France to assist Tunisia

Rumors, untruths, nonsense … Finance Minister Sihem Boughdiri Nemsia is well on top of everything that is said in the media and social networks about public finances.

At the origin of the recent controversy, the delay in the payment of salaries to officials for the month of January. Usually transfers take place around the 19th-20th. in each month. For January, it went until January 31st before the teachers got their pay.

Why the delay? According to the President of the Republic, certain secret parties are working to block to poison the existence of the Tunisians. This conspiracy theory has what it takes to fuel the controversy and divide the Tunisians between those who take the president’s words at face value and those who refute this kind of simplified and worn-out claims.

Where is the truth? The Minister never says everything and feels compelled to be in the reaction every time rather than in the action. For wages, she announced Monday that the delay is linked to the weekend. A ten-day delay due to a two-day weekend? The apology was laughable, and Mrs. Nemsia realized she could not convince. She picks up on Wednesday morning Myriam Belkadhi on Shems FM under the pretext of the difficult situation and explains that since 2021, the paycheck has been made over a week from the 22nd In the evening on public television, she again repeats the weekend’s apology. Who is to be believed in the end? Mrs. Nemsia in the morning or the one in the evening? And why not believe in the president and the secret parties who want Tunisians hurt?

We have not yet recovered from the wage dispute, that is another. This is from the Africa Intelligence newsletter. A reputable bulletin close to the French intelligence services. Wednesday morning, he announced that Paris is sending its chief financial officer, Emmanuel Moulin, on a special mission to Tunis.

The information is surreal and hard to believe, so serious is it. Who is Mr Moulin and why has the Ministry of Finance not said anything about it? Emmanuel Moulin is former Economic Adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2009-2012) and former Chief of Staff (2017-2020) to Bruno Le Maire, former Minister of Economy and Finance under the government of Édouard Philippe. He currently wears a double hat, the one as the director general of the French Ministry of Finance and the one as president of the Paris club.

What is the Paris Club? The Paris Club is an informal group of public creditors whose role is to find coordinated and lasting solutions to payment difficulties in indebted countries. The Paris Club’s creditors are giving them debt relief to help them recover from their financial situation.

Would the Tunisian situation be so difficult that Tunisia is obliged to appeal to the Paris club to restructure its debt? Can she still pay off her credit repayments, the next of which is scheduled for the end of March?

As usual, Sihem Nemsia is involved in the reaction. It took Africa Intelligence to disseminate the information, several Tunisian media to intercept it and social networks to get carried away to respond. And his answer is not convincing. What’s worse, it highlights the concerns.

In the news at 20 on public television (to a journalist who does not master her subject and who does not even try to contradict her), Ms Nemsia declares that Emmanuel Moulin was in Tunisia with his cap as Director-General of the Ministry of Finance and not as President of the Paris Club . ” This involves technical support from the Ministry of Finance to support us during the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund … There are technical negotiations between the teams and we have received a proposal to set up a Ministry of Finance and an agency for public companies“, she added.

We are therefore asked to take Mrs Nemsia’s word for it when she tells us that the Director – General of the French Ministry of Finance is there for technical reasons only attached to the IMF file!

We must remember that this is not the first time Tunisia has called on the IMF. Tunisia has enough experience and skills to complete its case on its own. Instead of urging the French to help us technically, Mrs Nemsia could have called members of the team of Youssef Chahed or Mehdi Jomâa or his predecessor Ali Koôli, who have already done this work.

Even if we were to need the French to technically fill out a credit file with the IMF, it is very hard to believe that we need the director of the French Ministry of Finance to travel personally to Tunisia to do this. Technical work is performed by technicians and not by the day-to-day manager. It can be done externally, it does not need a physical tour, in the middle of covid, of the department number one.

The truth is that Sihem Nemsia is in trouble and is between rock and hard. It has, on the one hand, a president of the republic, a supporter of conspiracy theory and, on the other hand, a public opinion which asserts its right to know the truth. It has, on the one hand, a president who has monopolized all powers and denies any dialogue with organizations and parties, and, on the other hand, an IMF, which demands global consensus from all Tunisian actors.

What is it really? In addition to the general direction of the Ministry of Finance, it is assured that Mr Moulin traveled to Tunis at the invitation of the government and that he was accompanied by the head of the bilateral affairs service and the internationalization of companies in the Ministry of Finance, Magali Cesana . According to a press release published on 3 February 2022, the discussions had focused exclusively on France’s support for the reforms that Tunisia had planned in connection with its negotiations with the IMF.

But senior sources in the French Foreign Ministry told Business News that Emmanuel Moulin came to Tunisia with his double hat and that he had meetings with Mrs Nemsia and Prime Minister Najla Bouden.

Tunisia is calling for double support from the French. That of assisting him technically in the file, as Mrs Nemsia said, but also the French support for this file to be validated. In short, this is a lobbying request. But not only because plan B by Najla Bouden (and Sihem Nemsia) is to appeal to the Paris club if the file is not validated. The two ladies know very well that Tunisia does not have an assembly and that it is very difficult for them to get support from Tunisian organizations, so right now they have to think of an alternative.

What will France do after this call for help? On the Quai d’Orsay, there is a kind of skepticism. Of course, we must not let go of Tunisia, but we do not yet accept that there are no institutions (that is, the Assembly).

The Tunisia case is now in the hands of Emmanuel Moulin, but the decision to help (or not) the country is not up to him alone. It is up to French President Emmanuel Macron to decide, in the middle of the election campaign. The latter reiterated in a telephone interview with Kaïs Saïed on 22 January his country’s propensity to support Tunisia financially and emphasized his understanding of the difficulties and challenges facing the country.

Will he help a president who commands alone, who lies openly to him, and who rejects any dialogue with the components of society? Will he take on the heavy responsibility of being the one who pushed Tunisia to launch painful measures and a austerity policy? Nothing is less certain.

Raouf Ben Hedi

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