Saudi Arabia to give Tunisia $500 million loan

Advisor to Tunisian President says Tunisia will announce in few days important deals with Saudi Arabia, including loan with low interest rate, agreements on investment, other important details.

TUNIS - Saudi Arabia will give Tunisia a $500 million loan at a favourable interest rate, a source told Reuters on Wednesday, a day after a visit from the Saudi crown prince that drew Tunisian protests.

The crown prince was received Tuesday by President Beji Caid Essebsi, who awarded him the republic's medal, the highest official award. Tunisia has struggled economically and is hungry for foreign funding.

"Tunisia will announce in a few days important deals with Saudi, including a loan with low interest rate, agreements on investment and other important details," Nourredine Ben Ticha, an advisor to the president, told state television.

Tunisia is struggling to cut its budget deficit, stabilise falling foreign currency reserves and manage expectations of international lenders demanding reforms such as trimming the public wage bill.

Tunisia’s economy has been in turmoil since autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a 2011 uprising sparked by anger at unemployment, poverty and record levels of inflation.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has aimed to cut the budget deficit to about 4.9 percent of GDP this year from 6.2 percent last year.

The crown prince told Tunisian state television that Saudi Arabia has long had good relations with Tunisia, adding, "I cannot come to North Africa without visiting Tunisia...Tunisia’s president is like my father."