Tunisia premier designate names a technocratic government

Tunisia's Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi takes the oath of office during the country's new government swearing-in ceremony at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia

Tunisia’s prime minister-designate Hichem Mechichi announced on Monday a cabinet of independent technocrats without parties, seeking to distance the government from political conflicts and focus on reviving the ailing economy.

Mechichi, 46, is an independent, who was interior minister in the government of Elyes Fakhfakh. Tunisian President Kais Saied last month appointed Mechichi the new prime minister after Fakhfakh resigned over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Under plans to revamp the government and revive the economy, Mechichi gathered the ministries of finance, investment and economy into a single department led by liberal economist Ali Kooli, CEO of Arab Banking Corporation (ABC Bank) in Tunisia.

Mechichi needs to win a confidence vote in parliament in the next few days or face the dissolution of parliament by the president and another election, deepening instability.

Authorities have been struggling to defuse constant protests over widespread unemployment, lack of investment for development and poor health, electricity and water services.

Western countries have hailed Tunisia for its comparatively successful transition to democracy since the 2011 revolution that ended decades of autocratic rule.

Many Tunisians have grown frustrated since then over economic stagnation, a decline in living standards and decay in public services while political parties often seem more focused on staying in office instead of tackling problems.

Mechichi said earlier this month his government would focus on rescuing public finances and easing social hardships, saying that while political turmoil had dragged out, “some Tunisians have not found drinking water”.

Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy shrank 21.6 pct in the second quarter of 2020, compared to the same period last year, due to the coronavirus crisis.

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