Tunisia: World Bank Expert Tipped for Central Bank Governor Post

Tunisia: World Bank Expert Tipped for Central Bank Governor Post

Friday, 9 February, 2018 - 05:45
A man walk out of the Central Bank in Tunis, Tunisia, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed wants to sack central bank governor Chedli Ayari and replace him with Marouane El Abassi, who is the World Bank representative for Tunisia's neighbor Libya.

Replacing the central bank governor would come after the European Union slammed Tunisia for being most prone to money laundering operations and terror funding.

The European Parliament put the North African country on a blacklist of non-EU nations amid fears it posed a risk over money laundering and terrorist financing. Such a move is said to slowdown development projects in Tunisia and impose a direct negative effect on foreign investment.

According to Bloomberg, a parliamentary vote on a new central bank chief could delay a billion-dollar eurobond sale scheduled for next week.

“I think the timing is pretty bad. It sends a very bad signal,” said Riccardo Fabiani, senior analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at the New York-based Eurasia Group. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to postpone the sale, also given what is going on in international markets.”

International stocks had been suffering in the past week from a downturn.

“I don’t see why the monetary policy should change,” he said. “Basically the central bank just does what the IMF (International Monetary Fund) decides.”

Tunis-based economist Ezzeddine Saidane also predicted the sale would be postponed, and told Bloomberg a delay “will also have serious implications for the foreign-currency reserves of the country and the ability of Tunisia to pay its debts.”

But Bassem Loukil, chief executive officer of the Group Loukil conglomerate, said the decision to replace the central bank governor “is long overdue.”

“We have been calling for the ouster of this governor for over three years,” said Loukil.

El Abasi “is a very respected economist and he has a good reputation at the international level, which is very important so he can project a good image,” he added.

El Abasi is an economics professor who was appointed World Bank representative in Libya in 2010. He has also advised Tunisia’s ministries of trade and tourism, according to the World Bank’s website.

He holds a doctorate in economics from the Sorbonne University in Paris.

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