Liberia - Domestic policy

Taylor's policies have been disastrous for the average Liberian and have put the country on a war economy footing. Despite his promises to rehabilitate the social sector, to rebuild basic infrastructure, to energize the economy, and to restore peace and order, some 130,000 Liberians are displaced, Monrovia has no public supply of power, and what humanitarian assistance there is donors provide. Owing to war, UN sanctions, and instability, the economy shrunk by 5% in 2002, and was expected to contract by 8% in 2003. Half of the budget was spent on the war, which caused an inflationary growth in the money supply. Fees at the University of Liberia have doubled. In light of unpaid interest and principle arrears, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not resumed its assistance. Barter and trade characterize the economy, while the smuggling of gold, diamonds, and other commodities is commonplace. Ness Energy International, owned by a U.S.based evangelist, is reported to be interested in exploiting oil and gas off the Liberian coast. Critics fear that these resources would be monopolized by Taylor much like Liberia's tropical forests, which Taylor has dubbed his "pepper bush."

Taylor's main preoccupation lies with prosecuting the war against the LURD, which finances its operations from diamonds in Lofa County, and possibly receives funding from backers in Guinea and the United States. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of the country is under rebel control. Although Taylor has hired ex-RUF fighters, and has thrown his elite Anti-Terrorist Unit forces against the LURD, the rebels appear determined to rid the country of Taylor, whom they have declared "a national and regional menace."

Despite the opposition's grievances, Taylor insists that elections will take place in October 2003. One opposition prerequisite is a national census, which requires far more preparation for implementation than the calendar allows. Should Taylor push ahead with the timetable, he is almost certain to win and his ruling National Patriotic Party will maintain a majority in the legislature. Taylor's strategy therefore is to raise the level of donor confidence in his government so as to attract funding from the United States and the European Union (EU) in the preparation phases of the forthcoming elections. However, given the advantages of the incumbent, there is little chance that the elections will be credible. Because egregiously fraudulent results will do further damage to Taylor, he is likely to resort to intimidation and manipulation before polling day to win international approval for the eventual results.

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