Dimanche 26 Mai 2019  
 

N°83 - Troisième trimestre 2008

La lettre diplometque
  Editorial
Madagascar
  Madagascar sur la voie de la transformation
 
  Pour un partenariat privilégié entre la France et Madagascar
 
  Entre Madagascar et la France, des liens d’amitié interparlementaires anciens et fructueux
 
  Madagascar : Un pays qui se transforme en profondeur
 
  La Grande Ile, ses projets miniers et leurs promesses de décollage économique
 
  Madagascar, l’île aux opportunités
 
  Œuvrer au renforcement des liens d’affaires entre Madagascar et la France
 
  « A l’instar de la Chine, Madagascar pourrait proposer sa médecine dans le monde entier »
 
  Madagascar : deuxième implantation du Cirad à l’étranger
 
  Le Consulat de Madagascar à Amiens au cœur du développement de liens franco-malgaches privilégiés et décentralisés
 
  Lyon au cœur d’une coopération décentralisée franco-malagache en plein essor
 
  Le fihavanana, comme pivot de la démarche malgache au sein de l’UNESCO
 
Nigéria
Inde
 
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  Bank Of Africa
 
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     Madagascar
 
  S.E.M. / H.E. Rajaonarivony Narisoa

Bent on Achieving its Development Goals

With Madagascar set to take over the presidency of the African Union on 1 January 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana is facing a dual challenge: pushing forward the African construction process, with special focus on resolving the problem of food insecurity, and cashing in on reforms and efforts to open up the economy since his reelection in December 2006. H.E. Narisoa Rajaonarivony, Ambassador of Madagascar to France and former advisor to the President, analyses the progress made in these arenas for our readers.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, Madagascar is getting ready to host the 13th African Union Summit, scheduled for 2009. Can you tell us how important this event is for your country, not only as an opportunity to champion its vision of the African construction process, but also as a way to expand its influence on the international stage?

H.E. Narisoa Rajaonarivony: This event is of capital importance to our country, as it will be an opportunity for us to show the African continent that Madagascar now has leadership truly worthy of the name. A new style of strong leadership, both pragmatic and consequential. Leadership that goes beyond mere political wrangling and takes full heed of the need to develop Africa.
In that sense, the Summit will be an opportunity to share our experiences with development strategy. “Ownership” is going to be the catchword as an African development strategy is being laid out. Given the main theme to be debated at the summit, which will focus on food security, the outcome of our talks will certainly be of great interest to the international community. All the more so, in that we are going to come up with an African solution to the problem of food insecurity plaguing the African continent.
The great interest of the 13th African Union Summit is the fact that the African continent is ready to step up and claim its place on the world stage, and intends to make an effective contribution to wiping out the evils that have undermined the development of its peoples for so long.

T.D.L.: Since his reelection on 3 December 2006, President Marc Ravalomanana has made the implementation of the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP) a top priority for his second term. Has the Malagasy government adopted specific strategies to speed up the economic development process, with special focus on improving the country’s infrastructure network and maintaining sound macroeconomic balances?

H.E.N.R.: First, it should be underscored that the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP) is the road map for the development of Madagascar, and that all actions taken by our financial backers must revolve around the eight commitments it spells out.
As for implementing the MAP effectively, the Malagasy government’s strategy is centered on strengthening the public-private partnership. The private sector is expected to play a key role in fostering economic growth, which is why the strategy focuses on improving the business climate in order to attract greater foreign direct investment, among other things. This partnership will not, however, be bolstered at the expense of our relationship with traditional financial supporters. The infrastructure network (roads, ports, airports, telecommunications) will have to be improved, before foreign direct investments are drawn in. Madagascar intends to continue strengthening its ties with multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU), as well as bilateral institutions like the French Development Agency (AFD).
It is clear that under no circumstances can the implementation of the MAP be allowed to imperil our macroeconomic balances. This is why the Malagasy government intends to foster closer regional cooperation with the aim of improving its balance of payments and bringing inflation under control through Central Bank interventions (open market operations to curb the supply of money in circulation; modifying the Central Bank’s rate and mandatory reserves). Finally, the Malagasy government is working hard, with IMF help, to bring its budget in balance by reforming its tax and customs regimes and closely monitoring government spending.

T.D.L.: Nearly two-thirds of your nation’s people still live below the poverty line. The government has decided to make “basic development” the spearhead of its economic policy. Is it taking steps to get the fokontany (village districts) more closely involved in these efforts? Does it intend to launch specific measures to foster rural development? Will sustainable development and environmental protection be of special importance in this arena?

H.E.N.R.: The fokontany (basic administrative sub-units at the local level) are the engine for development in their communities. They are the driving force for development and the government has taken specific measures with that in mind. It is organizing workshops on leadership and local development for fokontany chiefs, with the aim of making them more effective leaders. It is supplying farmers with small farm equipment, gradually bringing electricity to rural areas, and implementing a new land law with the aim of guaranteeing land ownership security by granting land titles that allow all land owners, farmers included, to become the permanent owners of their lands.
Furthermore, the rural world is, with no doubt whatsoever, the first to benefit from the national educational reform. Launched at the start of the 2008 school year, this reform expands the length of primary school from five to seven years. The goal is to teach students as much as possible before they enter middle school, as many of them will drop out of school at that point, especially in rural areas.
The government also created, around this same time, a Ministry for Water that is responsible for defining and implementing effective water policy to give more of the Malagasy population safe access to drinking water. The pro-development efforts being made at the local level are helping lay the foundations for sustainable development in Madagascar. As our President said during his speech at the international conference on «Biodiversity: Science and Governance,» held in Paris on 24 January 2005: «Madagascar is one of the rich countries! In terms of biodiversity, of course. Nature is our national heritage, and it is our duty to preserve it.»
In those few words, the President summed up the great importance we lay on protecting the environment. You are no doubt aware that our country has incredible biological riches: 85% of Madagascar’s 1,200 plants are unique in the world. The level of uniqueness is equally amazing with our fauna. Some of the ecosystems and landscapes in our country are also unique in the world, such as the southern bush and the Tsingy de Bemaraha. These gifts of nature must be preserved. The «Vision for Madagascar» put forward by the President in «Madagascar, Naturally» sends a strong message to the government and people of Madagascar: our development depends, inescapably, on preserving and promoting nature. This approach must go hand-in-hand with good governance of the environment, focusing on three main lines of action: ensuring that the competent authorities strictly enforce the law; mobilizing local populations; consulting regularly with economic operators and other concerned organizations. Environmental concerns must be taken into account as all these investment projects and communal and regional development plans are being drawn up and implemented.

