THE man who would be president of this once-thriving but now struggling one-party state is a history professor with a political prison record. ``You need opposition parties who can constantly criticize actions of the government to enable the government to perform better,'' says Laurent Gbagbo.
From his days as a high school student and during his university studies, Mr. Gbagbo agitated for more than one political party.
For opposing the government, he was sent to jail for two weeks in 1969 and two years in prison from 1971 to 1973. Fearing arrest, he fled the country in 1982, but returned in 1988 to secretly found the Popular Ivorian Front.
In a recent interview with the Monitor, Gbagbo, married and the father of four daughters, now makes several proposals for stimulating the economy: --Rely heavily on the free-market system, working with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. --Manage the foreign debt by:
1.Negotiating a moratorium on payment of external debt. --Help to compensate for low world prices for cocoa and coffee by:
1.Paying farmers a percentage of the world price. This would give them a fairer share of the money the government takes in from selling these crops abroad, he said.
2.Beginning local processing of these products to gain additional income from the sale of processed as opposed to raw materials.
3.Bargaining with the importers to accept the processed products, and not blocking them with high tariffs.
4.Giving farmers greater access to information on world-market prices, and reducing the government bureaucracy that buys and sells these crops.
A lesser-known party, the National Socialist Party, proposes that the Ivorian government and private citizens purchase the majority of shares in banks and major industries.