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Since the 1800s, plantation agriculture has dominated the economy of Sao Tome and Principe. At the time of independence, Portuguese-owned plantations occupied 90% of the cultivated area. After independence, control of these plantations passed to various state-owned agricultural enterprises, which have since been privatized. The dominant crop on Sao Tome is cocoa, representing about 95% of exports. Other export crops include copra (a coconut product), palm kernels, and coffee. With export crops the focus of agricultural production, domestic food-crops are inadequate to meet local consumption, resulting in the need for food imports. Foreign donors are financing projects to expand food production, which now includes bananas, beans, cinnamon, and pepper. Cultivated land amounts to 484 sq. kilometers of the country’s roughly 1,000 sq. kilometers, even though agriculture accounted for only 14% of GDP in 2009. Other than agriculture, the main economic activities center on fishing and a small industrial sector engaged in light construction, processing local agricultural products, and producing a few basic consumer goods such as clothing, soap, beer, and palm oil. The scenic islands have potential for tourism, and the government is attempting to improve its rudimentary tourist industry infrastructure. The government sector accounts for about 11% of employment. Following independence, the country had a centrally directed economy with most means of production owned and controlled by the state. The original constitution guaranteed a 'mixed economy' with privately owned cooperatives combined with publicly owned property and means of production. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, the economy of Sao Tome encountered major difficulties. Efforts to redistribute plantation land resulted in decreased cocoa production while at the same time the international price of cocoa slumped. Economic growth stagnated, and cocoa exports dropped in both value and volume creating large balance-of-payments deficits. In response to the economic downturn, the government undertook a series of far-reaching economic reforms. In 1987, the government implemented an International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment program and invited greater private participation in management of the state corporations (parastatals), as well as in the agricultural, commercial, banking, and tourism sectors. The focus of economic reform since the early 1990s has been widespread privatization, especially of the state-run agricultural and industrial sectors. The Sao Tomean Government has traditionally relied on foreign assistance from various donors, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, the European Union (EU), Portugal, Taiwan, and the African Development Bank (AFDB). Sao Tome qualified for debt relief when it reached decision point under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in December 2000, but it went off track on its poverty reduction program in early 2001. After 4 years and satisfactory performance on an interim staff-monitored program, the IMF approved a 3-year $4.3 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program for Sao Tome in September 2005. The ambitious program aimed to reduce inflation to a single-digit number, address the country's macroeconomic imbalances, and substantially reduce poverty. Another 3-year PRGF arrangement was approved in March 2009. In 2001, Sao Tome and Nigeria reached agreement on joint exploration for petroleum in waters claimed by the two countries. After a lengthy series of negotiations, in April 2003 the joint development zone (JDZ) was opened for bids by international oil firms. The JDZ was divided into 9 blocks; the winning bids for block one, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the Norwegian firm Equity Energy, were announced in April 2004, with Sao Tome to take in 40% of the $123 million bid, and Nigeria the other 60%. Blocks 2 through 6 were allocated in June 2005. Nigeria and Sao Tome signed production sharing contracts with the winning bidders in November 2005. Chevron became the first firm to start exploratory drilling in January 2006. Portugal remains one of Sao Tome's major trading partners, particularly as a source of imports. Food, manufactured articles, machinery, and transportation equipment are imported primarily from the EU via Portugal.
GDP (2009): $191 million. Annual real GDP growth rate (2009): 4%. Per capita GDP (2009): $1,174. Inflation (2009): 17%. Natural resources: Agricultural products, fish, petroleum (not yet exploited). Services (71% of GDP, 2009): Primarily tourism. Agriculture (14% of GDP, 2009): Products--cocoa, coconuts, copra, palm kernels, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, beans, vanilla, poultry. Cultivated land--484 sq. kilometers. Industry (15% of GDP, 2009): Types--light construction, shirts, soap, beer, fisheries, shrimp processing, palm oil. Trade: Exports (2009)--$14 million (f.o.b.): 95% cocoa, copra, palm kernels, coffee. Major markets--Portugal, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, China. Imports (2009)--$93 million (c.i.f.): food, fuel, machinery and electrical equipment. Major suppliers--Portugal (43%), France (16%), U.K. (14%). Total external debt (2009): None. Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Following the promulgation of a new constitution in 1990, Sao Tome and Principe held multiparty elections for the first time since independence. Shortly after the constitution took effect, the National Assembly formally legalized opposition parties. Independent candidates also were permitted to participate. The 55-member National Assembly is the supreme organ of the state and the highest legislative body. Its members are elected for a 4-year term and meet semiannually.
The president of the republic is elected to a 5-year term through direct universal suffrage and a secret ballot and may hold office up to two consecutive terms. Candidates are chosen at their party's national conference or individuals may run independently. A presidential candidate must obtain an outright majority of the popular vote in either a first or second round of voting in order to be elected president. The party that wins a majority in the legislature names the prime minister, who must be approved by the president. The prime minister, in turn, names the members of the cabinet.
The Supreme Court administers justice at the highest level. The judiciary is independent under the current constitution.
Administratively, the country is divided into six municipal districts, five on Sao Tome and one comprising Principe. Governing councils in each district maintain a limited number of autonomous decision-making powers and are reelected every 3 years.
Principal Government Officials
President--Fradique Bandeira Melo de Menezes
Prime Minister--Patrice Emery Trovoada
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation--Manuel Salvador dos Ramos
Minister of Defense and Public Security--Carlos Olimpio Stock
Ambassador to the United States--Ovidio Manuel Barbosa Pequeno
Representative at the United Nations--Ovidio Manuel Barbosa Pequeno
The Sao Tomean Embassy to the United States is located at 1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-775-2075); Email: email@example.com.
For visa information, please contact Mr. Domingos Augusto Ferreira, Cell: 917-751-2742; Fax: 212-239-2272; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or the Embassy in Washington.
Sao Tome and Principe has made great strides toward developing its democratic institutions and further guaranteeing the civil and human rights of its citizens. Sao Tomeans have freely changed their government through peaceful and transparent elections on several occasions. While there have been disagreements and political conflicts within the branches of government and the National Assembly, the debates have been carried out and resolved in an open, democratic, and legal manner, in accordance with the provisions of Sao Tomean law. A number of political parties actively participate in government and openly express their views. Overall, the government's respect for human rights is strong. Freedom of the press is respected, and there are several independent newspapers in addition to the government bulletin. Further, the government does not engage in repressive measures against its citizens, and respect for individuals' rights to due process and protection from government abuses is widely honored. Freedom of expression is accepted, and the government has taken no repressive measures to silence critics.
Independence: July 12, 1975 (from Portugal).
Constitution: November 5, 1975; revised September 1990, following a national referendum, revised again January 2003.
Branches: Executive--president and prime minister. Legislative--National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Seven districts, six on Sao Tome and one on Principe.
Political parties: Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP), Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD), Independent Democratic Action (ADI), Democratic Movement Force of Change (MDFM), Christian Democratic Front-Socialist Union Party (FDC-PSU), Santomean Workers Party (PTS); Popular Party of Progress (PPP), National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), and Democratic Coalition of the Opposition (CODO).
Suffrage: Universal adult (18 years old).
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