments crisis.

Most debt is internal but there are foreign loan repayments due later this year, and credit ratings agencies have said Tunisia may default.

When asked whether he would accept the terms of the loan -- which include cuts to food and energy subsidies and a
reduction in the public wage bill -- Kais Saied told reporters “I will not hear diktats.”

He said deadly riots had rocked the North African country in 1983 after the government raised the price of bread. “Public peace is not a game,” he said.

When asked what the alternative was to the IMF loan, the president replied: “Tunisians must count on themselves.”

Saied seized most powers in 2021, shutting down parliament, appointing a new government and moving to rule by decree -- moves he said were necessary to end years of chaos and what he saw as rampant corruption among the political elite.

He has blamed Tunisia’s economic problems on corruption and rejected what he sees as foreign interference.

Read more:

US Secretary of State Blinken says Tunisia risks ‘deep end’ without IMF deal

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