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Tunisia’s crisis is getting worse, with empty shelves or expensive food

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Recent weeks have seen shortages of basic necessities and skyrocketing food costs in Tunisia, which threatens to escalate the country’s already simmering unrest. Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Amina Hamdi, a 63-year-old shopper, expressed her frustration at trying to purchase essentials: “I arrived to shop and discovered people battling to buy and the prices were quite expensive.”

Stores that sell sugar, vegetable oil, rice, and even bottled water occasionally stop carrying them. For these basic foods, which have long been subsidised and are increasingly only available in rations, people wait in line for hours. When they do hit the stores, many people are unable to purchase them due to the exorbitant price.

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During a recent trip to the fish and meat market in Tunis, Aicha declared, “It is impossible to survive without food. “We don’t need furniture or building supplies, but we do need to eat,” Up of concern for police retaliation for speaking out, she simply gave her first name.

Fighting occasionally breaks out in the lines at food markets, and protests and run-ins with the law about rising costs and shortages have happened all over the nation. A young fruit vendor who was on the street recently committed suicide in a suburb of Tunis after police took the scales he used to weigh his goods.

Economic experts claim that Tunisia’s problems have been exacerbated by the government’s own budget crisis and its inability to negotiate a long-sought loan from the International Monetary Fund. The government has placed the blame on speculators, hoarders on the black market, and the conflict in Ukraine.

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His desperate act brought up thoughts of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in 2010, which sparked protests that resulted in Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s overthrow and sparked similar movements throughout the Arab world.

When the 20,000 tonnes of sugar from India were announced to be imported in time for Mouled, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, the Ministry of Commerce made a guarantee that shortages would end. But the evening before the festival, people lined up in front of stores for hours in order to buy a package of sugar, which is needed to make traditional meals for the religious celebration.

Not everything is in low supply, even food. Lacking energy resources like those in its neighbours Libya and Algeria, Tunisia is severely dependent on imports, and due to its protracted economic problems, it has little negotiating power to get the products it needs on global markets. According to the National Institute of Statistics, inflation has reached a record high of 9.1%, the highest level in thirty years.

By raising bank fees and interest rates, the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) further hampered access to consumer loans. Last month, hundreds of people protested the degradation of their living conditions in the streets of Douar Hicher, a poor neighbourhood outside of Tunis that is seen as a barometer of general unhappiness.

Demonstrators blocked the town’s major thoroughfare by lighting tyres on fire while yelling “work, freedom, dignity” — the catchphrase of the 2010–2011 revolution — and defied the police who used tear gas to disperse them. Demonstrators put up a banner that said, “Enough of talks and promises, people are gripped by hunger and poverty,” their rage at the government and political elites evident.

Over the past year, President Kas Saied has given himself enormous powers after ousting the prime minister and dismissing parliament. Many Tunisians supported the steps, which he claimed were essential to save the country amid a protracted political and economic crisis, but critics and Western supporters claim the coup threatens Tunisia’s fledgling democracy. Saied blames “speculators” and individuals who have a monopoly on items they stockpile in illegal depots for the shortage of food supplies and the increase in costs. He claimed that the Islamist movement Ennahdha, one of his key political enemies, had some sort of involvement, which the group categorically denies.

The Salvation Front, an alliance of five opposition parties and a number of independent organisations, claimed in a statement that the protests were an indication of “a widespread explosion and the breakdown of the social and political system.” The state’s overstretched budget is to blame, according to Noureddine Taboubi, general secretary of the influential labour union UGTT.

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Patrick Huston
Patrick Huston
As a senior editor, Patrick is a professional who is in charge of putting out business news. As a senior editor, Patrick is likely to be in charge of the duties of junior editors and writers, make sure the content is correct and high-quality, and work with other departments to make sure the business news is published on time. Patrick knows a lot about business and the latest market trends. He uses this knowledge to choose and edit stories that are both interesting and useful to readers. He also works with reporters and analysts to come up with insightful pieces that help readers keep up with the latest business news. Patrick is a very important part of keeping the public informed and interested in important business issues. He is passionate about journalism and strives for excellence.

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