January 2011
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Day January 15, 2011

Tunisian youth rise against free market economics

A French businessman in Tunisia told Le Monde: “Here it’s not rare to be served at a gas station by someone with a master’s degree in sociology. Cleaning women have English degrees, the fruit vendor has a doctorate in mathematics, and so on.”

Tunisia’s young cannot get jobs. Free-market policies have slashed jobs and made it virtually impossible to obtain employment without personal connections or paying bribes.

Le Monde wrote: “In the strongly state-supported economy, an advanced degree used to guarantee a stable job, often in the state or para-state sector. But things changed with the major structural reforms of the post-Bourguiba era,” with unemployment rising rapidly in the late 1990s. The youth unemployment rate is now comparable to Algeria’s…….

Wikileaks (July 2009) provided a clue: this is what US diplomats wrote: “While we share some key values and the country has a strong record on development, Tunisia has big problems. President Ben Ali is aging, his regime is sclerotic and there is no clear successor. Many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities.”

In another cable—titled “Corruption in Tunisia: What’s Yours is Mine”—US diplomats wrote: “Corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it’s cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali’s family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants. … President Ben Ali’s extended family is often cited as the nexus of Tunisian corruption. Often referred to as a quasi-mafia, an oblique mention of ‘the Family’ is enough to indicate which family you mean. Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage.”

Could Algeria be the next economic domino?

The tyrant in Cairo will be watching anxiously.