JF Briefing Dec 16, 2014

Finances Top the Headlines

Finances have been occupying the headlines in Tunisia this week, with the passing of the 2015 budget and debates over an increase in public-sector salaries and impending slashes in subsidies.

The new Assembly of the People’s Representatives managed to pass the 2015 state budget in the early hours of 11 December at the end of a marathon session. The plenary session ran from Wednesday morning to early Thursday morning in an effort to meet the deadline set out in the Constitution of 10 December. Thebudget was passed with 147 votes for, 15 against and 10 abstentions.

The facts and figures below provide an overview of the key elements of the law:

  • State budget: 29 billion dinar budget – up 6 percent on 2014
  • Development spending: 5.8 billion dinars (3.14 billion dollars) – up from 5.3 billion dinars (2.87 billion dollars) in 2014
  • Subsidies: 3.7 billion dinars (2 billion dollars) – down by 16 percent on 2014
  • Deficit: estimated 5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015– down from 5.8 percent estimated for 2014
  • Presidency budget: 88.156 million – up 8.7%, from 2014
  • Ministry spending:

o   Ministry of Education: 3820.2 million dinars

o   Ministry of the Interior: 2615 million

o   Ministry of Industry: 2199 million

o   Ministry of Defense and 1792 million

o   Ministry of Health: 1599 million

o   Ministry of Commerce: 1588 million

o   Ministry of Higher Education: 1286 million

o   Ministry of Agriculture: 1135 million

o   Prime Minister’s office: 147.2 million

  • Assembly for Representatives of the People: 21.714 million dinars (increase of 3% on 2014)-
  • – See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/12/11/tunisias-newly-elected-parliament-passes-state-budget-and-2015-finance-law/#sthash.EjZ4JfA8.dpuf

As Sharq Al Awasat provides a brief overview of the budget, pointing out that Tunisia will be reliant on foreign financing and must raise “7.4 billion dinars (4 billion dollars) of financing next year, of which 4.4 billion dinars (2.38 billion dollars) will come from foreign sources.”

A number of price increases in everyday commodities have also been announced, with the price of milk increasing by 60 millimes as of January. The price of olive oil has also occupied headlines, as farmers demand an increase in prices. The Tunisian Social Observatory has stated that 104 protests rook place during the month of November, and has warned of further instability if soaring prices and the deterioration in the purchasing power of citizens continue.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) presented its annual regional economic outlook for North Africa in Tunisia last week. According to the IMF’s analysis, Tunisia is no longer experiencing major economic turbulence and has achieved a reasonable growth rate of 2.8% in 2014, higher than Egypt’s (2.2%) and Morocco’s (1.1%). As foe 2015, the IMF predicts a high growth rate of 3.7% for Tunisia and a slight improvement in the trade deficit from -7.7% in 2014 to -6.6% in 2015. The improvements are still not enough to have a significant impact on unemployment and living standards, however – unemployment still stands at 11%.

The IMF approved a new tranche in its two-year programme with Tunisia on Friday. The fifth tranche amounts to US$ 104.8 million (about 193.5 million Tunisian dinars), adding up to a total US$ 1.15 billion granted to Tunisia since June 2013.

Truth and Dignity Commission Launches its Work

 The Truth and Dignity Commission chose 10 December, International Human Rights Day, for the launch of its work on investigating past human rights abuses. The Commission, whose role is to establish the truth about the country’s past human rights violations, can investigate gross human rights violations that were committed by the state or those who acted in its name and under its protection stretching back to 1 July 1955. The Commission officially began its work on 9 June 2014 but has focused on putting its administrative structure in place before opening the door for submissions. Citizens will now have one year starting from 15 December 2014 to submit their complaints of human rights violations. The Commission has powers to hold open and closed sessions with victims of human rights abuses, to investigate claims and refer cases to specialized judicial chambers. Its mandate lasts for a term of four years, subject to renewal for up to one year. Its President, human rights activist Sihem Bensedrine, has expressed concernthat the commission will not have enough time to review all cases, “Time will be our worst enemy.”

Presidential Campaign Officially Kicks Off

The official campaign for the second round of the presidential elections began on 9 December. The two presidential candidates, Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi have been traversing the country for meetings and election rallies. The harsh campaign rhetoric has continued – Moncef Marzouki’s virulent criticism of Nidaa Tounes and Beji Caid Essebsi as the representatives of the old regime has sharpened. He stated in an interview with French magazine, Le Point, last week, “The important thing is not who will be elected, even though I would love to be. We must not miss the forest for the trees. The forest today is the return of dictatorship with its RCD (former ruling party) machine that has been resurrected with a force that I had underestimated… money, insults in the “friendly” media, smear campaigns; in short, all the techniques of Ben Ali. In two weeks we will know whether the old or the new machine will win.”

Meanwhile, Essebsi has adopted a twin approach of attacking both Marzouki and Ennahdha Party who he sees as providing most of the former’s support base. He declared in an interview with Rue 89 last week, “This gentleman (Marzouki) is not representative… Ennahda has made mistakes… They were elected to write a Constitution and they massacred the law. In another country, they would have gone to the guillotine…We said, let’s look to the future… We are in a time of construction… My policy is to wipe the slate clean…and move forward. “

Katie Bentivoglio, Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowent’s Middle East program, has called for more “responsible campaigning” by the candidates. In an opinion piece for the Carnegie Endowment, she argues thatby inserting divisive rhetoric into the political debate and exploiting an increasingly polarized populace, presidential candidates in Tunisia are helping to undermine the democratic institutions.

Meanwhile Tunisian social media have been reverberating with continued calls for a debate between the two candidates, with the launch of a new campaign pushing for a head-to-head.

France to Turn Over All Ill-Gotten Assets of Ben Ali Clan

French Ambassador in Tunis François Gouyetteannouncedlast week thatFrance intends to turn over all ill-gotten assets which were identified and frozen in France in conformity with international conventions”. The statement comes after France decided to appoint a liaison magistrate in Tunisia to facilitate procedures for the recovery of assets stolen bt the former President.

Libyan Conflict Spillover

As the security situation in Libya continues to slide, the conflict has spilled over onto the Tunisian border –fighting broke out this week on Ras Jdir, the main border crossing between Tunisia and Libya.

Publications

Publication of New Aide-Memoire On ‘Visiting Detention Places in Tunisia’

The Tunisian Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Transitional Justice and the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces – Geneva (DCAF) have launched a publication entitled “Aide-memoire: Visiting places of detention in Tunisia” on establishing an effective monitoring system for detention facilities.

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