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Empathy for Tunisian discontent in France

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Empathy for Tunisian discontent in France
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Tunisians and French-Tunisians have come out onto the streets of Paris and Marseille, where they now live, to show how angry they are with the government back home.

For them, the reasons for the current unhappiness and unrest are clear. One woman, who gave her name only as Saida, said: “It is not possible for them to have faith in a government that was brought to power by a rigged election.”

She added: The country has had the same president for 20 years and while things were going well economically, while everyone had a good standard of living and while there was a middle class, everything went great. But it is no longer possible to hide the social misery in Tunisia.”

She concluded: “The state must do something, if it is to be lawful and democratic.”

In Tunis, the powers-that-be seem oblivious to the causes of the unrest, which is spreading like a wave across the country. The president promised to create 300,000 jobs to calm things down but his ploy has not worked.

Unemployment in Tunisia stood at 13.3 percent last September and according to the IMF, it is on the rise.

In 2010, the government pitched growth at 3.7 percent. The estimate for 2011 is 5.4 percent.

A pick-up in growth is the best way to create jobs, which are particularly needed by the young. But after a decade of strong performance, Tunisia will struggle to reach previous levels.

Europe, Tunisia’s main trading partner, has been hit hard by the global economic crisis. More than 76 percent of goods exported from Tunisia go to Europe, while more than 72 percent of imports to Tunisia come from the bloc.

France has the most privileged status. In 2009, Paris imported 3.4 billion euros worth of goods from the north African country.

The year before, during a state visit, President Nicolas Sarkozy made it clear that economic ties occupied a place high on the agenda, but that has done nothing to prevent the current popular unrest.