HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Island state in southern Africa, located in the Indian Ocean. The population was 12,092,157. at the 1993 census and approximately 18,606,000 residents to a 2005 estimate, thus recording an increase of over 50 %. The strong demographic increase is due to the difference between a high birth rate (41.7 ‰ in 2005) and a modest one (11.3 ‰). The urbanization rate is very low (26 % in 2004), and the only real city is the capital Antananarivo (1,052,000 residents according to the 1993 census,and just under 1,700,000 residents according to 2003 estimates).
Although Madagascar was still ranked 146th in the world by the UN Human Development Index in 2003, various social indicators, such as infant mortality, life expectancy at birth and illiteracy, have shown significant improvements. However, the country’s productive structure remains very backward, even if the growth of the economy, moderate between 1990 and 1998 (1.3 % per year), has experienced a leap forward since 1999, when the government has started applying the liberalization and privatization program agreed in 1997 with the International Monetary Fund. GDP has indeed increased between 1999 and 2005 at an average of around 6 % per year (with the exception of 2002, due to severe institutional difficulties; see below: History). Agriculture still employed 72.9 % of the active population in 2003, but only contributed 28.6 % to GDP. The main product is rice, which is largely destined for local consumption. Mineral resources were marginal, while industry, with only 6.7 % of the workforce, contributed 18.1 to GDP%. Its increase appears to be linked in particular to the creation of ‘free zones’, which are exempt from normal taxation and open to foreign investments, which are essentially dedicated to textile production for export. Tourism is an increasingly important source of revenue (66,000 visitors in 1994 and 139,000 in 2003).
According to BEAUTYPICALLY, the beginnings of the 21st century. marked a turning point in the life of the country, which led to the exit from the political scene, after about thirty years, of D. Ratsiraka (dictator from 1975 to 1990 and president elected from 1997 to 2001), to the imposition of a ‘non-political leader ‘coming from the business world, Madagascar Rovalomanana, and finally to the emergence of a new protagonism of civil society.
The moment of transition is represented by the presidential elections of December 2001, in which Ratsiraka met in a very heated campaign, thanks to the victory of his party in the legislative consultations of 1998., and Rovalomanana, conservative, owner of the largest agri-food group in Madagascar, a fervent Christian of Protestant faith, skilled communicator and owner of a television network and various radio stations. The dispute over the results, which opened to the dissemination by the Ministry of the Interior of the first data, which certainly gave the ballot, triggered a profound political and institutional crisis and plunged the country for about six months into a situation on the verge of civil war. Rovalomanana, sure of having achieved an absolute majority of votes, declared himself the winner before the official proclamation by the High Constitutional Court, whose composition had been partially modified a month earlier by Ratsiraka. To the ruling of the High Court, which took place in January 2002, according to which no candidate had obtained an absolute majority, Rovalomanana responded by calling the population to a general strike and proceeding in February-March with the appointment of the prime minister and members of the government. This took place in a climate of mobilization of his supporters, who by the hundreds of thousands occupied the streets of the capital. The protest was mainly animated by the Christian, Catholic and Protestant churches, which in the previous decade had been the engine of a sort of democratic apprenticeship. A stalemate ensued, with the country split in two between the plateau area (with the capital Antananarivo), which constituted the stronghold of Rovalomanana, and the coastal areas (with the city of Toamasina), in which Ratsiraka had established his government, proclaiming martial law.2002, after having canceled the appointments to the High Court and having ordered a new counting of the votes, Rovalomanana proclaimed winner with 51.5 %, against 35.9 % attributed to Ratsiraka. Representatives of the European Union and France, who have always had close ties with their former colony, attended the official settlement. In June the army regained full control of the whole territory and in July Ratsiraka left the country. In December 2002, legislative elections were called five months in advance, in an attempt to give further legitimacy to the power of the president. These gave the victory to TIM ( Tiako i Madagasikara , I love Madagascar), the party of Rovalomanana, with 104 seats out of 160, while 22 were won by the FP ( Front patriotique ), an alliance of different forces linked to Rovalomanana himself, 23 went to independent candidates and only 3 to the party linked to Ratsiraka, AREMA ( Association pour la Renaissance du Madagascar ). Political stabilization, however, was marked by an anomalous mix between the institutions of the state, the ecclesiastical authorities and the business world, and was not accompanied, in the first years, by an action capable of economically relaunching the country, despite the resumption of aid. and debt cancellation by France and other countries (2004). In addition to the structural deficiencies deriving from the backwardness of agriculture and the limited infrastructure, the economy had suffered during the long institutional crisis of the blockade of foreign investments in the free zones, where export industries operate, with particular tax concessions.