Tunisia expects the U.S. government to guarantee around a fifth of the $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion the north African state will need to borrow next year, its investment and international cooperation minister said on Wednesday.
Riadh Bettaib told Reuters that Washington “has pledged to guarantee a loan worth more than $500 million in order to help us tap international debt markets at a low interest rate in the limits of 1.68 percent”.
The minister stopped short of saying if that meant Tunisia would use the guarantee as it did in July when it raised $485 million from an international bond issue.
The issue, its first since 2007, aimed to help democratic transition and economic recovery after a revolt ousted longtime President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power last year.
Bettaib said Japan and the World Bank would also contribute in helping the government raise the debt it needs in 2013. He did not elaborate.
After falling over the past decade, Tunisia’s public debt burden rose to 51 percent of GDP by the end of 2011, from 48 percent a year earlier, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects it to increase to close to 56 percent of GDP by the end of next year.
The government plans to borrow 4.3 billion dinars ($2.73 billion) in 2012. It forecasts economic growth of 3.5 percent, after a 1.8 percent contraction last year.
The IMF said in August that Tunisia’s medium-term growth prospects are favorable but maintaining economic stability was essential as the country tries to emerge from last year’s political upheaval.
The central bank raised interest rates late last month for the first time since the revolution, to fight rising inflation.