Independent since June 26, 1960, formerly a French colony, the Malagasy Republic, proclaimed on October 14, 1968, has maintained its pre-existing division into 6 provinces. On 587,081 km 2, at the 1957 census there were 5,065,372 residents, which rose in 1972, according to an estimate, to 7,928,868.
Of the 18 Malagasy ethnic groups, the most important are always the Merina (2.066.994), the Betsimisaraka (1.165.592), the Bétsiléo (953.968), the Tsimihety (572.847), the Sakalava (470.156), the Antandroy (428.350), the Antaisaka (406.468).
According to CLOTHESBLISS, the table shows the variations in the provinces between 1957 and 1972.
The provincial capitals were affected, to varying degrees, by the general increase in population: only Tuléar suffered a slight decline. The increase in the number of residents of the capital is exceptional, almost 82%. In addition to the six provincial capitals, only one other center exceeded 30,000 units in 1972: Antsirabé (32,287).
The area with arable land and woody agricultural crops does not reach 5% of the state surface, while the permanent meadows and pastures are around 58%; the forest covers over 21% and the rest is uncultivated or unproductive.
Among the agricultural products, rice prevails in terms of surface area and total yield (in 1975, out of 1,045,000 ha, it gave 19.4 million q; in 1964, the corresponding values were 764,000 ha and 12.7 million of Q).
The peanut, from 340,000 q in 1964, on 40,000 ha, reached 480,000 q on 42,000 ha in 1975. Among the plantation crops, in 1975 sugar cane (out of 35,000 ha), coffee (205,000 ha, with 700,000 q of yield; 183,000 ha and 500,000 q in 1964), cotton (16,000 ha, 175,000 q of seeds stand out) and 118,380 of fiber), cocoa (14,000 q; in 1964,5000 q), tobacco (6300 ha and 66,000 q; in 1964,6000 ha and 46,000 q), vanilla, cloves, cinnamon and others spices. Not to be forgotten, among the products for export, are agave sisalana (315,000 q of fiber, out of 21,900 ha; in 1964, 250,000 q out of 20,000 ha), kenaf (16,000 q) and coconut palm nuts (26,000 tons of walnuts and 28,900 q of copra).
Between 1963 and 1975 in the livestock herd these variations were observed: cattle, from 8,500,000 to 9,700,000; sheep, from 300,000 to 720,000; goats, from 300,000 to 850,000. In addition to the export of skins, they feed the preserved and frozen meat industry.
In the mining sector, while the decline in gold production continued (26 kg in 1957; 10 kg in 1962 and 5 kg in 1972), the extraction of graphite continued at an almost constant rate (14,000 t in 1974; in 1958, 11,000 t); the production of chromium is strongly increasing (64,700 t of Cr 2 O 3 in 1974; 4,600 t in 1963).
Electricity production, from 66.7 million kWh in 1958, and 128 million in 1963, had risen in 1974 to 328 million, produced by 95,000 kW of installed power plants, of which 40,000 were water.
In the industrial sector, sugar refineries, rum distilleries (whose export is around 5,000 hl per year), breweries (182,000 hl in 1974), soap factories, cement factories (61,000 t in 1974), the Tamatave oil refinery stand out.. And then, again, plants for the processing of metals, cotton (6240 t of yarn, in 1971), tobacco, etc., as well as indigenous crafts.
Foreign trade, in the four-year period 1971-74, recorded a certain increase in imports, from 59.2 to 67.2 million CFA francs (1 franc = 2.25 Italian lire, in 1972) and a much more substantial increase in exports, from 40.8 to 58.5 million (in 1958 imports were 25.6 million Malagasy francs and exports of 20.3 million).
Mainly exported, in 1974, coffee, nails and essences of cloves, vanilla, rice, tobacco, sugar, petroleum products, and especially to France, the United States, Malaysia, Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany. The main suppliers, in that year, were France and, at a great distance, the Fed Rep. Of Germany, the United States, Japan and Italy.
The railway network has an overall development of 884 km: the main lines connect Antananarivo to Tamatave (375 km) and Antananarivo to Antsirabé (158 km). The rolling stock at the end of 1973 ran for 40,000 km, of which 8600 could be driven all year round. The main airports are in Antananarivo, Arivonimamo, Tamatave, Tuléar and Majunga.
History. – For about a decade after independence (June 26, 1960), Madagascar showed political stability under the presidency of Ph. Tsiranana, leader of the Parti Social-Democrate (PSD), to which almost all the 107 deputies and 54 senators belonged and in which almost all the opposition parties had been absorbed, now expressed only by the Independence Congress Party (AKFM). Some reservations or dissent from young intellectuals, from certain press organs and from members of the ecclesiastical hierarchies, does not affect the substantial domination exercised by the PSD over the political life of Madagascar. Foreign policy was clearly pro-Western, marked by very close economic and cultural ties with France (an agreement of 1964 guaranteed significant benefits to the Grands Moulins de Dakar); moreover Madagascar participated in the agreements of the Francophone African countries of moderate orientation and, from 1967, intensified the economic relations with the South African Republic.
A serious political-social tension hit Madagascar from 1969 (Tsiranana was forced to leave due to illness until May 1970): in the country, which was suffering an economic recession, the opposition of the AKFM, MONIMA (Mouvement National pour l’Indépendance de Madagascar), of dissident elements of the PSD itself and in general of young intellectuals, against the conservative line and the authoritarian methods of the government, accused among other things of favoring the economic interests and the cultural dominance of France. Discontent also touched the rural masses, burdened with taxes and abused by officials; in April 1971 an armed peasant revolt led by MONIMA broke out in the Tuléar region, which gained support throughout the country but was bloody repressed. Tsiranana emphasized authoritarianism, persecuting opponents with the denunciation of alleged plots, even within the PSD (A. Resampa, Minister of the Interior, was removed and then arrested). The only candidate, Tsiranana was confirmed as president in January 1972; but soon violent riots forced him (May 13) to surrender his powers to the gen. G. Ramanantsoa. The latter issued provisions against corruption, in favor of the workers, together with guarantees to the army. The reform orientation and the vindication of national interests obtained wide consensus: on 8 October a referendum confirmed the suspension of the constitution and power in Ramanantsoa for five years (while Tsiranana was completely sacked).
The new regime’s intent of cultural malgascization has alarmed the coastal populations, fearful of a renewed prevalence of the Merina, thousands of whom have been forced away from the coast by a series of riots. The intransigent negotiation of new agreements with France during 1973, the withdrawal from OCAM (August 1973), various measures to protect the national economy, met with widespread approval (confirmed by the October 1973 elections for the National Council popular development, won by the AKFM government party); but they did not prevent the growth, on the far left, of a Movement for Proletarian Power (HFM), established in 1972. The persistent political-social tension, due to the contrast between the rural and proletarian masses and the Merina bourgeoisie, led , agl ‘ early 1975, with the advent of a military directory, which initiated a left-wing policy (nationalization of banks and insurance companies, strengthening of local communities, economic planning); in June 1975 the French – who lost many economic positions – cleared the naval base of Diego Suarez (a USA air station was also closed). In December 1975 a new constitution was approved in a referendum, and the Democratic Republic of Madagascar was proclaimed (president is Captain D. Ratsiraka).