Ukraine crisis further squeezes Tunisians

Ukraine crisis further squeezes Tunisians-

Reuters–  Wheat shortages and increasing global fuel prices following the war in Ukraine have left thousands of Tunisians under further strain, in a country already struggling with political deadlock and a public finance crisis. Emer McCarthy reports.

As war rages in Ukraine, citizens in Tunisia are wandering between empty supermarket shelves and bread queues amid a deepening political and financial crisis impacting the country.

The sharp rise in food prices is being seen firsthand.

58-year-old Lotfi has been running a small bakery shop in the Tunisian capital for 20 years and said he can no longer find flour or semolina to bake bread.

He says he only worked for 13 days this month.

“It affected us so much that we can no longer work. Before this war, I could secure semolina every day in the range of 50 or 60 kilograms and make bread. With the war, we could no longer find even a little of the semolina for us to work. This is a big crisis.”

Tunisia is facing a political and economic crisis at home.

The country, which subsidizes domestic fuel prices and some foodstuffs, was already seeking a foreign rescue package before the war in Ukraine led to jumps in global prices of certain commodities.

It is heading for default if the current deterioration in its finances continues, investment bank Morgan Stanley has warned.

And for everyday citizens like Hassan, life continues to be a struggle.

“The shortage of basic commodities and subsidized goods existed before this war, due to smuggling, monopoly, and many other things, but now with this war and the month of Ramadan, there is absolute poverty in Tunisia now, we are living in a real crisis.”

A small team of IMF staff visited Tunisia last week for further discussions about a possible financing program.

An IMF deal is seen as vital to unlocking other possible financial assistance from donors that have repeatedly bailed out Tunisia over recent years.

Report by Reuters.

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