Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked Prime Minister Najla Bouden without explanation Tuesday night and replaced her with former central bank executive Ahmed Hachani, whom he tasked with overcoming the “colossal challenges” facing the cash-strapped North African country. No official explanation was given for Bouden’s dismissal, but several local media outlets highlighted Saied’s displeasure over a number of shortages, particularly of bread in state-subsidised bakeries. Saied “terminated the functions” of Bouden, who had been the first woman to head a government in Tunisia, according to a press release and video released by the presidency shortly before midnight. Saied immediately appointed in her place Hachani, who until now worked at the Tunisian central bank and studied law at the University of Tunis, where Saied taught, according to Hachani’s Facebook profile. The new head of government, a figure unknown to the general public, was sworn in before the president, according to the presidency video. At the end of the ceremony, Saied wished him “good luck in this responsibility”. The president stressed that “there are colossal challenges that we must overcome with a solid and strong will, in order to protect our homeland, our state and social peace”. In recent days, several meetings have taken place within the government and between the president and ministers over the problem of shortages of subsidised bread in several regions. According to media, Saied, who recently said “bread is a red line for Tunisians”, fears a repeat of the bread riots that left 150 dead in 1984 under Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence. Faced with a low-wage economy, the Tunisian state has since the 1970s centralised the purchase of a large number of basic ingredients such as flour, semolina, sugar, coffee and cooking oil, before putting them on the market at subsidised prices. The country has been facing sporadic shortages of these products for months, linked, according to economists, to the requirement that suppliers be paid in advance, which Tunisia has had great difficulty doing. The North African country, which is saddled with a crippling public wage bill from a civil service that employs 680,000 of its 12 million citizens, is struggling with debt of around 80 percent of GDP and seeking foreign aid. Tunisia in October reached a tentative deal for a $1.9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund that would require Tunis to undertake a “comprehensive economic reform programme” that would phase out subsidies on fuel and electricity. The IMF has also called for legislation to restructure more than 100 state-owned firms, which hold monopolies over many parts of the economy and in many cases are heavily indebted. But hopes of securing the IMF bailout appear slim as President Kais Saied has repeatedly rejected “foreign diktats that will lead to more poverty”.