Tunisian lawyers plan a general strike in all courts on Wednesday to protest new tax laws they say unfairly target their profession, as part of the wider 2017 austerity measures planned by the Tunisian government.
A statement issued Tuesday by Ameur Mehrezi, head of the National Bar Association of Tunisia, said the lawyers also plan a protest at the People’s Representatives Assembly (ARP) legislature.
The lawyers are among many Tunisians upset about provisions of the 2017 Finance Act they say places undue burden on Tunisians. The economy continues to struggle under Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and his government, and from the lawyers to hotel workers and taxi drivers, Tunisians are pushing back against taxes, public-sector wage freezes and other austerity measures meant to reduce budget deficits.
Mehrezi’s statement said the nation’s lawyers feel that Tunisian officials have acted unilaterally in imposing burdens on their profession, which include new rules that require taxes on every court filing. Thousands of Tunisian lawyers held a similar protest on October 21.
The Tunisian budget seeks to address the country’s formidable debt levels at a time when a sluggish economy is placing pressure on its citizens, particularly the middle class. Public debt in Tunisia is now more than 60 percent of its GDP, according to an International Monetary Fund review release on November 11.
Tunisia received a new IMF loan of $2.9 billion in May, designed to help stabilize the economy and support reforms. While the 2017 budget seeks to enact banking and other measures the IMF recommends, its provisions are likely to negatively impact Tunisians who already experience high unemployment, lower subsidies and other significant economic stressors — potentially leading to increased unrest.
Image: Government of Tunisia