Tunisia considers aid for poor as president hosts emergency talks on anti-austerity protests

The Tunisian government may increase aid for poor families in a bid to defuse tensions following anti-austerity protests that saw hundreds arrested and left at least one man dead.   

Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia”s president,  hosted emergency talks with trade unions, employers associations, and political parties on Saturday. 

“We discussed the general situation in the country and the reforms, especially socio-economic, that must be adopted to overcome the current problems,” Wided Bouchamaoui, the head of the UTICA employers association, told reporters after the meeting. 

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (C) attends a meeting with political parties, unions and employers following unrest triggered by austerity measures Credit: FETHI BELAID/AFP

Noureddine Taboubi, the secretary general of UGTT, the country’s main trade union, said no specific moves had been agreed but that measures “must be adopted” to aid needy families and improve the social safety net.

A Tunisian government source told Reuters that a package of measures would include extra aid to poor families and people in need, but did not give further detail. 

Peaceful protests broke out across Tunisia after the government adopted a new budget that raised taxes and pushed up the cost of living on January 1.

Demonstrations escalated on Monday night as youths burned tires to block streets and clashed with security forces. 

The unrest largely tailed off after the military was deployed on the streets of several cities on Thursday, but tensions remain high.

Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators at a small protest in the central city of Sidi Bouzid overnight on Friday.

Khlifa Chibani, a spokesman for the Interior ministry, said on Saturday a total of 803 people suspected of taking part in acts of violence, theft and looting have been arrested since last Sunday. 

Police intervene during a protest in Tunis on January 12, 2018 Credit: Anadolu

He said 97 policemen and members of the security forces…

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