TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali appointed new finance, defence and foreign affairs ministers in a major reshuffle of his government, the official TAP news agency reported on Thursday.
Ben Ali made a total of 11 ministerial changes and brought in several young technocrats, including the finance minister, in the reshuffle which one analyst said showed he was committed to reforming the economy.
Changes in the government line-up were widely expected since Ben Ali, 73, who has been in office for 23 years and dominates Tunisia’s political landscape, usually announces a reshuffle after he is elected to a new term.
Ben Ali won a fifth term in October last year with 89.62 percent of the vote, according to official figures.
Other appointments included a new minister for tourism, a crucial portfolio in the North African country which earns much of its revenue from foreign visitors.
Most senior ministers have been reassigned to new ministerial posts in the incoming cabinet, although outgoing Foreign Minister Abd El Waheb Abdullah, a close ally of the president for many years, leaves the government.
Influential Interior Minister, Rafik Bel Haj Kacem, and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, both keep their jobs.
The new cabinet has six people who have not previously held ministerial posts including the new finance minister, Mohamed Ridha Chalghoum.
Ben Ali has promised to reduce Tunisia’s 14 percent jobless rate and has committed to a series of measures to further liberalise the economy, which is one of the most open in the region to foreign investment.
He has said the dinar currency will be fully convertible from 2014 and his officials earlier this month announced they were speeding up privatisations this year.
Tunisian analyst Slah Jourchi said the reshuffle would advance Ben Ali’s plans for the economy. “The nomination of young new, technocratic ministers means he has the will to carry out economic reforms,” he said.