TUNIS, Tunisia — The International Monetary Fund has been working closely with Tunisian authorities since the revolution to cope with the current economic crisis, the organization's director said Thursday.
Christine Lagarde said at the conclusion of her two-day visit that she discussed with Tunisia's leaders what measures they could take to cope with an economic downturn that has been aggravated by problems in the country's main European trading partners.
"The 2012 version of the IMF differs from the past and has been closely engaged with the Tunisian authorities since the revolution in the form of technical assistance and a policy dialogue on the options they are considering to cope with the current economic downturn," she said.
Tunisia overthrew its dictator last year sparking similar pro-democracy uprisings across the region, but the revolution took a heavy toll on the economy.
The economy shrank 1.8 percent in 2011 after the tourism industry was devastated and the all important mining sector was paralyzed by strikes.
At the recent World Economic Summit in Davos, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali appealed for financial assistance for the country.
Lagarde stressed the importance of maintaining security and stability to woo investors back to the economy, while acknowledging the challenges of lowering the current 18 percent unemployment rate and helping the impoverished interior of the country.
Central bank governor Mustapha Nabli said that any loan application will depend on the state budget, which is set to be passed soon.
A small demonstration of ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafists, from the Hizb al-Tahrir or Liberation Party, protested the visit in downtown Tunis.
The protesters, who call for the application of Islamic law, claimed that IMF measures have only impoverished the country and brought unemployment.