Tunisian PM-designate presents new government line-up

Youssef Chahed has appointed a new finance minister but kept the previous foreign and defence ministers in their posts.

    Youssef Chahed's cabinet line-up will now go to parliament for approval [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]
    Youssef Chahed's cabinet line-up will now go to parliament for approval [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

    Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Youssef Chahed has named his new government, appointing a former investment official as finance minister and keeping the foreign and defence ministers in their posts.

    "Our country is in a very delicate phase and we do not have the right to deceive the Tunisian people. I call on all Tunisians and the parties to support this government," Chahed told reporters on Saturday at Carthage presidential palace.

    Chahed, named premier after his predecessor was dismissed by politicians in a no-confidence vote last month, had been in talks with the main secularist, leftist and Islamist parties over cabinet posts.

    A senior member of the secularist Nidaa Tounes and ally of President Beji Caid Essebsi, Chahed promised a cabinet capable of delivering the economic reforms that had evaded past prime ministers, but critics say he may not have the political capital to succeed.

    His cabinet line-up must now go to parliament for a vote of approval.

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    Tunisia's transition since a 2011 uprising overthrew  Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali has been hailed as a model for the Arab world.

    But the North African state has struggled with armed groups and slow progress on economic reforms needed to create growth and jobs.

    The new cabinet is inclusive, with members hailing from Nidaa Tounes, Islamist party Ennahda, and smaller parties as well opposition figures, independents and ministers close to the powerful UGTT labour union. The selection is likely an attempt to win backing for reforms.

    Marouane El Abassi, a World Bank representative for Libya and economist educated in France, had been touted as new finance minister. But Chahed named Lamia Zribi, a former official for investment and development and a state bank director.

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    Keeping their posts in the cabinet were Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub, Defence Minister Farhat Horchani and Foreign Affairs Minister Khemais Jhinaoui.

    Chahed also nominated Mohamed Trabelsi as minister of social affairs and Abid Briki, a former union official, as minister of public functions. Both men have close ties to the UGTT, which in the past has resisted austerity measures.

    During his nearly two years in office, previous premier Habib Essid failed to overcome political infighting and carry out reforms, including public spending cuts and improvements to laws to attract foreign investment.

    Chahed's cabinet faces a tough start.

    Three major attacks by armed groups last year badly hit tourism, forcing job cuts in an industry that accounts for 8 percent of the economy. Unemployment is already at 15 percent, with the rate far higher among the young.

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    SOURCE: Agencies


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