By Tom Arnold
LONDON (Reuters) -The International Monetary Fund stands ready to continue to help Tunisia cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, achieve a “job-rich” recovery and restore finances to a sustainable footing, a spokesperson said on Monday.
“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation in Tunisia,” the spokesperson said in response to questions from Reuters after President Kais Saied ousted the government and froze parliament with help from the army on Sunday. [L1N2P20AO]
“Tunisia continues to face extraordinary socio-economic pressures, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing tragic loss of life, and Tunisian’s unmet aspirations for higher, job-rich, and inclusive growth.”
The North African country is seeking a three-year $4-billion loan to help stabilise its balance of payments position after its current account deficit widened to 7.1% of GDP last year.
Fitch Ratings said in a note on Monday that a failure to agree an IMF deal would add to pressures on international liquidity, warning that Tunisia faced significant external public-debt amortisation of equivalent to around 4% of GDP per year on average over 2021-2023.
“We stand ready to continue to support Tunisia and its people to cope with the impact of the COVID crisis, achieve an inclusive job-rich recovery, and restore sustainable finances,” the IMF spokesperson said.
To help support the government’s policy response at the start of the pandemic, the IMF in April 2020 approved $750 million of emergency funding and before then had other funding lines to help support Tunisia since it emerged as the only democracy from the Arab Spring.
(Editing by Rodrigo Campos and Timothy Heritage)