Tunisian government plans social reforms after week of unrest | World news - World Big News

Tunisian government plans social reforms after week of unrest | World news

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Tunisia’s government plans to increase aid to the poor and improve healthcare following a week of unrest triggered by austerity measures.

The social affairs minister, Mohamed Trabelsi, announced on Saturday monthly aid to needy families would rise from 150 dinars (£45) to between 180 and 210 dinars.

He also said reforms that have been in the pipeline for several months would guarantee medical care for all Tunisians and also provide housing to disadvantaged families.

“This will concern about 250,000 families,” he said. “It will help the poor and middle class.”

The North African country has been shaken by a wave of protests over poverty and unemployment during which hundreds of people were arrested before the unrest tapered off.

“It’s a very advanced legal project, which was submitted to parliament and will be discussed over the next week,” said a government source.

The announcement came after the president, Beji Caid Essebsi, consulted with political parties, unions and employers. At the opening of his consultations, Essebsi accused the foreign press of “amplifying” the social unrest and damaging the country’s image in its coverage of protests.

The president said he would visit a disadvantaged neighbourhood of Tunis that had been the scene of street protests.

Tunisia, whose economy has been hit by a collapse in tourism revenues following a wave of jihadist attacks in 2015, has secured a £2bn IMF loan in return for a reduction in its budget deficit and financial reforms.

The demonstrations broke out ahead of Sunday’s seventh anniversary of the toppling of veteran dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a revolt that sparked uprisings across the Arab region. Activists and the opposition have called for fresh protests on Sunday.

The trigger for the protests on 7 January was the budget imposing tax hikes after a year of rising prices. A man in his 40s died in unrest on Monday night in the northern town of Tebourba, though police have insisted they did not kill him.

Interior ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani on Saturday said a total of 803 people suspected of taking part in acts of violence, theft and looting were arrested this week.