The rising cost of living and rising food prices are pushing Tunisians to the brink

Debt and cost-of-living concerns grow in Tunisia

El presidente de Túnez, Kais Saied - AFP/KARIM JAAFAR
Tunisian President Kais Saied - AFP/KARIM JAAFAR

The cost of living in Tunisia has become the population's biggest concern. Prices and inflation are continuing to rise and all sectors of society see that the trend is unlikely to change, at least in the short term.  What is really worrying, at least according to observers, is that Tunisians are resorting to debt in order to be able to cope with this situation, since the margin for savings is practically non-existent for most of them.

  1. Indebtedness as the only means of survival
  2. A collapse that could lead to emigration

Indebtedness as the only means of survival

Tawfiq Katro, president and director general of the National Retirement and Social Security Fund, explained in an interview with the Tunis Africa News Agency that the needs of the population have changed completely. But if they have done so, it has been out of necessity, as the vast majority have difficulty making ends meet. This has meant that "the percentage of applications for personal loans has reached 98% compared to other loans for cars and housing".

Un grupo de personas compra verduras en el mercado central antes del mes sagrado de ayuno del Ramadán, en Túnez, el 6 de marzo de 2024 – PHOTO/FETHI BELAID/AFP
People shop for vegetables at the central market ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Tunis, Tunisia, 6 March 2024 - PHOTO/FETHI BELAID/AFP

The situation is becoming more worrying with each passing day. This is also the view of Lotfi Riahi, director of the Tunisian Consumer Guidance Organisation, who assures that "indebtedness has become the only resource Tunisian citizens have recourse to in order to cover their needs". The high cost of living is leaving the population with no other option, and they are being forced to give up other goods and investments.

Tunisian society has completely forgotten the possibility of affording to buy cars or houses. They are focused on being able to survive on a day-to-day basis that they cannot even afford on current salaries. Riahi himself says that "the citizen's salary is no longer enough". This is what has meant that, in addition to the impossibility of making large purchases, leisure has taken a back seat.

A collapse that could lead to emigration

While it is true that Tunisians have a great capacity to adapt to this type of situation, the one they are now experiencing is bordering on - if not completely over the top - the extreme. Hence Belaid Oulad Abdallah, a sociology researcher, told Al-Arab that Tunisians "are frustrated and their expectations have become limited".

This frustration is what, according to experts, may cause the population to begin to look for other options for the future far from its borders. The current context, in addition to being extremely demanding, does not see any positive change on the horizon, at least for the moment. This is what is leading to a growing desire within society to emigrate from Tunisia if, as all indications suggest, the country's economic situation continues to worsen and continues to make the cost of living unviable, leaving debt as the only option.