In the face of political and armed opposition, Déby has had to maintain his grip on power partly through military and repressive means. Four parties called for a boycott of the April 2002 legislative elections unless a new census was conducted with a revision of the voter lists. A European Union (EU) study in late 2001 confirmed that electoral revisions had given northern Chad, Déby's power base, disproportionate numbers. However, Déby was unlikely to conduct a new census for fear that the results would invalidate his victory at the polls in May 2001. To appease his opponents, he stated that he would respect the Constitution by stepping down in 2006, and while he succeeded in concluding a peace accord with the rebel group, Mouvement pour la démocratie et la justice au Tchad (Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad—MDJT), there was speculation that the fighting would resume and that security concerns in the south and east would persist.
Déby also moved to prevent the formation of a vocal Islamic opposition that became a source of unrest in the south. Of particular concern to church groups, were alleged links between new Muslim converts in the south of Chad with the Sudan. The Minister of the Interior published a decision in August 1996, dissolving all Islamic associations and designating the High Council of Islamic Affairs as the sole organization responsible for Islamic affairs in Chad.
In addition to his political challenges, Déby must find a way to invigorate a rural-based economy where more than 70% of the work force is engaged in agriculture. Infrastructure is poorly developed, making transport of people and goods very difficult and expensive. Due to drought in the 1980s, Chad was forced to import about 75% of its food, placing further strain on its ability to import needed equipment for infrastructure development. Manufacturing consists mainly of processing agricultural products, mostly cotton. Chad's cotton and sugar production and refining industries have been badly hurt by illicit imports from Nigeria. In fact, illicit trade makes it difficult to provide trade figures for the Chadian economy.
Given the large food deficits and political unrest, Déby's handling of economic and fiscal policies during 2001 was generally given favorable marks by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has undertaken measures to collect more taxes, to control expenditures, to audit customs and procurement processes for the oil bidding process, and to produce its poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP), which was scheduled to be submitted to the World Bank and IMF by May–June 2002. Thus, despite some lapses in performance, Chad's policies are presumed to be more or less on track by the Bretton Woods institutions. If they stay on track, the IMF would expect to see more spending in health, education, infrastructure, rural development and governance with an increase in tax surveillance and spending controls. Privatization of the cotton parastatal, Coton Chad, is underway and is indicative of efforts to reform the public sector.
Chad's energy sector holds promise for GDP growth and increased standards of living. The Sedigui oil and gas deposits north of Lake Chad could eventually produce electricity to power N'Djamena and industry. However, the demand for intermediate and capital goods spurred by the project has created a steep rise in imports. Despite this imbalance, Déby's policies overall are likely to help Chad alleviate its severe budget deficits through sustained donor lending and lower interest payments made possible under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative.