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Tunisian government proposes reforms after unrest

The Tunisian government has proposed a range of socioeconomic reforms to the parliament in an apparent attempt to ease public discontent, which was manifested in days of unrest triggered by austerity measures in the North African country.

Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs Mohamed Trabelsi said on Saturday that the reforms were mainly aimed at providing aid to poor families and securing medical care for all Tunisians.

“Firstly, providing a minimum amount for Tunisian families and, secondly, guaranteeing health care for all Tunisians, with no exception, and providing or helping to provide appropriate housing to all Tunisian families,” Trabelsi said.

The Tunisian minister also announced the allocation of 100 million dinars (roughly 42 million dollar) in the budget to families in need and an increase in monthly aid from 150 dinars (61 dollars) to between 180 and 210 dinars.

“It’s a very advanced legal project, which was submitted to parliament and will be discussed over the next week,” said a government source, who requested anonymity.

The Saturday announcement came after Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi consulted with the country’s political parties, unions, and employers.

Tunisia has been the scene of protests against hikes in value-added tax and social contributions introduced at the beginning of the year to reduce the country’s annual deficit and satisfy international lenders.

Tunisian protesters take to the streets in Siliana, some 130 kilometers south of Tunis, late on January 11, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

In recent years, demonstrations have been held in the month of January, which marks the anniversary of the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The 2011 uprising and two major militant attacks in Tunisia in 2015 harmed foreign investment and tourism, which accounts for eight percent of the country’s economic activity.

The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since the 2011 revolution, but it is still experiencing economic and political turbulence.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani also announced on Saturday that a total of 803 people suspected of taking part in acts of violence, theft, and looting had been arrested over a week of unrest.

The spokesman added that some 97 security forces and members of civil protection units had sustained injuries in clashes.

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