Jasmine Revolution at Tunisia

The sharp rise of food prices in Tunisia has caused a dilemma for the authorities, who have to protect the victims of this trend (families) on the one hand, and avoid launching measures that compromise the country's production system on the other. The question is an important one, considering the general economic crisis that has hit Tunisia. One year after the ''jasmine revolution'', the country is finding it hard to recover as a consequence of several - often external - factors.

One of these factors is the situation in Libya, which forces the country to buy its oil elsewhere (Turkey), where it first arrived through the Libyan pipeline thanks to an agreement signed with Gaddafi in the '70s. This deal included a fixed price of 30 USD per barrel, but can no longer be sustained now. Tunisia therefore has to face the crisis with instruments that must take household income into account, without damaging the producers. The Tunisian market often goes through price trends that are difficult to explain, because these price rises don't seem to take the fact that many food products are produced locally, freeing them from the logics of the international crisis, into account. Another factor is that despite everything, producers and distributors are still supported. But still prices continue to rise, reaching levels that were unthinkable only a few months ago. This becomes clear when looking at the prices of products sold by large-scale retailers but particularly when listening to the complaints made by the people who go shopping every day. An example is white meat, which keeps getting more and more expensive despite the high availability of animals. The same is true for eggs. 

Tunisia's Ministry of Commerce and Handicrafts, Bechir Zaafouri, is dealing with the problem, chairing several meetings. The idea is to find a solution or, on the short or medium term, a way to curb the out-of-control price rises, which are being examined. This is happening at the general market of Tunis, the most important market in the country, which serves the capital and the entire region. One reason for the price spikes seems to be the illegal exports of food products, particularly to Libya. The Libya market currently needs to import much food and can offer much higher prices than those paid on the domestic market. This phenomenon is difficult to stop because of the traditional permeability of the border between the two countries and, most importantly, the impudence and aggression of the smugglers, both Tunisians and Libyans. Tunisian customs officers are well aware of this problem. They are continuously faced with aggression and have asked the government to do something about it, and to supply the necessary means to deal with the problem. Another problem is looming on the horizon: inflation, which is expected to reach 3.5%, close to 2007 levels, but still considered acceptable.

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