TUNIS- Tunisia has signed a $500 million loan agreement with energy-rich Qatar to help bolster its currency reserves, the official TAP news agency reported on Saturday.
The deal, signed on Wednesday, stipulates that the loan will be paid back over a five-year period, the agency said.
Tunisia has been struggling to achieve economic recovery since the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The situation has been compounded by a lingering political crisis that erupted this year with the assassination of two opposition politicians in February and July.
Politics have been effectively paralysed as a result, and the North African country remains without a new constitution and functioning state institutions. A national dialogue between the Islamist-led government and the opposition, which is demanding the formation of a cabinet of independents, have foundered.
In October central bank governor Chedly Ayari warned that failure by politicians to restore political stability is having dire repercussions on the economy.
He singled out foreign investment, which along with the tourism industry and phosphate exports, are the biggest foreign exchange earners.
“The political obstacles are starting to have serious repercussions for the economy, and the absence of political vision is the main problem,” Ayari said.
Foreigners looking to invest in Tunisia “begin by asking questions about the political situation. Their problem is not so much economic as political,” he added.
Ayari said it would be “nearly impossible” to achieve a growth rate of 3.5 percent for 2013. The government has already lowered its growth forecast twice, most recently to 3.6 percent.
“For the first time since independence we have no five-year budgetary vision,” Ayari said. Tunisia’s budget deficit so far this year has reached 7.4 percent of GDP according to the finance ministry, while the dinar has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the euro and inflation is running at more than six percent.
Tunisia’s economic problems were driving factors behind the revolution in January 2011.