President Obama announced on Friday that the U.S. will provide $500 million in new loan guarantees to help Tunisia revive an economy that continues to struggle more than three years after the Arab Spring began there, USA Today reported.
The loan guarantee will allow Tunisia to get financing in the international capital markets at favorable rates.
"The United States has a huge investment in making sure that Tunisia's experiment is successful," Obama said in announcing the loan guarantees. "And we want nothing more than Tunisians to determine their own destiny, for the economic reforms to take place to allow Tunisia to be not just self-sufficient but thriving in the world economy."
The announcement came as Obama met with Tunisia's interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa in the Oval Office. Since the January 2011 revolution, the U.S. has committed more than $400 million in direct support to Tunisia's transition, according to the White House.
The Obama administration also previously backed a $485 million loan guarantee to Tunisia in 2012.
While Tunisia has proven to be perhaps the most politically stable of the countries at the center of the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, its economy is hurting.
Tunisia's economy grew in 2013 at 2.4%, which is unusually low for the region, and unemployment is at least 15%. Tunisia also has a budget deficit that could be as high as $3 billion.
Ahead of his meeting with Obama, Jomaa made it known that he would be pressing Obama for much-needed cash to help fix Tunisia's faltering economy.
With Obama by his side, Jomaa said that "the birth of our new constitution was somewhat difficult" but that the country now needs "to focus on the future, on creating a new future for our youth."
Following their meeting, Obama and Jomaa met with 10 Tunisian students studying in the United States as part of the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program.
Jomaa also met with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who praised the political transition Tunisia has made as well as the country's efforts to implement economic reforms.
"Economic stability is key to political stability," Lew said. "This loan guarantee will complement the efforts of the Tunisian government to provide economic opportunities for the people of Tunisia, and will be important to the region."
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