Tunisian President Kais Saied excoriated international "lenders" on Friday, in what appeared to be his latest pushback against reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in return for a bailout.
He said the requests made by foreign parties were “a threat to stability", despite his government seeking billions in funding from the IMF last year.
“Diktats that come from the outside and lead to more impoverishment are rejected,” Mr Saied said during the commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of Tunisia’s former president Habib Bourguiba's death, on Thursday.
“The alternative is to count on ourselves and civil peace is not a game,” he said, alluding to the possibility of social unrest in the country if some of the terms suggested by the IMF are applied.
The Tunisian President did not, however, provide any details of the alternative he is suggesting.
Tunisia had sought $4 billion in funding from the IMF and reached a staff-level agreement with the fund in October 2022 for a new 48-month Extended Fund Facility worth about $1.9 billion to support the government’s economic reform programme.
However, it has yet to secure funding from the international lender pending implementation of the actions required, which the Tunisian government initially approved.
Some of the conditions set by the IMF include subsidies and public spending cuts, namely the public sector wage bill
These conditions would affect the prices of basic goods, already in shortage, as well as vital services sectors and the price of petrol, which increased five times last year.
After Mr Saied’s statement, the country’s international bonds lost 4.6 cents of their value, trading at their lowest level in the past six months.
His statement came in contradiction to the diagnosis of his government, which has insisted on multiple occasions that the country’s final resort is this pending IMF loan.
In its 2023 budget, the Tunisian government introduced some of the reforms the IMF suggested, primarily with regards to subsidy expenditure reduction.
However, the decision remains quite controversial among Tunisians, who regard subsidies and government-regulated food prices as the only remaining safety net for their degrading purchasing capacity.