Abdoulaye Wade inherited a public larder nearly bare, and a government apparatus beset by corruption. Between 1988 and 1992, Senegal lost some 9,000 jobs due to structural adjustment, and urban unemployment rose to levels between 20% and 30%. After three years in office, his record in meeting these challenges has been mixed.
The IMF has been less than satisfied with the government's performance in meeting key commitments, especially in privatizing Senelec and groundnuts production, both heavily state-regulated, and indebted. Based on Senegal's highly participatory poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP), however, which was submitted on schedule to the IMF and the World Bank in December 2001, and given Wade's acceptable economic record, the IMF was expected to offer a new three-year poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) by mid-2003. In addition, reforms of the groundnut and energy sectors were aimed to help Senegal to reach the completion point under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative in the second half of 2003. Approximately 80% of the population is employed in agriculture, and Wade has insisted that he will not privitize Senelec until he receives an offer he considers to be in Senegal's favor. Following a disappointing economic performance in 2002, real GDP was expected to grow by 6.3% in 2003 and 5.9% in 2004 owing to a rapid recovery of agricultural output, robust expansion in mining and manufacturing, and the beginning of large infrastructure works.
In terms of political reforms, Wade announced in his New Year address that he would create an Anti-Corruption Commission and an Advisory Council of the Republic. This announcement followed a cabinet reshuffle in November 2002, which included the appointment of Idrissa Seck, the deputy in Wade's PDS, as prime minister. Seck's appointment marks the first time since March 2000 that both the president and prime minister are from the same party. Seck gave a well-received policy speech to Parliament in February 2003 that offered a number of economic and social initiatives to curb rising unemployment and to raise rural incomes, issues that have largely gone unresolved despite Wade's earlier pledges. Some of the policy drift could be explained by the traumatic sinking of the ferry Joola in September 2002 where some 1,800 lives were lost. On the other hand, the tragedy resulted in Cabinet shake-ups as Wade sought to limit the political damage from the overloaded ferry.
A persistent challenge for Wade is to move his domestic policy agenda ahead while fending off potentially damaging public backlash and social unrest over the slow pace of development. In the run-up to the 12 May 2002 local elections, Wade's critics in the Cadre Permanent de Concertation (CPC) criticized his government as corrupt, nepotistic, and opaque, neglectful of rural populations, and unresponsive to unmet student grievances. To offset the unpopularity of privatization reforms and the unresolved war in Casamance province, Wade seeks to jumpstart the economy and has promised increases in the investment rate of 20% in 2003 and 25% over the next three years.