This Tuesday, the Italian Prime Minister went to Tunis. On the menu of his meeting with President Kaïs Saïed, the subject of immigration. But Giorgia Meloni was above all there to convince Tunisia to accept the reforms demanded by the IMF.
"You are a woman who says aloud what others think quietly." On receiving Giorgia Meloni, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed was dithyrambic. A meeting to which the Tunisian media were not invited. The visit of the head of the Italian government was brief. So much so that the joint press briefing which was to be held was canceled, "for lack of time" according to the Italian press.
It was, for the Prime Minister, to try to convince the Tunisian president to accept the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan. An approach far from disinterested: Meloni does not want Tunisia to place itself on the fringes of international institutions, which could cause a migration crisis, of which Italy would be one of the first victims.
On the occasion of the tete-a-tete between Saïed and Meloni, then between the Italian Prime Minister and his Tunisian counterpart, Najla Bouden, the Italian Ministry of the Interior recalled the annoying figures: since the beginning of the year , of the more than 50 migrants who arrived by boat in Italy, 000% of them were Tunisian. As for the others, they leave more and more from Tunisia, instead of Libya, formerly the point of departure for refugees.
Kaïs Saïed wants to "tax the rich to give to the poor"
Giorgia Meloni was therefore both on duty for herself, and for Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva, the director of the IMF. But why is the Bretton Woods institution so keen to lend $2 billion to Tunisia? President Kaïs Saïed refuses IMF aid, in particular because he should, if necessary, comply with the reforms that the institution demands.
The Tunisian head of state has said it: he will not bend to the “dictates” of the IMF. Because this would imply that it affects state subsidies on basic products, provided by the Compensation Fund. Saïed said last week that he prefers to "take excess money from the rich and give it to the poor". “Instead of lifting the subsidies in the name of rationalization, it would be possible to introduce additional taxes to those who benefit from them without their needing them,” believes the president. Because currently, poor and rich benefit equally from subsidies when they buy fuel or bread, for example.
By refusing to bow to “foreign diktats”, Kaïs Saïed knows that he is taking a risk. Tunisia's debt officially represents 80% of its GDP. But the President of the Republic does not appreciate that the agreement in principle of the IMF, dating from last October, is subject to reforms that he does not want.
The IMF, "a friend who wishes you harm"
History seems to be on the side of the Tunisian president: accustomed to lending funds to the most modest countries to avoid default, the IMF always imposes draconian conditions, such as privatizations or budget cuts in the civil service. . “Debt servicing is the visible gesture of allegiance,” sums up economist Jean Ziegler, former UN rapporteur. The Attac association sees in the IMF “a friend who wishes you harm”.
It now remains to be seen whether Meloni was convincing. If the press point was canceled, is it really because of the respective agendas of the Tunisian president and the Italian Prime Minister? Or did Kaïs Saïed simply refuse, once again, IMF aid? It also remains to be seen what the alternatives would be for Saïed, to tax the richest.
Beyond the issue of the IMF, which seems to have no positive outcome, the migration issue has apparently made the positions of the two leaders converge. Meloni believes that there is a need, “at European level for a concrete approach to increase support for Tunisia in the fight against human trafficking and illegal immigration and for a program including funding”. Saïed accepted the organization of a conference in Italy on this subject, which would serve to “listen to needs and develop projects likely to attract investment”.