The decision to cut spending follows the government’s move in November to revise down the GDP growth forecast for 2002 to 1.9 per cent, from an earlier forecast of 4.9 per cent. The 2002 drought, leading to the worst harvest for half a century, was again blamed for the reduction.

Heavy rains in late 2002 auger well for Tunisia’s economy in 2003. The government expects agricultural output to expand by 12 per cent, compared to an 11 per cent projected decline in 2002, while exports are forecast to grow by 7.5 per cent after a projected 2.8 per cent decline in 2002. The strong recovery is expected to boost GDP by 5.5 per cent in 2003, setting the economy back on the path of growth.