World Bank Grants Tunisia A $500 Million Loan

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VENTURES AFRICA – The World Bank has granted Tunisia – which was badly battered by the Arab Spring uprisings – a $500 million loan, it was announced late Tuesday.

The World Bank said the loan is meant to assist the country mend from the Arab Spring uprising that deposed the previous regime.

The World Bank also added that another $700 million loan would be coming from the European Union (EU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Analysts said the advances showed development financial institutions support Tunisia’s reforms.

This is World Bank’s second advance since the revolution and it will provide monies to mend the business and financial sectors and reform social services.

The funding’s goal is to fulfil citizens’ ever increasing demands for jobs, social services and transparent government.

In a statement, Inger Andersen, the World Bank’s vice president for Middle East and North Africa, said: “The agreement signed today sends a clear signal about the historic changes under way in Tunisia.”

It is believed that part of the reform program would involve eliminating 10 percent of tax.

For years, Tunisia was known mostly as the most European country of North Africa, with a relatively large middle class, liberal social norms, broad gender equality and welcoming Mediterranean beaches.

But in January 2011, it took center stage as the launching pad of the wave of revolt that swept through the Arab world and beyond.

For all its modern traits, Tunisia had one of the most repressive governments in a region full of police states, and levels of corruption among its elite that became intolerable once the economic malaise that gripped southern Europe spread to the country.

The uprising began in December 2010, when a fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in the impoverished town of Sidi Bouzid to protest his lack of opportunity and the disrespect of the police.

In what became known as the Jasmine Revolution, a sudden and explosive wave of street protests ousted the authoritarian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled with an iron hand for 23 years.

On January 14 2011, Ben Ali left the country, after trying unsuccessfully to placate the demonstrators with promises of elections. According to government figures issued later, 78 protesters died and 94 were injured during the demonstrations.

In the months after the revolution, Tunisia struggled with continued instability, new tensions between Islamists and secular liberals and a still-limping economy.

But of all the Arab states, it may have been the best positioned for a successful transition to a liberal democracy, with its relatively small, homogenous population of about 12 million, comparatively high levels of education, an apolitical military, a moderate Islamist movement and a long history of a unified national identity.

In the country’s first free election in October 2011, millions of Tunisians cast votes for an assembly to draft a constitution and shape a new government.

The moderate Islamist party Ennahda — whose name means the renaissance in Arabic — emerged as the winner in the elections, with a 41 percent plurality, according to officials.

Ennahda tried to reassure secularists nervous about the prospect of Islamist rule by saying it would respect women’s rights and not try to impose a Muslim moral code on society.

In December 2011, Moncef Marzouki, a doctor and politician, was elected as interim president of Tunisia. He appointed Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of the Ennahda party, as prime minister.

The government has since committed to helping the poor, as well as thousands of former political prisoners and others who suffered under the former president.

Tunisia’s government has said it will need about 7 billion dinars ($4.4 billion) of loans and aid next year as it proceeds with a costly plan to compensate former political prisoners freed by the 2011 revolution.