Niger - Future trends

On the political front, President Tandja faces militant unions who are demanding a year's salary arrears, and the opposition has become increasingly confrontational. A fashion fair has provoked Islamic fundamentalism. Political stability is still under threat as Tandja's government moves towards strong-arm tactics to clamp down on protests and civil disorder in 2001. Civil unrest serves to discourage both domestic and foreign investment, and strikes and demonstrations seriously impair economic progress.

Niger continues to participate in regional developments, such as the free trade initiatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UEMOA, but they will have limited impact as so little of Niger's trade is with neighboring countries.

The economy depends heavily on the fortunes of the agriculture sector and on the volume of the output of uranium, and the price received for it. With drought a chronic problem and minimal investment, it is to be expected that agriculture will continue to stagnate. There are no immediate prospects that the world will increase its demand for nuclear power, and the prospects are for a continuation of the depressed price for uranium and no significant increase in production from Niger's uranium sector. Niger faces the prospect of continuing economic stagnation and greater reliance on the international community for aid to maintain living standards at even their depressed current levels.

The IMF is hoping to approve new loans, but the government will struggle to meet the required conditions. The World Bank has approved a $35 million loan to help fiscal reforms and to cover the trade deficit. Inflation pressures will grow due to the increases in petroleum prices. Electricity cuts have been less frequent, but lack of rain may lead to food shortages following the 2000-01 season. In terms of international aid, the European Union has started disbursement of $48 million worth of loans, and other European countries have also begun significant disbursement of funds in Niger.

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