Relations between Tunisia and the International Monetary Fund have never been as uncertain and unclear as they are now, and the situation worsens daily.
Reaching an agreement with the world’s lender of last resort should seem inevitable, with the country’s economic fortunes at stake. But there is deep opposition from parts of the Tunisian government to some of the IMF's demands, which have been described as “red lines” by senior officials.
And with an election looming next year, top-level attention in Tunis could be on a political payday rather than reaching a much-needed deal over the nation’s finances. Senior government officials are sending mixed messages, which hurts Tunisia’s credibility in the talks.
While President Kais Saied implied at a recent meeting of the National Security Council that some of the objections to IMF conditions could be lifted, Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar warned that red lines cannot be crossed.
Some pro-government sources in the media say that Tunisia does not even need an IMF loan "at all", pointing to the country's successful repayment of external debts up to September, while running a budget surplus of $18.7mn, or 58.8mn dinars in local currency, for the first half of 2023.
These commentators cite data from the Central Bank showing that by 10 September, 74% of Tunisia’s external debt had been repaid, with the value of due debts at $2.095bn from a total of $2.817bn due in the current fiscal year.