The World Bank’s board of executive directors has approved a $300m programme to improve the performance and governance of Tunisia’s municipalities.

The investment was signed off on 24 July and has been described by the Washington-based bank as “a first step toward supporting the Tunisian national priority of decentralisation”.

The programme forms part of a proposed $1.2bn financial package for Tunisia in 2014 and comes ahead of crucial elections scheduled in the country for October and November.

The World Bank says the programme will improve the ability of municipalities to make decisions and take a bigger role in local development. It also aims to increase “financial and managerial capacity”.

“This programme has a built-in incentive for local governments to raise their standards of service delivery and more fully engage their citizens, by providing progressive rewards for improved performance,” says Jaafar Sadok Friaa, World Bank task team leader for the programme.

“By including citizens in investment planning and making information on municipal actions available to all, this programme also aims to answer the equally strong demand for more voice and participation.”

Regions located away from Tunisia’s coastal cities have been historically marginalised and continue to suffer high unemployment and poverty rates. Inequality was one of the drivers behind the 2010 uprising in the country.

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