Coronavirus: Tunisia needs $5.4 bln to balance budget, says PM Fakhfakh

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh speaks during the government handover ceremony in Carthage on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on February 28, 2020. (AFP)

Tunisia will need more than five billion euros ($5.4 billion) of external assistance to balance its 2020 budget, the prime minister said on Tuesday, even as coronavirus infections in the country appear to stall.

“The budget anticipated external finances of eight billion dinars, or a little over 2.5 billion euros, but I think that this figure will need to at least double,” Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh told news channel France 24.

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The premier said his country was exploring different avenues, domestically and internationally, to fill the budget for 2020, which was set at 47 billion dinars.

At the end of March the European Union said it would grant 250 million euros to Tunisia to help the North African country fight the virus and the adverse socioeconomic effects of a lockdown.

And in April the International Monetary Fund approved a $745 million emergency loan for Tunisia to help it with its virus response.

Tunisians wearing protective masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic walk by on a street in the Kram area of the capital Tunis on May 8, 2020. (AFP)

Tunisians wearing protective masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic walk by on a street in the Kram area of the capital Tunis on May 8, 2020. (AFP)

Tunisia's economy is expected to contract by 4.3 percent this year, the international lender said at the time, marking the deepest recession since the country's independence in 1956.

Tunisia's vital tourism sector, which was rebounding after being badly hit by several jihadist attacks, is among four sectors to have suffered the most, Fakhfakh said.

Media, small businesses and culture have also been hit hard, he added.

Tunisia has officially declared 1,032 cases of coronavirus, including 45 deaths, since March 2.

Zero cases were reported on Monday for the second consecutive day, the health ministry said Tuesday.

“We have been able to bring the pandemic under control. We rejoice... but we remain vigilant,” said Fakhfakh.

Tunisia imposed strict lockdown measures after the first cases in the country were discovered, but it began to ease those measures earlier this month.

However, most schools will remain closed until September.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:06 - GMT 07:06