Tunisia: 6 years after a quasi-revolution, a never-ending interregnum

18 January 2017 by Fausto Giudice

6 years is nothing when you are 90 years old. But for people aged between 20 and 30, it is a very long time. Six years ago, the Tunisian people witnessed the escape of a petty dictator, whose evacuation to a golden exile in the shadow of the Saudi derricks was arranged by the US embassy. What the European media hastened to idiotically baptise the “jasmine revolution” (an expression that the Tunisians have never once thought of using) very quickly released a perfume of decay. The politicians cleverly took matters into their own hands and concocted an outcome in the purest Leopard’s spirit: “Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same”.

The result has been overwhelming: Tunisia is governed by a coalition of cronies, thick as thieves who have shared the crumbs of the stale cake and have dropped very little into the hands of the common people. The torturers and their victims of yesterday agreed upon a historic compromise, distributing positions and sinecures. The hopes that awoke in the days of December 2010- January 2011 - “Bread, Liberty, National dignity” - proved to be foolish. Disappointment, depression, despair have settled in. A Tunisian commits suicide every day. Thousands more have taken the path of glorious suicide, between Libya and Syria. Those who are the most straight thinking and the best equipped organise their legal emigration for study or for “business”, the smart kids go to the manger for grants: there are so many rich people who wish us well! German, Swedish, Swiss, US, Japanese, Qatari, and Austrian foundations, and so on: today, at least 50,000 Tunisians earn a salary from a foreign NGO or VGO (very governmental organisation). For a few million euros, “we” managed to pacify much of the marching wing of the youth who had taken part in - or followed on facebook - this famous quasi-revolution. The power is where the safes are and not in ministries or in the street.

Zygmunt Bauman, the great Pole who has just left us at the age of 91 - one year older than Béji Caïd Essebsi, the current Tunisian president - used to say that the great problem of our time was the dissociation between power and politics: power is global, “boelitics” [1] continues to try to survive within national borders, which nobody respects. We live, in Tunisia as elsewhere, and perhaps more so than elsewhere, in the interregnum, a term borrowed from Antonio Gramsci, that he himself had taken the Roman historian Livy, speaking of the disarray of the Romans after the death of their king Romulus. The vast majority of them had known nothing but his reign their whole life long, and had no idea who could replace him. Gramsci, speaking of the period between the Russian revolution of 1917 and the seizure of power by Mussolini in 1921, wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

The masters of the interregnum are the “donors”: while the have-nots are gawking at the sky, those above are aiming at the funds. The country lives on credit and the noose strangles slowly but surely. Successive governments since 2011 have borrowed to pay off the debt of the dictatorship, then borrowed again to repay the debt of the debt and so on, in a vicious cycle that seems endless. They acted against not only the most elementary morality but, even worse, common sense: the debt they inherited was at once odious, illegitimate, unbearable and even illegal. Those that they have contracted in order to repay it are just as bad. A good Muslim will of course pay his debts, but only a fool pays those of others. A fool or a pervert.

As a result, Tunisia currently has some fifty billion dinars of debt, which is twenty billion euros [=US$ 21 bn, £ 18 bn]and more than 5 of the 32 billion in the 2017 budget is destined for debt servicing. This budget was the subject of three to four months of polemics and sugar-coating, to finally be voted for in a touching consensus. It is based on a forecast that the price of a barrel of oil this year will be $50 (it has already passed the 52 mark) and that the exchange rate for the dinar will be 2.25 for US $1 (the $ is already at 2.28 TND). In other words, a load of nonsense.

The trade unionists have calmed their wage demands and the good people tighten their belts and grit their teeth. The government will eventually have to fulfil all World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

conditionalities: privatisation of the three public banks (already the case for the Central Bank Central Bank The establishment which in a given State is in charge of issuing bank notes and controlling the volume of currency and credit. In France, it is the Banque de France which assumes this role under the auspices of the European Central Bank (see ECB) while in the UK it is the Bank of England.

ECB : http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/Pages/home.aspx
, which is now independent, on the model of the US Federal Reserve FED
Federal Reserve
Officially, Federal Reserve System, is the United States’ central bank created in 1913 by the ’Federal Reserve Act’, also called the ’Owen-Glass Act’, after a series of banking crises, particularly the ’Bank Panic’ of 1907.

FED – decentralized central bank : http://www.federalreserve.gov/
and the ECB ECB
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is a European institution based in Frankfurt, founded in 1998, to which the countries of the Eurozone have transferred their monetary powers. Its official role is to ensure price stability by combating inflation within that Zone. Its three decision-making organs (the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council) are composed of governors of the central banks of the member states and/or recognized specialists. According to its statutes, it is politically ‘independent’ but it is directly influenced by the world of finance.

), health insurance, social security, public energy and water companies, and, last but not least, the abolition of subsidies to basic necessities and fuel. The only positive aspect of implementing these conditions could be a reduction in the consumption of refined sugar powder, of which Tunisians are the global champions of consumption: 36 kg per person per year, i.e. 100 grams per day. It’s necessary to sweeten the bitterness of life.

In short, let’s not pour salt on the wound. The tables below speak louder than words. I thank the comrades of the RAID-ATTAC-CADTM association for having made them available to me.

Translated by Jenny Bright

Source: Tlaxcala


[1La politique is a reflection on the manner to serve the people. La boulitique is an accumulation of screams and gestures (invoked) in order to use the people.- Malek Benabi

Fausto Giudice

Journalist, writer, translator and publisher
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