Post-revolutionary Tunisia

The Economist on the prospects for the “Party of Order” in Tunisia-Signalfire.
….In any event, Tunisia needs a financial helping hand for the next year or so. In late May the G8 group of rich countries promised $20 billion to Tunisia and Egypt in loans and grants over the next three years, of which several billion is to go to Tunisia—the first tranche, according to the finance minister, within a few weeks. It is sorely needed. Economic growth, which was nearly 4% last year, will fall this year to less than 1%. Tourism, which accounted for 7% of GDP, has collapsed. Youth unemployment is around 23%, according to the labour minister. The minimum industrial wage for a 48-hour week is around $50. Of the 700,000 officially reckoned to be jobless in a population of 10.6m, some 170,000 are graduates—the angriest part of a populace enraged by the inequities and corruption that helped spark the revolution against Mr Ben Ali.

The mood in the harsh interior, where the revolution began, is impatient. In Kasserine, a town 300km (180 miles) south-west of Tunis, protesters call for the provincial governor, a military man, to go. Barbed wire surrounds banks and state-owned offices, with armoured cars outside. Civic leaders say that 40% of the townsfolk are unemployed. Last week two prisoners died in the third jail riot since January.

“If there is another social explosion, democracy will be stymied,” says Ms Jribi. Almost everyone in Tunis agrees, often adding that it is also vital that Libya, by far its closest neighbour, also comes right, with Muammar Qaddafi removed. “We consider the Libyan people an extension of the Tunisian people,” says the finance minister. If Libya is set free and Tunisia’s own electoral course goes according to plan, with the angry young men in such towns as Kasserine persuaded to hold their breath, the country could indeed become a beacon for the rest of the Arab world.

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