Bouquet of flowers and red carpet. Welcomed with honors in Tunisia, Tuesday, June 6, the president of the Italian council, Giorgia Meloni, was received on her descent from the plane by the head of government, Najla Bouden, before reaching Carthage, where she spoke with the head of state, Kais Saied. The official visit of the far-right leader – the first since the Tunisian president’s coup in July 2021 – lasted only a few hours, but it confirms the attention paid by Italy to its southern neighbor of the Mediterranean. An interest fueled by the upsurge in the departure of migrants from the Tunisian coasts.
Rome, which has already dispatched its interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, twice to Tunis in January and May, is worried about the repercussions on its soil of the socio-economic and financial crisis that Tunisia is going through. The country, affected by a rising cost of living and chronic food shortages, is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain a loan of 1.9 billion dollars (1.78 billion euros ). But the talks are stalling.
Giorgia Meloni’s short visit was intended to convince the Tunisian president to make concessions on the reforms that would condition the release of credits and aid. “I spoke to President Saïed about the efforts that a friendly country like Italy is making, with full respect for Tunisian sovereignty, to try to reach a positive conclusion of the agreement between Tunisia and the IMF”declared the president of the council at the end of the meeting, reaffirming in passing that a loan from the body remains “fundamental to strengthen the country and for its full recovery”.
The “dictates” of the IMF
The IMF gave its prior approval in October 2022, but the mechanism is conditional on the implementation of certain measures, such as the reduction of the civil service wage bill, the reform of state-owned enterprises and, above all, the dismantling of public subsidies on basic products. The disappearance of this system could have a strong impact on the most modest Tunisians, while the country has been experiencing inflation of around 10% for several months.
“The injunctions [du FMI] that lead to more poverty will be rejected,” had retorted Kaïs Saïed on April 6, qualifying “dictates” the requested measures. “If Kais Saied accepts the IMF conditions as they are, with the deadlines, it risks triggering social protests, analyzes Bassem Snaije, financial advisor and teacher of economics at Sciences Po Paris and at the Beirut Business School. He plays a game of poker to ensure that the conditions for the rescue of Tunisia are the least painful possible for those who do not have the means. »
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