Tunisia’s political crisis is fueled by interminable economic hardship.
Spiraling prices, stagnant income, and pandemic-related job losses: outrage over Tunisia’s severe economic troubles helps to explain the political crisis that has engulfed the North African country this week.
Thousands of Tunisians came to the streets to celebrate President Kais Saied’s firing of the prime minister, suspension of parliament, and assumption of executive powers on Sunday, which critics dubbed a “coup d’etat.”
A trip to a Tunisian market explains why.
Many people believe they are in worse shape than they were ten years ago, when tyrant Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was deposed by a popular uprising, starting off the Arab Spring and setting Tunisia on a rocky path to democracy.
Tunisia, a country of 12 million people, has had nine governments since then, but none has been able to rebuild the economy, which has been further harmed by the Covid pandemic since last year.
“If we’re in this condition, it’s because of political groups who just care about themselves,” Adel Ben Trad, a butcher in the capital’s Bab El-Falla souk, said.
“We’ve probably lost half of our customers in the last ten years,” he added, noting that many clients now bargain or beg for credit because they can no longer afford his rib steaks and lamb chops.
“All prices have gone up, but wages have not,” claimed the 52-year-old butcher, who revealed that his monthly income of 600 dinars (180 euros) is insufficient to keep him afloat.
He stated he totally supports the president’s power grab in light of the catastrophic situation.
Tunisia’s 2011 revolution was famously launched when Mohammed Bouazizi, a young fruit and vegetable vendor, lit himself on fire in a desperate act of passion after an official denied him a permit and slapped him.
Many Tunisians still harbor a seething resentment of the state and a political class they perceive as remote and powerless to save the country’s deteriorating economy, which is steadily crushing their hopes for a better future.
Tunisia’s GDP shrank by more than 8% last year as the Covid outbreak wreaked havoc on the country’s vital tourism industry.
Over the last decade, the dinar has lost approximately half of its value, and debt has risen to 100% of GDP, up from 45 percent in 2010.
Tunis is requesting a fourth loan from the International Monetary Fund in ten years, and some fear that, like Lebanon, the country may default.
The pandemic has worsened, resulting in an increase in cases and deaths as well as panic and stampedes at vaccination centers.
Brief News from Washington Newsday.