TUNIS, Tunisia — More than 2,000 Tunisians rallied Sunday for the North African nation’s leaders to do away with punishing price hikes that triggered days of unrest and to respect the goals of the revolution that drove out the country’s autocratic ruler seven years ago.
To placate protesters angered by a new finance law raising prices of essential goods, Tunisian authorities announced plans to boost aid to the needy. The measures announced Saturday night weren’t enough for many of the people marking the revolution anniversary in the capital.
“We’re going to keep putting pressure on the government until the revision of the new finance law that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer,” Hamma Hammami, leader of the Popular Front, a coalition of leftist parties, told the crowd.
Demonstrations against the law degenerated into days of turmoil across Tunisia last week, leaving one person dead, scores injured and police stations and stores damaged or pillaged. Nearly 780 people were arrested.
On Sunday, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi inaugurated a youth center in a housing project outside Tunis that was a site of the recent unrest. The building, burned during the 2011 revolution, was renovated with private funds. Essebsi called it a “model.”
“The year 2018 will be marked by our focus on youth,” the 91-year-old president said, noting chronic joblessness in Tunisia, including for some 250,000 university graduates.
He announced the creation of a “solidarity fund” for needy families.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed is to allocate 100 million dinars (about $40 million) to help 200,000 of the neediest families plus free health care for the jobless, Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi announced after a Saturday night Cabinet meeting.
The Tunisian economy has struggled since President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile on Jan. 14, 2011, transforming the country into a budding democracy that inspired the Arab Spring — then defied it by being the only country to keep its transition peaceful.
But six governments later, loans weigh on the economy, extremist attacks have sapped the important tourism sector, and regions far from the capital, where the revolution was ignited, remain neglected.
The jobless rate is officially above 15 percent and stands above 25 percent in some regions, with vast areas of the interior still marginalized. With inflation officially above 6 percent, the 2018 finance law raising prices and adding new taxes brought people…