Congo, Republic of the - Domestic policy



Sassou-Nguesso has vowed that his highest priorities are to implement economic reform, reduce poverty, and tackle unemployment. Such attention to the economy is absolutely necessary for a nation that has been crippled by nearly a decade of civil war. More than 80% of the population was urban-based prior to the fighting in 1997; as former residents trickle back from neighboring Gabon, Cameroon, and Angola (where they fled during the fighting), they have been faced with rebuilding homes destroyed in the war and to living without the most basic of services. The economic infrastructure, from roads to sanitation and beyond, has been devastated. Since 2000, the government has been working on a program of economic and structural reforms with the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The IMF, however, has been disappointed in the slow progress made on many projects. They have demanded a greater degree of openness and accountability from authorities in charge of the petroleum industry, tighter controls over the treasury, and a push for greater progress in the privatization of the railways, water, and electricity sectors. In June 2002, the IMF warned Nguesso to keep his election pledges of openness and reform.

Oil production, the country's economic mainstay, will continue to be instrumental in rebuilding the nation, but oil revenues are subject to the vagaries of the world commodities market and can fluctuate widely with demand. Further complicating the situation is the fact that oil production is centered in the south, Lissouba's stronghold. From exile, Lissouba and Kolelas have both issued statements refusing to accept Sassou-Nguesso's election. The instability in the region due to the lingering civil war could lead to the government losing control of its most significant source of revenue. Thus, Sassou-Nguesso's economic agenda will be driven at least in part by his need to maintain political peace with opposition parties.

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