By Houda Trabelsi
Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) on Tuesday (July 24th) named Chedly Ayari as the new central bank governor.
Ayari replaces Mustafa Kamel Nabli, who was fired due to a clash between the governor and government members over monetary policy.
The nomination of Ayari, 79, drew a torrent of accusations from the opposition and some within the ruling coalition because of his age and his links with the regime of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“The government and troika in general claim that they are making a complete breakaway with the former regime, but they are actually distributing indulgences to the symbols of Ben Ali’s regime,” said ANC member Azed Bedi of Congress for the Republic (CPR).
Ayari served as minister of planning under Habib Bourguiba, ambassador to Belgium and the European Union and worked for the African Development Bank and other financial institutions before Ben Ali recruited him as an adviser.
“I received the November 7th medal, joined the House of Advisors in 2010, and contributed three pages in a 400-page book glorifying 20 years of the ousted president’s regime. However, all this was part of my scientific activities,” Ayari told the ANC members after his appointment.
Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi defended the decision, describing Ayari as “a highly-qualified economist” and “the best alternative to replace Kamel Nabli on the top of central bank given his competency and professionalism”.
“Today, we have seen many preachers,” Sahbi Atig, the head of Ennahda bloc in the Constituent Assembly, said in response to the criticism. “We’re now faced with an important issue, but no one spoke about the professionalism of the man; rather, everyone spoke about how he is a former regime’s loyalist. Look, we have in the assembly former MPs and a former advisor to Ben Ali. Therefore, there is no need for exaggeration.”
Writer Olfa Youssef had a different opinion.
“Our problem with the appointment of Ayari is not because he is old or that he is considered a former regime’s loyalist, whether this is true or not,” she said. “Rather, our problem is with the inconsistency of Ennahda and Ettakatol who call for excluding some Tunisians based on previous political charges and the appointment of some of those Tunisians just because they are loyal to Ennahda.”
For his part, rights activist and opposition figure Mohsen Marzouk said: “Kamel Nabli was dismissed under the pretext that he was incompetent and was replaced by Ayari whose competency was proven to the troika with the testimony of Ben Ali who appointed him in the House of Advisors.”
“In this way, Ben Ali has become like a reference point for those who claim to be making a breakaway with the former regime through the dismissal of Nabli!” he said.
The reason for sacking Nabli was “a complete failure in dealing with the file of recovering stolen funds”, according to the minister delegate to the prime minister for the economic file. In his turn, the former governor explained to the ANC that the issue was “not the responsibility of the central bank alone, but of a national ministerial committee”.