Senate and local elections held in December reinforced the dominant position of the governing PDG, which won more than 60 percent of the vote nationwide. In January, President Ali Bongo named Daniel Ona Ondo as his prime minister. Ona Ondo’s predecessor, Ndong Sima, came under widespread criticism for his handling of a teachers’ strike in 2013. The new prime minister is an economist by training.

Daniel Ona Ondo previously served as minister of education and culture. He will be counted on to defuse any social conflict that might erupt ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in 2016.

Given the disarray of the opposition and Bongo’s institutional advantages, which include a good relationship with the country’s military leaders, there are few plausible scenarios under which the authority of Bongo’s regime might be seriously challenged before 2016. Moreover, barring the creation of a united opposition front, there is good reason to expect that Bongo and the PDG will continue to dominate the political scene beyond the next election cycle.

The discovery of gas deposits has increased pressure on the government to bring greater transparency and predictability to its management of its hydrocarbons wealth.

The discovery of new natural gas deposits off the country’s coast has increased pressure on the government to bring greater transparency and predictability to its management of Gabon’s hydrocarbons wealth. The Bongo administration had previously said a new set of ground rules would be in place in 2013, but that self-imposed deadline was missed, and officials have indicated that reforms will be delayed until 2015. No reason was given for the change in dates, although it could suggest that the government is not sure how it wants to proceed.

That has not deterred foreign investors. The government recently awarded deep-water exploration rights for 13 oil and gas blocks to 11 different companies, including ExxonMobil, Marathon, Repsol, and Eni. However, a dispute with China’s Addex Petroleum over alleged breaches of its contract points to risks for investors in the absence of clearer rules.

The government is counting on increased oil and gas production to support an expansionary fiscal policy that figures to be a central component of the PDG’s re-election strategy. As such, near-term output levels figure to be a key factor in determining whether and how fast the administration proceeds with overhauling the regulatory apparatus of the hydrocarbons industry.

Little progress can be expected with regard to reducing corruption, despite the recent revelation that as many as 3,000 people were receiving civil service paychecks even though they did not hold a government job. Patronage jobs are an important tool for building party loyalty, and the country’s bloated bureaucracy is one of the chief reasons for Gabon’s poor global ranking in the area of corruption.


The PRS Group
About The Author The PRS Group
The PRS Group is a leading global provider of political and country risk analysis and forecasts, covering 140 countries. Based on proprietary, quantitative risk models, the firm's clientele includes financial institutions, multilateral agencies, and trans-national firms.

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