TUNIS – Tunisia’s main union has slammed the government’s conduct of talks with the IMF on a loan to help the North African country as it falls deeper into debt.
Tunisia is requesting a nearly $2 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund, with any assistance contingent on a series of reforms.
While Noureddine Taboubi of the Tunisian General Labor Union, or UGTT, delivered his May Day speech in Tunis, protesters in Sfax, the country’s second largest city, denounced “an IMF government,” declaring “No to colonization.”
“We support the president’s position,” said Kais Saied, who last month rejected what he called IMF “diktats” for Tunisia to be granted the loan, according to Taboubi.
Despite an agreement in principle on the loan in October, talks with the IMF have been stalled for months due to Saied’s refusal to commit to restructuring public institutions and eliminating subsidies on basic goods.
The IMF has asked for legislation to restructure more than 100 state-owned enterprises that have monopolies in various sectors of the economy and are often deeply indebted.
On Monday, Taboubi stated that the president had “aligned himself” with the UGTT, which is opposed to the sale of public firms and the elimination of subsidies.
“This makes us wonder whether there is any value in the government negotiating with the IMF,” he remarked.
Taboubi claimed that the IMF’s bailout criteria will “impoverish the Tunisian people even more” in a country where inflation is already above 10% and unemployment is above 15%.
The UGTT stated late last month that there were substantial differences between Saied and the administration led by Prime Minister Najla Gouden, which was involved in “secret negotiations” with the world financing body.
In a statement, it slammed “the global lending funds that seize such opportunities to dictate the conditions and dominate the economies of countries experiencing crises such as ours.”
Taboubi also urged the release of trade unionists incarcerated in recent weeks, including one detained on Friday for anti-Saied social media statements.