Mar 15 2012
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Tunisian lawmakers spar over economic progress
Tunisia's governing coalition recently released a draft supplementary budget aimed at addressing the nation's economic concerns but the issue is quickly becoming politicised.
The draft budget features plans to create 100,000 jobs, freeze food prices and build 40,000 social housing units. The bill also boosts spending by 2.5 billion dinars over the original 2012 finance act.
Tunisian Finance Minister Houcine Dimassi told reporters Wednesday (March 14th) that the proposal sought to strike a balance between the financial, political and social areas of the country without creating tension. He added the draft aimed to meet the needs of vulnerable classes and regions.
The National Institute of Statistics recently released data stating that the inflation rate in Tunisia was 5.7% last February, while food prices rose by 8.3%.
The Ennahda-led government has complained that opposition parties, labour unions and the press are ignoring its efforts.
Lotfi Zitoun, an advisor to the prime minister, issued a press statement alleging a conspiracy by opposition parties to bring down the government. Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Abdelkarim Harouni told Le Maghreb on March 6th that authorities had "firm information" that there were "movements in the country aimed at toppling the government".
Issam Echebi of the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP) responded by saying that the government was avoiding addressing the fundamental problems and blaming others.
The political tug-of-war has also impeded the work of the Constituent Assembly. Sixty-five members of the opposition walked out of a session on March 1st, protesting the one-minute time slot allotted for their interjections.
Aymen Zouagui of the al-Aridha al-Chaabia (Popular Petition) party said he could not express his concerns and worries in one minute, while Meherzia Labidi Maïza, First Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly and an Ennahda member, contended that the opposition was afraid of confronting the government because the latter was moving successfully towards its goals.
"The policies the government is following are wrong, as the opposition needs more time to express the concerns of the people and to address issues of concern to citizens," commented Maya Jribi from the Democratic Opposition bloc.
But Constituent Assembly Speaker Mostafa Ben Jafaar described the withdrawal of the opposition as "clowning around".
Ettakatol member Mouldi Riahi contended that the opposition was using "empty chair" politics at a time when the government was poised to take important steps to stabilise the situation.
Speaking at the March 1st Constituent Assembly session, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem described the current administration as "the most powerful government in the political history of Tunisia because they did not come via a coup, but rather came as the result of the ballot box".
Regarding the opposition criticism, the minister said some groups were "wagering on confusing the work of the government and disrupting its performance in this period."
Restaurant owner Bassam Bouzid called on Tunisians to allow the government time to work and then hold it accountable.
"We cannot hold this government accountable so long as we don't give it any moving room. The opposition did not leave it any room to move, and naturally in this situation we do not see results," Bouzid said. "In my opinion, mutual understanding is good for the opposition and the government, so that things run and everyone won't come to ruin."
© Magharebia.com 2012
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