Anti-austerity protests rock Tunisia
At least one is reported dead as angry protests have spread across Tunisia in response to an austerity package imposed by the government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. The protester died due to tear-gas inhalation Jan. 8 in Tebourba, 40 kilometers west of Tunis, with demonstrations reported from several other cities and towns, including Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the country's 2011 revolution. Under the new budget, which took effect Jan. 1, fuel prices are hiked, and new taxes imposed on housing, cars, phone calls, Internet services, and several other items. Hamma Hammami, leader of the opposition Popular Front, pledged to keep up the pressure, telling reporters: "We will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law is dropped."
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed appealed for calm, saying: "People have to understand that the situation is extraordinary and their country is having difficulties, but we believe that 2018 will be the last difficult year for the Tunisians." But the dinar continues to drop in value, this week crossing the psychologically important three-to-one threshold with the euro. Tunisia's government reached an agreement late last year with the IMF for a four-year $2.8 billion loan program, in return for economic reforms. (Middle East Eye, Middle East Online, Al Jazeera)