Fathi Chamkhi, deputy of the Popular Front and spokesman of the RAID-ATTAC-CADTM association, on June 14 filed a law proposal at the registry for the Assembly of People's Representatives, a bill that would create a commission for truth about the Tunisian public debt, backed by more than 70 parliamentarians from several groups.
Here is the text of the proposal.
Proposed law No. .................../2016
Concerning the audit of the Tunisian public debt
Tunisia has, since the eighties of last century, seen the rapid growth of public debt, without this being accompanied by an improvement in the overall performance of the economy and the living conditions of the Tunisian people, despite increasing the burden of debt that the national community must support.
The ratio of public debt reached 53.4% of GDP in 2016, compared to 40.5% in 2010. Debt servicing remains the first expenditure of the state budget. In 2016, it amounted to 5.13 billion dinars, or 21.4% of the budget (excluding debt service), or 25% of tax revenues of the state. This represents nine cumulative budgets: health, social welfare, vocational training and employment, development and investment, transport, culture, environment and sustainable development, women and children, tourism.
It should be noted that public debt increased until 2010, under a despotic regime that has subjected to its absolute power and its own interests, far from any transparency or democratic control mechanism, all the institutions of the State, including those responsible for the mobilisation of new loans and those managing debt money.
Moreover, the post-revolutionary period is characterised, first, by accelerating the pace of public debt and, second, by the general deterioration of all economic and social indicators, increased general instability and the worsening of security hazards, including the proliferation of terrorist attacks. It should also be noted that many of the loans after the revolution were used for repayment of debt accumulated during the dictatorship.
The success of social change, demanded by the Tunisian people through the revolution, requires consideration of the debt system, both in its questioning and clarification through the audit. This is intended to strengthen the foundations of democracy, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of all citizens, to avoid the same mistakes that accompanied the evolution of the debt, so the loans are finally used to actually support national development efforts.
Proposed law relating to the audit of the Tunisian public debt
In the name of the people
After approval of the Assembly of People's Representatives
The President of the Republic promulgates the following law.
Chapter I - General Provisions
Article I - The law establishes the rules and arrangements concerning the audit of the external and internal Tunisian public debt and the debt of public and private companies guaranteed by the State.
Article 2 - For the purposes of this act, we understand by:
1- Audit, the work of examining comprehensively and thoroughly all public debt and debt guaranteed by the state.
2- Odious debt:
- Debt that was contracted in violation of democratic principles (including consent, participation, transparency and accountability), and was used against the supreme interests of the Tunisian people,
- Or debt whose consequences deny the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the population if the creditor knows or is able to know of the above.
3- Illegitimate debt:
- Debt that the debtor cannot be forced to repay, and where the loan, financial security, guarantee or terms and conditions attached to the loan are contrary to law (both national and international) or the general interest, or because these terms and conditions are manifestly unfair, abusive or unacceptable
- Or a loan the conditions of which contain policy measures that violate national law or human rights standards,
- Or a loan whose guarantee is not used to benefit the population,
- Or because the debt is the product of a private (or commercial) debt conversion to public debt under pressure from creditors.
4- Illegal debt:
- Debt for which the legal procedures (including those concerning the authority to ratify loans or approve loans or guarantees for the organisation or organisations representing the government of the debtor State) have not been respected,
- Or debt involving serious misconduct on the part of the creditor (eg, use of bribery, threats or undue influence)
- Or debt incurred in violation of national or international law or which contains contravention of national and international law.
5- Unsustainable debt:
- Debt that cannot be honoured without a grave offense against the ability of the debtor State to fulfil its obligations regarding fundamental human rights, such as those in the area of education, food, health care, provision of adequate housing, or to invest in public infrastructure and programs needed for economic and social development,
- Or debt whose repayment will result in adverse consequences for the Tunisian people, including the deterioration of their living standards.
Chapter 2 - The objectives of the audit of public debt
Article 3 - The audit of the public debt has the following objectives:
- Determine the causes that led to the increase in debt and the impact of the conditions on the rights of Tunisian citizens and their living conditions,
- Determine the share of public debt can be considered odious, illegal, illegitimate or unsustainable,
- Promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds,
- Formulate arguments and requests for cancellation of public debt which the audit to provide evidence of their heinous, illegal, illegitimate and unsustainable,
- Ensure that future borrowings will be contracted on the basis of the prior approval of the Assembly of People's Representatives.
