Angola - Domestic policy



President dos Santos has all but achieved his chief domestic policy objectives: the elimination of Jonas Savimbi and the demise of UNITA as a military entity. His generals' strategy to divide, isolate, and weaken the UNITA military leadership proved successful. However, with Savimbi off the scene and a settlement with UNITA according to the Lusaka Protocol imminent, dos Santos will no longer be able to distract attention from his failed economic and development policies with war. His decision to step down before the next election indicates a growing lack of support for his regime.

Dos Santos must face the prospect of rebuilding a war-torn, impoverished country. Agricultural production has not yet returned to preindependence levels, and because of huge crop shortfalls, massive food imports are required to feed the nation. Diamond and coffee production have fallen off, and as a result, foreign exchange earnings have declined. Transportation links are seriously damaged. Many areas in the country have no health facilities or access to medical care. Inflation was 110% in 2001, down from over 300% in 2000. Sixty-three percent of urban households live in poverty, and nearly 90% have no security of tenure or access to land. Angola's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), a requirement for International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance, was sent back to the Angolan government for revision because of its emphasis on large-scale infrastructure projects like dams and bridges instead of basic social welfare needs such as health and education.

Without the veil of war, dos Santos and his administration will open themselves to greater budget scrutiny by the IMF and other donors. Reports allege discrepancies in oil receipts for the year 2000 between US $557 million and US $1.6 billion. Dos Santos and his administration have been accused of concealing embezzlement through off-budget expenditures and opaque financial disclosures. Further, it is widely believed that the regime engaged in money laundering and unauthorized arms trafficking worth US $600 million with a French company. It is estimated that dos Santos personally has amassed a fortune of US $6 billion, while millions of Angolans are malnourished.

Given this past, dos Santos's departure is contingent upon a successor who can be trusted not to prosecute him, especially for the large-scale diversion of state funds under his rule. For insurance, he is expected to pick a hardline senior party leader who will permit dos Santos to run a shadow government behind the scenes if necessary. As Angola's second president, dos Santos will leave a legacy that includes 22 years of civil war and the unabashed plundering of public resources by a small elite that impoverished millions.

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