Washington, Mar 24 (AFP) The International Monetary Fund today released an additional USD 257 million in funds for Tunisia as part of its four-year, USD 3 billion loan agreement.

The IMF board approved the second review of the country’s economic performance under the financial aid package that was initially approved in May 2016.

With the latest instalment the IMF has lent the country nearly USD 1 billion, even though the board acknowledged the government had failed to meet some of its economic benchmarks.

The fund said Tunisia’s “growth-friendly and socially-conscious reforms will help stabilise public debt,” while “continued monetary tightening and greater exchange rate flexibility help contain inflation, improve competitiveness, and rebuild international reserves.” The fund also approved the country’s request to move up the reviews and payments to a quarterly schedule rather than twice a year.

The North African country is seen as having had a relatively smooth democratic transition since the January 14, 2011 toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years of his rule.

But earlier this year anger erupted over the government’s new austerity measures and a year of rising prices. The IMF cautioned that while it was not pressing for austerity it would be a mistake to backtrack on the economic reform.

Tunisia faced a series of shocks since 2007 and saw its growth rate plunge in 2011, but has recovered since 2014, with the economy expected grow three percent this year. (AFP) CK 03240618

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.