Tunisian government plans social reforms after week of unrest

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi attends a meeting with political parties unions and employers following unrest triggered by austerity measures

Amnesty International called on Tunisian security forces to refrain from using excessive force and put an end to their intimidating tactics against those who are peacefully demonstrating against austerity measures, according to a statement by the human rights organisation on Friday.

December 16, 2017: The Afaq Tunis Party, a partner in the country's governing coalition, announces its decision to withdraw from the government, saying the budget approved by parliament "lacks the social and economic vision to meet the needs of the people".

Tunisia's prime minister Youssef Chahed chose to allocate 100 million dinars (40 million USA dollars) to help 200,000 of the neediest families plus free health care for the jobless, Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi announced after a Saturday night Cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Wednesday accused the opposition of fueling dissent by calling for more protests.

Proposals were raised "to pull out of this tension" without scrapping a contested 2018 budget, said Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist movement Ennahda in Tunisia's ruling coalition, without elaborating.

In an arrest breakdown by age, 54.95 percent of the detainees are aged between 21 and 30, 31 percent between 15 and 20, 11.71 percent between 31 and 40 and 1.8 percent over 40, Chibani said. Arrests were put at almost 780, including 16 religious extremists, for vandalism and looting.

Incidents of vandalism dropped sharply on Thursday night, Chibani said.

Different from previous anniversaries, Tunisians have complex feelings this year, a mixture of festive emotions and regrets following wave of violence and protests throughout the country.

"Young people, especially in working-class neighborhoods, must receive real attention from the state, which is called upon to lend a listening ear to their demands", said the union's Secretary-General Noureddine Tabboubi. The anti-austerity youth movement is named Fech Nestannow, which translates as "What are we waiting for?" The opposition bloc "people's front" rejected the accusations and called for a large-scale protest on Sunday, January 14, on the seventh anniversary of "the Second Jasmine revolution" and the overthrow of President Ben Ali.

So, how will Tunisia resolve its deep-rooted economic problems?

"The inability of current officials left free path to corruption, slowing down and suffocating our country's economy", he added. Its important tourism sector has not yet recovered following deadly terror attacks in Sousse and Tunis in 2015.

The Tunisian government adopted a raft of controversial austerity measures late previous year, triggering a sudden rise in local commodity prices.

What is the political backdrop?

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Tunisian authorities announced plans to boost aid to the needy in a bid to placate protesters whose demonstrations over price hikes degenerated into days of unrest across the North African nation, which is marking seven years on Sunday since its long-time autocratic ruler was driven into exile.

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