Cameroon - Domestic policy



Biya faces severe domestic constraints, exacerbated by the political chaos following the 1997 elections. There are continuing protests over human rights violations, opposition demands for an independent electoral commission, and secessionist efforts from Anglophone elements. However, Biya has managed to stitch and hold together a coalition bridging the north–south divide, and he has shuffled his cabinet twice—in March 2000 and April 2001. Given divisions in the opposition, and Cameroon's economic upturn and eligibility for debt relief under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative, the ruling party had no problem winning the June 2002 local and legislative elections resoundingly. The government will be expected to maintain a tight grip on the military, judiciary, and the media.

Compared with gloomy economic performance of late, Biya's economic and fiscal policies since 2000 have met International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidelines with all sectors showing sustained activity. Real GDP growth reached 5.5% in the fiscal year 2000–01 and oil exploration in the Logone– Birni basin has shown promising results. Oil prices were expected to rise to US $20.5 per barrel, improving Cameroon's economic prospects. The CFA franc , pegged to the euro, was expected to remain weak, further benefiting exports. The construction of the Chad-Cameroon 1,050-km (652-mi) buried pipeline to the port of Kribi on the Atlantic coast was expected to keep GDP through 2003 at above 5%. Access fees alone from the pipeline will bring millions of dollars each year to the Cameroon treasury.

Biya will continue to clean up Cameroon's reputation as one of the least transparent countries in the world by cooperating with the IMF on improving governance and privatization. The three-year enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) approved by the IMF in August 1997 was considered successful and paved the way for the next three-year ESAF in 2003. To comply with IMF standards, anticorruption units must be established in 10 ministries, public procurement must be reformed, the judiciary and public spending must be audited, and several utilities and agro-industrial corporations must be privatized. New legal regulations by the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) on microfinancial institutions were expected to improve the performance of Cameroon's 650 microfinance organizations and help their 600,000 customers.

Cameroon's government is also in danger of slipping back into one-party dominance. In 2003, Biya's party holds 149 of the 180 parliamentary seats, up from 89 seats in 1992. The National Union for Democracy and Progress, (UNDP), formerly the largest opposition party, now controls only one seat.

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