Tunisia assembly backs central bank head firing

AP News
Posted: Jul 18, 2012 6:19 PM
Tunisia assembly backs central bank head firing

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's elected assembly approved on Wednesday the president's move to fire the head of the central bank.

President Moncef Marzouki fired central bank Governor Mustapha Kamel Nabli on June 27, alleging that the financial official had refused to bring the country's monetary policies in line with its economic needs.

Of the 217-person assembly, 110 voted Wednesday in favor of the dismissal and 62 against, with 10 abstentions.

The prime minister's office had originally hesitated at the president's call but eventually came around. The dismissal had created a rift between the two men, who come from different parties in the ruling coalition.

Representatives of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's powerful Islamist Ennahda party, which dominates the assembly, argued for Nabli's dismissal, making the vote in the assembly a foregone conclusion.

Still, the heated debate over Nabli's fate lasted for hours and in his defense, the former World Bank economist warned against an attack on the independence of the bank and Tunisia's international credibility.

"It is the credibility of Tunisia on the global stage that is at stake," Nabli said, warning against "a danger that could sink the institutions of the state and the stability of the country."

Nabli has led the central bank since Tunisians overthrew their longtime dictator in January 2011 and was known to pursue a very independent policy from the government.

He presided over a period of economic shock, including 2 percent negative growth rate last year. The economy has been reeling since tourists deserted this once-popular destination following the dictator's ouster, and strikes have crippled the mining sector.

In recent months, however, there have been nascent signs of a recovery and in May, Nabli was named best central bank governor on the African continent by the African Banker Awards for keeping the finances together during the post-revolutionary turmoil.

Nabli, however, has been criticized for not doing enough to reform the country's ailing banking sector, which is burdened by a heavy weight of non-performing loans and poor management.

He also pursued a strict monetary policy at a time when the government preferred a more pro-growth strategy to create much-needed jobs.

Tunisia's 2011 revolution, which sparked similar uprisings across the Middle East, was, in part, fueled by high unemployment rates, which a year and a half later have yet to be addressed.

Nabli will be replaced by 79-year-old Chedly Ayari, who served as economy minister in the 1970s under former President Habib Bourguiba. He later headed the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa.