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Qatar extends $1bn loan to cash-strapped Tunisia

Associated Press Published: April 25, 2012

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Qatar has offered Tunisia a $1 billion low interest loan to bolster the North African country's battered economy, Tunisia's presidential spokesman announced Wednesday.

The tiny gas-rich Gulf monarchy has also offered 20,000 job openings to Tunisia's myriad unemployed university graduates, added spokesman Adnan Mancer in remarks to journalists.

Tunisia's January 2011 overthrow of its long-serving dictator kicked off a wave of pro-democracy uprising across the region, but also dealt a devastating blow to an economy heavily reliant on tourism and foreign investment.

Tunisia's economy shrank by 1.8 percent in 2011 and its already high unemployment has soared to 19 percent, up from 14 percent, according to official figures. There are an estimated 750,000 unemployed in this country of 10 million, 200,000 of which hold university degrees.

Half of the loan, which will have an annual interest rate of 2.5 percent, will go straight to the central bank to shore up the country's assets, said Mancer.

The announcement comes after a visit by President Moncef Marzouki to the Gulf where he called for investment into the "new, democratic Tunisia." Kuwait has also promised new projects in Tunisia.

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