Guinea - Domestic policy

Since the mid-1980s, the government's domestic policies have aimed at reforming the public sector, improving transportation and communications infrastructure, and stabilizing the energy sector.

Conté's economic growth policy continues to rely on Guinea's vast mineral resources, which include two-thirds of the world's known bauxite deposits. Bauxite accounts for 95% of the export revenue, estimated at US $165 million per year. Russia maintains an interest in the Kindia bauxite mines, while U.S.-based consortia hold managing interests in the Kamsar and Fria mining complexes. In early 2003, the government contracted with Rio Tinto, a minerals company based in the United Kingdom. Pending approval from the National Assembly, Rio Tinto will be granted a 50-year permit through its subsidiary Simfer to work the Simandou iron ore fields in southeast Guinea. Mining of the estimated 1,000-metric-ton reserve of high-grade haematite is expected to produce some 20 to 40 metric tons annually. In addition, Anglo-Australian BHP-Billiton is exploring iron ore reserves around Mount Nimba on the Liberian border.

Despite the fact that two hydroelectric dams came on-line in recent years at Garifiri, Conakry continues to experience power outages often lasting from early morning to midnight. Popular protests to these outages and higher crime rates resulting from them have encouraged opposition to the Conté administration and have required increased police response. To remedy energy shortages, the government will be pressured to seek financing for as many as three potential hydroelectric dams, and over the long term envisions a connection to the West African Power Pool.

As rumors of Conté's ill health fuel speculation about the future of the country, the president will stay focused on sending signals to would-be pretenders to the presidency that he is fit and able to rule. Just before flying to Rabat, Morocco, in December 2002, he reshuffled his cabinet to remind his competitors that he was fully in charge. Such messages are important because rumors of his weakening physical health are fueled whenever the first lady turns away government visitors at Moussaya so that the president can rest. The rumors have not stopped the president's backers, the Coordination of the Presidential Majority (CMP), which groups the ruling PUP with two smaller parties, from announcing his candidacy. The opposition, led by Mamadou Bâ and former prime minister Sidya Touré, has regrouped under the banner of the Front Républicain pour l'Alternance Démocratique (FRAD). The FRAD has denounced mismanagement and corruption, and has called once again for free and fair elections.

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