The development priorities of the Eritrean government are food security, the development of a market-style economy, and the privatization of formerly nationalized enterprises. Encouraging the return of Eritrean exiles abroad is also a government goal in the reconstruction effort. The Emergency and Recovery Action Program was launched in late 1991 to focus on recovery of the transportation system (roads, railroads, and port and airport facilities), agriculture and fishing (including reliable water sources), and industry. Plans for 2000 were to invest $1 billion over the following decade to upgrade infrastructure and utilities. Some estimates put food self-sufficiency for Eritrea within the decade, but drought conditions negate this forecast.
Regulatory requirements imposed by the government have discouraged investment in the early 2000s, as had the 1998–2000 war with Ethiopia. The port in Massawa was rehabilitated, and an airport constructed there. In 2003, the worst drought since Eritrea's independence threatened the lives of about a third of the population. Assistance from foreign donors was weak, and the country had to resort to borrowing to prevent starvation.