Tunisia announces reforms after protests

Written By: BBC
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Demonstrations have broken out across the country in recent days
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The Tunisian government has announced a wave of social reforms, following days of demonstrations by anti-austerity protesters.

Protests broke out ahead of Sunday’s seventh anniversary of the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Emergency government meetings were held in response to protests, which have seen more than 800 people arrested.

Officials said plans had been submitted to parliament to reform medical care, housing and increase aid to the poor.

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Demonstrations began earlier this month after the government announced New Year tax and price increases in its 2018 budget.

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In December the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told Tunisia it needed to take “urgent action” to reduce its budget deficit.

President surrounded by politicians unionists and employers at a long table
Political parties, unions and employers met on Saturday for crisis talks amid protests: AFP/GETTY

Successive governments have failed to resolve national unemployment and poverty, and the country’s vital tourism industry has struggled to rebuild after terror attacks targeted foreign nationals in 2015, killing dozens.

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The United Nations human rights office expressed concern on Friday over the large numbers being detained.

But President Beji Caid Essebsi accused the foreign press of “amplifying” the unrest and damaging the country’s image with its coverage.

He hosted two hours of crisis talks with political parties, powerful trade unions and employers on Saturday to try to decide on reforms to alleviate national tension.

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Mohammed Trabelsi, the minister of social affairs, said the government proposed increasing welfare payments to those in need by 170m dinars ($70m; £50m).

“This will affect about 250,000 families,” he said. “It will help the poor and middle class.”

He also alluded to plans for guaranteed medical care and housing reform, but did not give further details.

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