- Title: Tunisian PM urges continued focus on economy after election
- Date: 29th August 2019
- Summary: TUNIS, TUNISIA (AUGUST 29, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) TUNISIAN PRIME MINISTER, YOUSSEF CHAHED, SAYING: "The economy is no longer threatened by high deficits, but of course now we should look to the future, we should boost the economy through boosting foreign direct investment, tourism activity... Agricultural activity in Tunisia is still huge potential of growth." CHAHED DURING INTERVIEW (SOUNDBITE) (English) TUNISIAN PRIME MINISTER, YOUSSEF CHAHED, SAYING: "I think, since Tunisia also we are an open country, with 80% or more than that of our exchange with the European Union, I think we have to work on a new deal with our friends in the EU. A new deal. Tunisia now is - I am saying this now to our colleagues in Europe, presidents of government or presidents of state, Tunisia is protecting the south border of Europe and we can no longer do that in this condition. Of course, the EU is helping Tunisia but it's not enough, I think European, they have to do more for Tunisia." CHAHED DURING INTERVIEW (SOUNDBITE) (English) TUNISIAN PRIME MINISTER, YOUSSEF CHAHED, SAYING: "The terrorist attack that happened in 2015 that impacted the Tunisian economy, impacted the tourism activities since all the European countries did a travel ban on Tunisia. So, three years after today, we moved from 5.5 million tourists in 2016 to nine million tourists in 2019, and this was able thanks to the security, because we invested a lot in fighting terrorism, in combating terrorism. Today we have almost 50% of our budget devoted for security and fighting terrorism, which is something new for Tunisia." CHAHED'S CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS WITH LARGE BANNER READING (Arabic): "Stand up for Tunisia." (SOUNDBITE) (English) TUNISIAN PRIME MINISTER, YOUSSEF CHAHED, SAYING: "But I think that Tunisia, we avoided a more difficult situation. After three years, the deficit in 2016 was around 7.4%, now it is about 3.9%, and we'll have 3% next year which is a reasonable number for Tunisia. Also the currency now is back, the trade deficit also is going down for the coming months." CHAHED'S CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS WITH TUNISIAN FLAG ON WALL
- Embargoed: 12th September 2019 18:35
- Keywords: Tunisia Presidential Elections Presidential Candidate Prime Minister Youssef Chahed Tunisian Economy European Union Tourism Terrorism
- Location: TUNIS, TUNISIA
- City: TUNIS, TUNISIA
- Country: Tunisia
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA006AU9VY9Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Tunisian presidential candidate and incumbent Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Thursday (August 29) the country should press ahead with his government's focus on the economy and security if it is to "join the club of strong democracy."
Chahed, who is standing in next month's presidential election, told Reuters that the "difficult" reforms could cost him politically, but he said they had stopped the economy from collapsing and that things were improving.
Spending cuts and tax and fuel price increases have caused frustration among many Tunisians, prompting strikes and protests.
While Tunisia has emerged as the only relative success story of the "Arab spring" revolts that it triggered in 2011, analysts have said economic troubles and a string of jihadist attacks could blow its transition to democracy off course.
Nationally, unemployment has risen from 12% before the revolution to 15.2%, but in some cities it stands at about 30%, with poverty aggravated by poor public services.
Tunisia's post-revolutionary constitution splits power between the president and prime minister, giving the head of state control only over foreign and defence policy.
However, Chahed said that if elected in the September 15 vote, he would use his position as president to focus on security issues, bringing foreign investment and securing stronger European Union support due to Tunisia's place on the front line of the Mediterranean migration crisis.
He said the economy had been on the verge of collapse when his government took over in 2016, a year after jihadist attacks devastated the country's crucial tourism sector. While cutting the deficit, the government diverted more money towards security.
Tunisia had only 5.6 million tourist visits in 2016, but 9 million are expected this year and "we can target" 10 million next year, he said.
The fiscal deficit will be 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) next year, compared to about 3.9% now and 7.4% three years ago, while inflation would drop to about 5% by the end of next year from the high of 7.8% last year, he said.
(Production: Zoubeir Souissi, Seham Eloraby)
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