Benin - Domestic policy

Economic growth that benefits the entire population has been the major focus of the Kérékou administration. In fact, figures for 2001 show an estimated growth rate of 5.4% for the economy, improving slightly on the growth rate that averaged 5% from 1997–2001. During the presidential campaign, he repeatedly spoke about the need to alleviate the hardships of the average citizen brought forth by IMF controls over the national economy. While the campaign rhetoric won widespread support from a public that saw little or no benefit from IMF-imposed fiscal and monetary austerity, Kérékou created a dilemma. International agencies and donors expect him to continue the austere economic policies that toppled his predecessor. Increased privatization and severe limits on government spending led to debilitating strikes and huge losses of customs revenue.

Kérékou may also be losing popularity for having tightened libel laws. The Higher Audiovisual and Communication Authority (HAAC) authorized eight commercial and seven noncommercial radio stations along with one TV station and three satellite TV stations. The decision reflected the will of the 1991 National Conference to break the state monopoly on airwaves. However, stations must subscribe to the state-owned Benin News Agency (ABP), which distributes national and international news at exorbitant rates. Furthermore, under a new defamation law, journalists face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to US $17,000 for libel.

Finally, the government is beset by trafficking of children and by drug traffickers who operate with impunity despite a tough antitrafficking law enacted in 1997. Confusion over which government agency should enforce the law and how it should be enforced gives traffickers and money launderers free reign in the country. Heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are moved in moderate amounts through Cotonou, which serves as a transshipment point between Nigeria and the United States via Europe.

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