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CARTHAGE (TUNISIA), April 19- Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki announced on Friday his decision to voluntarily take a two-thirds pay cut as the government grapples with a financial situation it has described as “critical.”

“We are facing a financial and economic crisis. The state must be a model… That is why I have decided to lower the legal salary of the president of the republic to a third” of its current level, Marzouki said in a statement.

The Tunisian economy has suffered from the instability that followed

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the 2011 revolution, which toppled long-time autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the Arab Spring.

Presidential spokesman Adnane Mansar had said that Marzouki earned a gross monthly wage of 30,000 Tunisian dinars (around 13,600 euros), and a net income of 20,000 dinars (9,100 euros).

Marzouki, who has been head of state since late 2011, also said he had ordered further reductions in the expenses of the presidency.

Some Tunisian media have criticised the perceived excesses of the presidency, with much of the country still threatened by social conflict fuelled by poverty and high unemployment.

On Friday the World Bank approved a $100 million loan (72 million euros) to help small and medium sized businesses, seen as crucial to the economic recovery of Tunisia’s private sector.

It said there are 624,000 such businesses in Tunisia, employing around 1.2 million people, who make up an estimated 44 percent of the workforce in the formal private sector.

The government said last week that the country’s public finances were in such a critical state that it had resorted to “exceptional measures” to ensure that April wages were paid.

In January, the International Monetary Fund released more than $500 million, part of a $1.76 billion loan to support Tunisia, shortly after a new technocratic government was sworn in under a deal to end months of political instability.

Attending, Friday, a ceremony marking the celebration of the 58th anniversary of the Interior Security Forces, Marzouki asserted support to Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa’s call to launch a national underwriting through which Tunisians will express their will to help themselves and in which businessmen will take part in a clear way.

He specified that the Presidency of the Republic had started in co-ordination with the Prime Ministry a set of diplomatic actions to find solutions imposed by reality, even provisional.

“The real solution to come out of the crisis should primarily be from the inside, providing for the unity of all sides, their cohesion and will to work and sacrifice,” President Marzouki pointed out.

“Poor and middle-class categories should not assume the large share of required sacrifices,” he specified.

The ceremony was attended by National Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar and Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

SOURCE: ALLAFRICA