Youths collect dates from palm trees at a farm in Jemna in southern Tunisia. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
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After seven years with no job, the mechanics graduate had had enough.The phosphate industry provides money for the government but few local jobs.In Tunis, protesters have camped for months outside one ministry to demand work.The budget deficit will creep up from 5 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent this year, mostly due to public wages.Approving a $2.9 billion loan in September, the IMF praised Tunisia for streamlining bureaucracy and promoting the private sector, but said attempts to tackle public wages and control spending were falling behind.Foreign debt payments of $3 billion loom next year, the public hiring freeze is meeting union resistance and new taxes are testing the patience of Tunisians who already say the government has done too little too late.A sector that makes up 8 percent of the economy was badly damaged and is still recovering.After promising a hard line with protesters, Chahed proved more pliant. He has revived around 70 percent of phosphate production after ending other protests and announcing the hiring of nearly 3,000 more workers at state-run Gafsa Phosphate. The government seems reluctant to crack down on a town that once rebelled against Ben Ali in 2008 .Two hours' drive away, in the oasis town of Jemna, locals took economic matters into their own hands during the 2011 revolution by claiming control of a 180-hectare state-run date palm plantation.
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