(CADTM) On 14th June 2016, a bill relating to the audit of the public debt was submitted to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, the Tunisian parliament. This bill was co-signed by 73 MPs from all parliamentary groups except for the Islamist party Ennahdha. It aims at setting up a committee for the truth on the Tunisian public debt, whose mission would be to investigate the process that started in July 1986 (with the first structural adjustment program imposed by the IMF in the country) and led Tunisia to its current level of debt. This audit would be similar to what was done in Ecuador in 2007 or in Greece more recently.
The audit committee would be made up of MPs (mainly from the opposition), representatives of administrative jurisdictions, of the High committee for administrative and financial control, of the National anti-corruption authority, representatives of the civil society, as well as of foreign personalities independent from the creditors and known for their expertise regarding the audit of the public debt.
The audit’s goals would be to determine the causes of the public borrowing and the effects produced by the conditionalities attached to the loan agreements on the rights and living conditions of the Tunisian people, in order to express the arguments concerning the cancellation of the public debts that will be identified as odious, illegal, illegitimate or unsustainable. An audit of the Tunisian public debt would also promote transparency and responsibility regarding the management of public funds, so as to make sure that future loans are contracted in the interest of the population, following a democratic process.
This bill is salutary for the Tunisian people, whose social demands have never been satisfied since they were expressed during the revolution of December 2010 – January 2011. Indeed, servicing the Tunisian public debt represents the highest expenses of the state budget by far, therefore mobilizing financial resources that cannot be spent in essential fields such as health, education or social services. In order to pay off its debt, Tunisia is forced to contract new loans that raise its level of public debt and make it unsustainable.
The IMF, which plays a huge role in this downward spiral of borrowing, recently concluded a loan agreement with the country for a total amount of 2.8 billion dollars, coupled with a new set of drastic measures regarding neoliberal restructuration and austerity that will be implemented until 2020. It is worth noticing that an important part of the Tunisian public debt was accumulated without any kind of democratic control under Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime and was used mostly as a means of enrichment for the dictator’s clan. Indeed, the debt contracted by the former regime has been recognized as being an odious one by the Belgian Senate and the European Parliament – yet they did not make any decision regarding the cancellation of the European credits.
The Committee for the abolition of illegitimate debts (CADTM) supports this bill aiming at setting up an audit of the Tunisian public debt and recognizes the work done by RAID (member association of the CADTM and ATTAC networks) and progressive political forces (particularly those gathered within the Popular front) towards this goal. The Tunisian debt is a genuine tool for neo-colonial domination and it represents a rope tightened around the neck of the people of the country.
The cancellation of its odious, illegal, illegitimate and unsustainable parts should enable to redirect the use of public funds towards expenses aiming at giving better living conditions to the Tunisian people. The payment of European claims on Tunisia must be suspended as soon as possible and until the audit commission reaches its conclusions. The CADTM publicly announces its readiness to share its international expertise and to participate to any action that could help this initiative succeed. The CADTM will actively publicize this initiative on the international scene and in other countries of the region, such as Egypt, Morocco or Jordan.