Gbagbo established an ambitious domestic program emphasizing the rebuilding of political, cultural, social, and economic institutions and defense and national security. Nevertheless, he faces major political and economic challenges. Gbagbo must help bring an end to the political crisis that began in September 2002, and work with rebel leaders. He must also continue to pay attention to trade unions, which are disgruntled with wages. Some of Gbagbo's priorities are to contain trade union strikes and dissatisfaction in certain branches of the military over wages and favoritism.
Given social unrest especially among union workers and the armed forces, Gbagbo had to balance economic reforms with social spending and wage increases. The government has already reformed electric and oil utilities, and has begun to pay off domestic and international debt arrears. It needs to liberalize the oil sector, privatize key public systems, and reorganize the coffee and cocoa sectors.
When it comes to the economy, however, the reconciliation government has an uphill task ahead of it. In only six months of civil war (September 2002–February 2003), the damage to the country's economy was immense. Hundreds of small businesses, in services, manufacturing, and agriculture, have been severely disrupted or are bankrupt. In the northern part of the country, the sugar cane and cotton agribusinesses suffered production and export disturbances. The quality of cocoa beans dropped, and producers began to sell the 2003 harvest to buyers from Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso instead of on the local market. Thousands of workers were out of jobs, and the road and rail transportation networks between north and south were severely disrupted and damaged. The growth rate for Côte d'Ivoire was expected to be -3.5% in 2003, even worse that the -2.5% experienced in 2002.