December 7, 2018 / 12:31 PM / 3 days ago

Tunisian PM says he expects new foreign exchange law

SOUSSE, Tunisia, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Friday that he expected Tunisia to adopt a new foreign exchange law, amid calls from Tunisian firms struggling to access hard currency for more transparency and less red tape.

At present, investors must get central bank approval to access hard currency to fund operations abroad or to obtain credit letters to import goods. The central bank issues approvals on a case-by-cases basis, a process some firms say is not transparent enough and has too many bureaucratic hurdles.

“We are expecting a new foreign exchange law,” Chahed said in an address at a business conference in the coastal city of Sousse, without giving further details.

An official at the same conference, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that a new law could include steps to make the current exchange system more flexible. No more details were immediately available.

The central bank has sought to limit access to hard currency to stem a fall of the dinar since the toppling of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 plunged Tunisia into turmoil and left its economy in crisis.

Although Tunisia is considered to have completed a transition to democracy, investors remain reluctant to invest in the North African country given economic turmoil and militant attacks.

Tunisia’s hard currency reserves have fallen to 78 days worth of imports, the central bank said on Friday.

Tunisian banks are not able to issue credit cards for Tunisians that work abroad and foreigners in Tunisia also face restrictions making bank transfers abroad unless they register as an off-shore entity which allows them special privileges. (Reporting by Tarek Amara Writing by Ulf Laessing Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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