Protesters in southern Tunisia have closed another oil pumping station in the Kebili province, signaling that the months-long sit-ins and gatherings are nowhere near an end. The protests erupted soon after the 2011 Arab Spring revolution as Tunisia suffers high unemployment rates amid an economic transition following the uprising.
The protesters, whose activities have been peaceful so far, demand not just jobs, but also more transparency with regard to the North African country’s oil and gas wealth revenues distribution. Averaging 44,000 barrels per day, Tunisia is not a large oil producer, but it does produce oil, and according to the protesters, the money from the sales of this oil is not being distributed fairly, as much of it as there is: US$413 million (1 billion dinars) for 2016.
Earlier this month, the protesters shuttered production at two gas and condensate fields operated by French Perenco and the pumping station they shut off this weekend is also at a Perenco field. The army, which the government deployed to guard oil and gas fields earlier this month, did not interfere with the protesters’ actions, according to Tunisian media.
Besides oil and gas, the protesters were also targeting phosphate production sites—another major export revenue contributor for the Tunisian budget—but the government managed to strike a deal with them on this point, and production has begun to rise.
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Before the Arab Spring, Tunisian produced some 100,000 bpd of crude oil. Since then, production has more than halved thanks to the ongoing protests, driven mainly by young unemployed men believing that the revolution did not bring them the benefits they expected.
Tunisia has become a heavy borrower following the regime change, and the government is now trying to implement unpopular measures such as canceling free universal healthcare, on which its lenders insist. These measures are aggravating the situation with the protests, even though, as Reuters notes, Tunisia has been widely considered an exemplary transition economy.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.