Chapter 3 - Field of the audit of public debt
Article 4 - All lending agreements contracted by the Tunisian State since July 1986 are subject to audit to determine the part that can be described as odious, illegal, illegitimate and unsustainable.
Article 5 - The audit of the public debt will continue for a period not exceeding eighteen months, starting from the date of the implementation of structures that are responsible for the operation of the audit.
Chapter 4 - Committee for the truth about the Tunisian public debt
Article 6 - There shall be a committee called "Committee for Truth on the Tunisian public debt" which will be responsible for auditing the Tunisian public debt, as provided for by this Act.
Article 7 - The above mentioned Committee has administrative and financial autonomy. It is based in Tunis.
The Committee for the truth about the Tunisian government debt is allocated a budget. This budget is integrated into the general state budget.
Article 8 - The above mentioned Committee is composed of twenty-one members who will elect from among themselves with a simple majority a President, a Vice President, a reporter, a vice reporter, a treasurer and a vice treasurer.
Article 9 - The members of the Committee for Truth on the Tunisian public debt will be designated as follows:
- Five members of the Assembly of People's Representatives, three of which are required to be members of the parliamentary opposition,
- One member representing each of the following bodies: the Court of Auditors, the Administrative Court, the highest court for administrative and financial control and the national body for the fight against corruption
- Eight members of social and human rights organisations known for their integrity, their skills and experience in the audit of public debt,
- Four foreign members known for their integrity and expertise in the field of auditing of public debt, and their independence vis-à-vis creditors.
Article 10 - The members of the committee for the truth of the Tunisian public debt, members of the Assembly of People's Representatives, are elected at a plenary session pursuant to Article 9.
The Audit Court, the Administrative Court, the highest court for administrative and financial control and the national body for the fight against corruption each appoint a permanent representative on the committee.
Members of the Assembly of People's Representatives set after their election to the Committee for truth about the Tunisian government debt, the conditions for joining the Skills Committee, Tunisians and foreigners, in the social and human rights domain. They will choose by consensus, or by resorting to a vote, the Committee, as provided by Article 9.
Article 11 - The Committee may form specialised working groups, whose work should be chaired by one of its members. It can also enlist the help of skilled and experienced people outside members of the Committee.
The members of the Audit Committee and the skilled people they enlist the help of, receive no salary or bonus for their work.
Article 12 - The Committee defines its working methodology and sets its agenda.
The Committee is particularly interested in the audit to agreements and contracts, and other documents, which were the foundation for debts and secured borrowings and final delays, this in order to:
- Determine whether the constitution or the laws have been respected,
- Check if there are cases of embezzlement, acquisition or commission, or privileges, or other benefits to the parties representing the Tunisian State during the conclusion of contracts,
- Study the causes of the increase of the Tunisian public debt after January 14, 2011
- Determine the share of public debt that can be described as illegitimate, illegal, odious or unsustainable,
- Assess the impact of conditionalities of economic reform programs on the rights of citizens and their living conditions.
Article 13 - The Committee will have, in order to perform its tasks:
- Right of access to all documents and data that relate to the subject of public debts,
- Right to request explanations from any official who has any involvement in the subject of public debt,
- Right of access to all projects carried out with money from the debt which is the subject of the audit.
Article 14 - The President of the Committee represents the Committee to all institutions, national and international commissions and organisations. Likewise the President will represent the Committee in the courts.
The President will sign agreements and contracts of all kinds, including those relating to the recruitment of agents. Staff recruited by the Committee are subject to the provisions which regulate public service.
Article 15 - The President of the Committee is the authorising officer and the one who manages the funds made available to the Committee, by signing with the treasurer.
Chapter 5 - Final provisions
Article 16 - Government structures and departments will provide support to the Committee to facilitate its work, and will provide all requested documents and information.
Article 17 - At the end of its work, the Committee will submit a written report to the President of the Assembly of People's Representatives, as well as the presidents of the Republic and the government. This report necessarily includes an addendum containing a summary of findings, conclusions and recommendations.
The Committee will also submit a preliminary report to the President of the Assembly of People's Representatives, nine months after the start of its work.
Both reports should be published on all official sites in order to allow citizens to consult them.
This law shall be published in the Official Journal of the Tunisian Republic and executed as state law.
►Read press release The CADTM network supports the bill relating to the audit of the public debt that has just been submitted to the Tunisian parliament