Premier Seeks New Tunisia Central Bank Chief Weeks After Protest

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By Tamim Elyan and Jihen Laghmari

Tunisia’s prime minister is seeking to replace the governor of the country’s central bank, weeks after mass protests erupted over economic hardship in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Youssef Chahed has asked President Beji Caid Essebsi to replace governor Chedly Ayari with Marouane El Abassi, according to an emailed statement by the cabinet. Abbasi, an economics professor, was appointed World Bank representative in Libya in 2010, and has advised Tunisia’s ministries of trade and tourism, according to the World Bank’s website.

Often hailed as the lone success story in the uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011, Tunisia has navigated the fraught road from dictatorship to democracy that has thrown some neighbors into chaos. But political freedom has come with a steep economic price tag.

Tunisian authorities have been struggling to revive the economy, which has stumbled since the 2011 ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali kicked off a wave of regional uprisings. Officials want to boost investment and private-sector growth in order to lower a surging youth unemployment rate of more than 30 percent. Their efforts have been hindered by terrorist attacks that have hammered the vital tourism sector.

Economic growth bounced back to 2 percent in 2017, as the tourism industry began to recover, and the government embarked on International Monetary Fund-backed reforms to cut the budget deficit and boost competitiveness.

Yet violent protests erupted last month against the government’s program of subsidy cuts and tax increases. The demonstrations subsided after the government offered about $70 million to help low-income households weather the price increases.

 

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