Monday 20 November 2017

Protests in Benin over economic reforms

Protests in Benin over economic reforms
(AFP (eng) 10/20/17)
Illustration

Thousands of people took to the streets of Benin's commercial capital Cotonou on Friday to protest against President Patrice Talon's economic reforms and the high cost of living.

One of the organisers said "more than 10,000" people turned out for the march to the trades union congress building. No official figure was immediately available.

The head of the main workers' union in Benin, Nagnini Kassa Mampo, told the crowd: "Public hospitals will soon be privatised, repeated strikes in the education and many other sectors don't seem to concern President Talon."

He complained that the cost of living had risen but salaries had remained the same while taxation was high.

Another union leader, Noel Chadare, said there was an "urgent need" to act against a government "which has decided to sell off everything in the country".

Benin has been hit by a wave of public sector strikes, particularly against what critics have called "unbridled privatisation" and budget cuts.

Industrial action by health workers has brought hospitals to a standstill in recent months while court service workers walked out for two days this week in protest at working conditions.

Talon, a businessman who made his fortune in cotton, was elected in April last year, defeating former head of state Thomas Boni Yayi's candidate, prime minister Lionel Zinsou.

Zinsou, who quit his job as the head of one of Europe's biggest investment banks when he was nominated prime minister in 2015, was widely tipped to win.

Since then, Talon has sought to introduce reforms to turn around the country's slowing economy, which is largely dependent on trade with its larger eastern neighbour Nigeria.

But his free-market policies have caused widespread concern and criticism.

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