• IMF approves $2.9-B loan for Tunisia

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    WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund approved a $2.9 billion loan to Tunisia on Friday to help the country implement economic and financial reforms.

    The 48-month loan program aims at supporting the government’s five-year plan to further stabilize the economy, reform the civil service and other public institutions, and improve the climate for business, the IMF said in a statement.

    The money is expected to be released to the Tunisian government in nine stages, including about $320 million released immediately with the announcement.

    Tunisia’s economy has not strongly rebounded in the wake of the 2011 revolt that ousted the corrupt government of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

    Its economic growth slowed to 0.8 percent last year from 2.3 percent in 2014, and unemployment nationwide stood at 15 percent at the end of last year.

    Meanwhile the country is struggling to fend off the rise in attacks by Islamic extremists including fighters from the Islamic State group that have hurt the country’s lucrative tourism industry.

    In Doha on Thursday, President Beji Caid Essebsi said the government has been forced to divert some $4 billion away from the economy to fight terrorism.

    “It could have been invested in economic matters but unfortunately in this situation it was necessary to give a priority to fighting terrorism and achieving security,” he said. AFP

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