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Italian PM says pressing for Tunisia IMF bailout

By AFP
Tunisia Tunisian President Kais Saied and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni discussed the proposed IMF bailout.  By - (TUNISIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP)
WED, 07 JUN 2023 LISTEN
Tunisian President Kais Saied and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni discussed the proposed IMF bailout. By - (TUNISIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP)

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday Rome backed efforts to secure an IMF bailout for Tunisia and support to tackle its growing migrant problem.

She was speaking after talks in Tunis with President Kais Saied whose country is going through a dire financial crisis, political tensions.

Tunisia is also a departure point for migrants attempting perilous sea journeys to Europe.

Last October, the debt-riddled North African country reached an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for nearly $2 billion, but discussions have since stalled.

The IMF has called for legislation to restructure more than 100 state-owned firms, which hold monopolies over many parts of the economy and in many cases are heavily indebted.

But Saied on Tuesday again rejected what he calls the "diktats" of the IMF before a loan is granted, his office said, even as the country struggles under crippling inflation and debt estimated at around 80 percent of its gross domestic product.

After nearly two hours of talks with Saied, Meloni reiterated that Italy has been pressing for a "pragmatic" approach to the IMF bailout through the European Union and G7.

Relatives of Tunisian migrants drowned or lost at sea protested against Meloni's visit.  By FETHI BELAID (AFP) Relatives of Tunisian migrants drowned or lost at sea protested against Meloni's visit. By FETHI BELAID (AFP)

Meloni also said she has been advocating through the EU for a "concrete approach to step up support for Tunisia in its fight against human trafficking and illegal migration".

Tunisia's coastline is less than 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, and has long been a stepping stone from migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking a better life in Europe.

The flow of migrants from Tunisia intensified after Saied made a fiery speech on February 21 claiming that illegal immigration was a demographic threat to Tunisia.

Meloni said she discussed with Saied the idea of hosting a conference in Rome to thrash out the problems of illegal migration and ways to bolster development.

The meeting, for which no date was revealed, could bring together representatives of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Gulf countries "to hear their needs and elaborate projects to attract investments", she said.

Meloni also called for "growth in democracy" and political stability in Tunisia, where tensions have run high since Saied launched a sweeping power grab in July 2021, rocking the democracy in the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

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