26 February by CADTM international
On 13 February 2014, the European Parliamentary commission on international commerce gave its go-ahead for the European Union to accord a heavily-conditioned loan of €300 million to Tunisia. The draft project adopted by the commission would hold the Tunisian government to strictly applying the austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This project will be discussed in a plenary session on 16 April.
In the opinion of the CADTM, this project is contrary to the interests of the population and to the promises made following the North African popular uprisings of 2011.
The effects of this would be to burden Tunisia with greater debt repayments, to the detriment of the vital needs of the people. This year alone, the Tunisian State has planned to make €2 million in foreign debt repayments, which is three times the health budget, and seven times the budget for employment and professional training! Far from being intended to aid Tunisian development, this loan is being granted to impose austerity measures on the people under the pretext of “supporting the effort for fiscal consolidation within the IMF1 framework.” In 2013, the transitory government concluded a structural adjustment program with the IMF that includes, among other measures, the recapitalisation of Tunisian banks, labour law reform, the freezing of wages and job creation in the public services, retirement and health care reform, cuts corporation tax, and a 22% reduction in subventions for energy and basic foodstuffs.
It was precisely against these measures that a popular movement of protestation spread throughout the country at the beginning of January, obliging the provisional government, which had tried to impose new taxes on the transport sector, to step back.
The application of these austerity measures, by Tunisia, is an explicit condition for the European Union loan, “…the disbursement […] to Tunisia should be strictly consistent with the provisions of the Financial Regulation, the provisions governing the guarantee fund mechanism, as well as conditional on successful programme reviews under the IMF’s financial arrangement and the implementation of the reform measures agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and Tunisia.” It will be up to the European Commission to verify that all the conditions in the loan agreement are fully respected. In other words, the Tunisian government will be forced to apply austerity policies that will more deeply impoverish the population.
The CADTM calls on the members of the European parliament to:
- vote against this loan project;
- give assistance to Tunisia that is made up of donations without conditions;
- respect their own promises to suspend Tunisian repayments to foreign creditors for the amount of time needed to carry out an audit of Tunisian debt.
In 2011, more than 100 European parliamentary members signed an appeal launched by the CADTM and the Euro-deputies Marie-Christine Vergiat and Gabi Zimmer. This audit must lead to the unconditional abolition of the odious and illegitimate parts of the debt. On the 10 May 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution that, “Considers the public external debt of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East to be odious debt, considering that the debt was taken on by dictatorial regimes, mostly through the personal enrichment of the political and economic elite and the purchasing of arms, often used to oppress their own populations” (article 6).
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