Togo - Domestic policy



Eyadéma has consolidated his power through strategic control over political processes and institutions. In 2002, the RPT-dominated Parliament revised the Constitution and strengthened electoral laws in Eyadéma's favor making certain that no real political threat could arise from the President's opponents. Indeed, political space for civil society and political opposition has shrunk, suggesting that he has no intention of relinquishing power. The French NGO, Reporteurs sans Frontières, ranked Togo 97th out of 139 countries in terms of press freedom, compared with Benin ranked 21st. With eligibility requirements for president lowered to 35 years, it will be possible for Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbe to succeed his father should the elder step down. It has been rumored that Gnassingbe may become speaker of the Parliament and replace his father as head of the RPT. Although Eyadéma has enjoyed loyal support from the army, dissension among junior officers poses a threat to his tenure.

Failure to meet payments on external debts broke off World Bank project assistance in January 2003. Therefore, Eyadéma's economic policy will aim to restore external financial support and a poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) with the IMF. A successful PRGF would allow Togo to be considered for debt relief under the IMF-World Bank's heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative, a prize that Eyadéma does not want to miss. Togo has been a student of IMF policy recommendations and has made progress in stabilizing public finances, particularly in privatizing public banks and phosphate operations. Although Togo failed to meet all of the eight convergence criteria for UEMOA (public revenues versus public spending, etc.), the 2003 budget appears disciplined enough in spending and revenue enhancement within the context of poverty alleviation to win IMF approval. However, Eyadéma may have to satisfy EU demands for democracy reforms as conditions for external funding to support structural reforms. Nevertheless, donor displeasure with Eyadéma's authoritarianism is unlikely to stand in the way of approval of the PRGF by end-2003, which would be a major victory for Africa's senior head of state.

In January, Eyadéma along with heads of state from Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria, signed a 20-year protocol paving the way for the development of the $500 million West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP) scheduled to come on-stream in 2005. The submarine pipeline will carry Nigerian natural gas mainly for power production to three countries, and is expected to cost one-third less than hydro-electric power. Togo will absorb 9% of the gas supply, thereby reducing business costs, and alleviating energy and environmental pressures on its limited power resource base.

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