IMF concerned about Tunisian political situation

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The International Monetary Fund on Friday expressed concern over the political and security situation in Tunisia, which has delayed the disbursement of financial aid to the country.

"The current political crisis and recent security developments, as well as the deteriorating economic situation among Tunisia's main trading partners, are having an impact on economic activity," the IMF said in a statement.

The country's fiscal imbalance, and trade and investment flows are all deteriorating, the Fund warned, as the country continues to struggle to rebound after the uprising that toppled a decades-old dictatorship in January 2011 and ignited the Arab Spring.

Economic growth, at an annual 3 percent pace in the first half, was slower than forecast, the Fund said in a report after a mid-September mission to Tunis.

"The short-term risks are on the downside, and vigorous measures, including in the implementation of reforms, are essential, notwithstanding the constraints associated with political developments."

In June the IMF approved a $1.74 billion, two-year standby loan for Tunisia to help stabilize government finances as it implements needed reforms of state finances and the financial system.

An initial disbursement was made under the program at the time. But the Fund has not carried out a first audit of progress under the loan-supported program, which had been scheduled to be concluded by September 15.

In its statement Friday, the IMF said the review mission is planned for November.

But the Fund stressed that "immediate and urgent efforts are required" to get the country's budget and external deficits under control and to strengthen a weak banking sector.

Speeding up government reforms will help boost growth and generate jobs, it said.

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