Qatar offers Tunisia $1bn of loan assistance

Qatar has offered a US$1 billion loan to help support Tunisia's economic recovery.

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Tunisia has been offered a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) loan from Qatar as the North African country's government seeks to woo investment from the GCC.

The country's post-revolution government is trying to build closer links with GCC states to help support Tunisia's economic rebirth.

"While there may be a religious angle to this rapprochement, there are certainly potential economic benefits," said Ann Wyman, a board member of Maxula Gestion, a Tunisian investment bank.

Qatar had offered a $1bn loan with a 2.5 per cent annual interest rate, Adnan Mancer, a spokesman for the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Half of that amount would go to help bolster the central bank's asset position. Qatar had also offered 20,000 job openings to Tunisia's unemployed graduates, he was quoted as saying.

It follows a visit to the GCC by Mr Marzouki in a bid to drum up investment in the "new, democratic Tunisia".

To further enhance regional ties, he said citizens of the Gulf would no longer require visas to visit Tunisia.

Tunisia is targeting as much as $5bn in external financing this year to help plug a balance of payments deficit of about 7 per cent of GDP.

Investment is needed to help spur its tourism industry and create jobs for an estimated 750,000 unemployed people, many of whom hold degrees.

"Tunisia has many economic imperatives which must be addressed," said Ms Wyman. "Job creation, improving the investment climate, building better infrastructure and encouraging credit creation are just a few."

Tunisia is also hoping other governments make good on pledges last year by leading economic powers and GCC states to provide up to $20bn to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Jordan. So far, little of the cash linked to the so-called Deauville Partnership has flowed.

But international leaders meeting in Washington last week promised they would soon deliver on the package.

Attempts to solicit foreign help are not without opposition, however.

Many liberal and left-leaning Tunisians are wary of moves by Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party in government, to build closer ties with Qatar, a country viewed as having a growing influence in the region.

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