The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to a – tentative — $2.8 billion bailout package for Tunisia to help it deal with major economic challenges, including collapsing oil prices and an influx of refugees from Libya.
The announcement couldn’t come at a better time. Tunisia is grappling to contain radical elements and homegrown jihadists — it is one of the main exporters of jihadi fighters to Syria—not to mention overflow from Libya’s failed state, a subsequent and massive drop in tourism revenues, and renewed social unrest amid widespread youth unemployment and economic stagnation.
Indeed, Tunisia has been stagnating for some time now. Following a promising (and unprecedented in the region) example of peaceful government transition in 2014 – the unpopular Islamist-led regime stepped down to make way for a technocratic government – Tunisia has struggled to regain its initial post-Arab Spring momentum.
Security is a key concern here (the country has suffered four debilitating terrorist attacks this year) but so is the economy.
Still, Tunisia is largely viewed as the most promising state in the region, meaning that despite its current challenges international observers and, more importantly, funders are paying attention. The IMF’s $2.8B bailout comes with caveats: a series of economic reforms. In Tunis, the political will looks to be there. Now, the country just has to see about the how.