By Monia Ghanmi and Houda Trabelsi
Tunisia has just received a 200-million dinar (98 million euros) development package from Libya.
“The financial assistance provided by Libya is a duty to this country,” Libyan General National Congress (GNC) chief Mohamed Magarief said during his two-day visit to Tunis, which ended November 23rd.
“There are opportunities for co-operation in all fields between the two countries such as tourism, security, economics and politics,” he added after meeting with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.
For his part, Marzouki said that “the central bank had received this money as a gift to help the Tunisian economy”.
Tunisia needs to cover its soaring deficit. According to Finance Minister Slim Besbes, Tunisia needs loans and aid worth seven billion dinars to cover the expenditures of next year’s budget.
Co-operation and integration in various fields is no longer an option, but has become inevitable given the strong ties between the two countries, Magarief said. These ties were deepened and consolidated after the successful revolutions against the tyrants, he added.
The Libyan official also revealed the existence of joint technical committees between Tunisia and Libya seeking to activate bilateral partnerships and co-operation, as well as large investment opportunities.
He expressed hope that the two countries would never be separated by borders, economic interests or political systems.
On the security side, Magarief called for strengthening co-operation between Tunisia and Libya in this historic moment experienced by both countries.
“The security of Libya depends on Tunisia’s security, and the security of Tunisia depends on Libya’s,” he told the Constituent Assembly on November 23rd.
Libyans follow the steps taken by Tunisia towards democracy to rebuild their state, he added.
The Libyan official also noted that Libyan and Tunisian peoples share the same challenges. They both face a battle to rebuild their constitutions and institutions as well as social and economic construction development.
For his part, Tunisian National Constituent Assembly chief Mustapha Ben Jaafar said that Tunisia would stand by Libya in its efforts for reconstruction and support it in various fields in light of the partnership between the two countries.
The development package, however, stirred controversy inside Libya, where many argued that the current government lacks the authority to make such a move.
The news created a buzz in the social media. Some Libyans commented on Facebook that the mission of the Libyan government is confined to drafting a constitution and conducting Libyan affairs, not “wasting the nation’s wealth”.
In response, Tunisian reminded their neighbours of the hospitality their country had shown Libyans during the revolution against Moamer Kadhafi.
“We deprived ourselves of our food and gave it to the thousands of Libyans who were in Tunisia. We helped them despite the deteriorating conditions of our country,” Mehrez Bouallague told Magharebia. “We have opened our homes and our hospitals to them free of charge.”
“We are still suffering because of the smuggled goods to Libya. Consumer prices have risen in a way that is burdening Tunisians.” Rim Boulaaba said. “It’s worth mentioning that Tunisia hosts about 500 thousand Libyans during these hard times. They live safely among us and teach their children along ours in our schools. We share with them Tunisian products made solely by Tunisian hands.”
Salah Sallami, a Libyan currently living in Tunisia, commented: “The Tunisian people did their duty when they hosted our refugees, and it is our duty to stand by Tunisia until its economy recovers. We are brothers.”