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IMF due in Tunisia on Friday for talks: Trade union official

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An International Monetary Fund delegation will arrive in Tunisia on Friday for talks with the government and other groups, a top trade union official said, as fears rise over the North African country’s risk of default.

After meeting representatives of the government and central bank, the IMF team is also scheduled to have discussions with the powerful Tunisian General Labor Union on April 1, its assistant secretary-general Sami Tahri said by phone.

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An IMF representative in Tunisia did not immediately answer calls seeking comment.

The birthplace of the Arab Spring is battling to rescue a long-troubled economy that has been further battered by the pandemic and is seeing fresh political uncertainty after President Kais Saied assumed more powers, firing the prime minister and suspending parliament in July.

Fitch Ratings last week downgraded Tunisia’s sovereign debt rating to CCC from B-, reflecting heightened fiscal and external liquidity risks due to delays in agreeing a new IMF deal.

Union opposition has been among the factors hindering earlier attempts by successive Tunisian governments to cut government spending and tackle other key issues. Tahri declined to comment further on the proposed talks or state of negotiations.

The government said last month it hopes to reach an agreement in April.

Morgan Stanley said this week that Tunisia looks unlikely to clinch an IMF loan deal, with political opposition to fiscal reforms raising the risk that the government will eventually default on its debt.

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