Tunisia’s leader wants corrupt tycoons to fund poor regions

Jul 29, 2021, 5:47 AM | Updated: 6:55 am

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s president is proposing that hundreds of tycoons suspected of embezzlement reach a deal with the state to finance public hospitals, schools and development projects in poor regions to avoid convictions.

President Kais Saied seized new political powers this week and is trying to tackle the corruption and tax evasion that have long plagued the economy, notably in the lucrative phosphate sector and food trading.

Saied is also seeking to counter accusations that his surprise decision to fire the prime minister and suspend parliament amounts to a coup. He insisted Wednesday on the “provisional” nature of the move and on his attachment to the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the Tunisian Constitution, created after protesters overthrew a dictator in 2011. The country is considered the only democratic success story resulting from the Arab Spring uprisings that year.

Saied met Wednesday night with the head of the Tunisian employers organization, Samir Majoul, and proposed an unusual deal to some 460 leading business figures suspected of embezzling billions of dollars in the years leading up to Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.

To avoid legal action, Saied suggested reaching a settlement with the magnates under which they would finance development projects in poor regions, to “return the money looted from the Tunisian people.”

The projects could include construction of hospitals, schools and public roads, and the businessmen would be responsible for ensuring their maintenance for 10 years, Saied said.

The businessmen’s names appear in a voluminous report established by an investigative commission in the aftermath of the revolution which overthrew autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. They are suspected of embezzling around 13.5 billion dinars (nearly $5 billion) from state coffers.

Saied called out corruption in the phosphate sector, whose production has fallen significantly in recent years.

Phosphate producers “charge 25 dinars per ton for (truck) transport, whereas by train, it does not exceed seven dinars. They pay people to block the train and put obstacles on the tracks. It is not normal that Tunisia, which was the second-largest exporter of phosphate in the world, becomes an importer,” Saied said.

He also urged the president of the employers’ organization to work with wholesale and retail traders to lower food prices by avoiding monopolization and speculation.

Corruption was a major driver of Tunisia’s 2010-2011 revolution, and many Tunisians are frustrated that a decade of democracy has failed to wipe it out.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Officers: Wellness check leads to fatal shooting in Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A police officer fatally shot a man early Sunday while conducting a wellness check at a home in St. Petersburg, officials said. Just before 4 a.m. Sunday, St. Petersburg police officers responded to a report of a hit and run. Officers found the bumper of the suspect’s car at the […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Jon Batiste attends the TIME100 Gala celebrating the 100 most influential people in the worl...
Associated Press

Jon Batiste to sing for Macron at Biden’s 1st state dinner

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — Musician Jon Batiste is on tap to perform at President Joe Biden’s first White House state dinner on Thursday, highlighting long-standing ties between the United States and France and honoring President Emmanuel Macron. “An artist who transcends generations, Jon Batiste’s music inspires and brings people together,” said Vanessa Valdivia, a spokesperson […]
12 hours ago
Fans from the United States cheer for their team during the World Cup group B soccer match between ...
Associated Press

US-England World Cup game seen by 19.98M on US television

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States’ 0-0 draw against England in the World Cup drew 19.98 million viewers for English- and Spanish-language broadcasts, the third-most watched men’s soccer game on U.S. television. The match, which kicked off at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, was seen by 15,377,000 viewers on Fox, the most for a […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Nebraska agri...
Associated Press

Bird flu prompts slaughter of 1.8M chickens in Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska agriculture officials say another 1.8 million chickens must be killed after bird flu was found on a farm in the latest sign that the outbreak that has already prompted the slaughter of more than 50 million birds nationwide continues to spread. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture said Saturday that the […]
12 hours ago
This image released by Disney shows a scene from the animated film "Strange World." (Disney via AP)...
Associated Press

Feast and famine for Disney at Thanksgiving box office

Thanksgiving often serves up a feast of new family movies at the box office, but the Walt Disney Co.’s animated offering ” Strange World ” fizzled with audiences out of the gates. The production, which carried a reported $180 million budget, grossed just $18.6 million in ticket sales in its first five days and $11.9 […]
12 hours ago
A youth uses his smartphone as he and a friend walk along the Malecon seawall in Havana, Cuba, Frid...
Associated Press

Cuba’s informal market finds new space on growing internet

HAVANA (AP) — In the Telegram group chat, the messages roll in like waves. “I need liquid ibuprofen and acetaminophen, please,” wrote one user. “It’s urgent, it’s for my 10-month-old baby.” Others offer medicine brought from outside of Cuba, adding, “Write to me in a direct message.” Emoji-speckled lists offer antibiotics, pregnancy tests, vitamins, rash […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Tunisia’s leader wants corrupt tycoons to fund poor regions