T.D.L.: The high note of President Ravalomanana’s first term was the passing of a constitutional referendum, on 4 April 2007, which divided the country into 22 regions. Is your country making headway in the decentralization process? Will significant financial and human resources have to be set aside for these new regional structures?

H.E.N.R.: Decentralization is a key pillar of our development policy, which sets out a community-focused policy designed to boost public participation and get local authorities more involved in the development process. The different regions are responsible for fostering development by launching their own projects and action plans. They have been mandated with harmonizing and coordinating actions initiated at the grassroots level, namely at the village and fokontany level. We appear to now be seeing a bit of competition between the 22 regions over who can best do this, especially since regional leaders are judged by their results.
By virtue of Law No. 2007-001 of 27 April 2007, local communities enjoy financial autonomy. They draw their resources from:
- revenues from fees and taxes approved and collected directly by the regional or municipal council to help fund the community’s budget;
- a percentage of tax and duty revenues collected by the State to fund its budget;
- revenues in the form of subsidies granted to the communities collectively or individually in the State budget;
- revenues generated by their natural heritage;
- sums collected in return for use of local services.
What’s more, several Malagasy communities are involved in decentralized cooperation programs with foreign communities - most of them French - which supply them with both material and institutional support. A Conference on Decentralized Cooperation was even held in Antananarivo, in May 2006, to boost this type of partnership.

T.D.L.: “Change” is the Malagasy Head of State’s rallying cry and end goal, as witnessed by the adoption of English as the country’s third official language, alongside Malagasy and French. How have the Malagasy people reacted to this swerve towards the English-speaking world? As Antananarivo pushes forward with its bid to host the 2010 Francophonie Summit, will this new situation bring about changes in the Great Island’s culture and attachment to the French-speaking world?

H.E.N.R.: Adopting English as our third official language does not necessarily mean that we are veering towards the English-speaking world. This choice is perfectly in line with our campaign to open up the country. As you know, a linguistic barrier is a great handicap in international relations, and I’m sure you will agree that English is the most widely spoken language in the world. Keep in mind that we live on an island, which means we are a bit out of touch with the rest of the world. The current trend towards the globalization of trade makes it necessary to bring down this barrier.
Let’s take a concrete example. Madagascar has joined the South African Development Community (SADC), whose members are all English-speaking countries, with four exceptions: Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. How can we hope to draw full benefit from our membership in this organization, if we don’t speak its language?
Overall, the Malagasy people were very pleased with the government’s decision to make English the third official language. This new situation, as you call it, does not change in any way our long-held commitment to becoming the Francophonie’s bastion in the South-West Indian Ocean. This logical reasoning fully justifies my country’s bid to host the 2010 Summit. Just look at Mauritius, whose people speak both English and French. Does that situation change, in any way, its commitments to the Francophonie?

T.D.L.: The revision of the Malagasy Constitution has strengthened the Head of State’s powers. What prompted this institutional change? Can you talk to us a bit about Madagascar’s political stability since the 2002 crisis? As a former Special Advisor to the President, do you think the revival spurred in your country since 2003 has met the Malagasy people’s expectations?

H.E.N.R.: Revising the Malagasy Constitution became absolutely essential in order to meet the development goals set out by the President of the Republic. We needed a new governance strategy, carried out by more responsible people who had a greater sense of responsibility. People continuously striving for efficiency and effectiveness and constantly seeking tangible results. The opposition initially opposed it, of course, but tensions gradually eased over time, in light of the government’s accomplishments.
Moreover, this change shouldn’t be the source of any political instability as long as the opposition understands the underlying aim of the reforms, which is promoting a results-based culture. The fact that Madagascar’s political, economic and social climate is undergoing great changes makes these reforms all the more necessary. The President has been inviting pro-development members of the opposition to work with him to promote social well-being in Madagascar, confirming his desire to cooperate with all the nation’s vital forces, a first for Madagascar.
The revival spurred since 2003 seeks first and foremost to reduce poverty by boosting economic growth, improving education and promoting better health and medical care. In this sense, the efforts made to date have met the Malagasy people’s expectations. It must, however, be admitted that everything has become a priority in Madagascar. Imperatives must be given top priority, which is not always easy. We believe, all the same, that the target priorities reflect the vital needs (fighting malaria, AIDS and other transmittable illnesses; making drinking water generally accessible; improving infrastructures, etc.) of the Malagasy people.

T.D.L.: Thanks to its efforts to liberalize and open up the economy, Madagascar posted a 6.3% growth rate in 2007. What kind of initiatives are being launched to make the private sector more dynamic and attract more foreign investors to your country? Have strides been made in the battle to wipe out corruption? Which growth sectors hold the most promise for restructuring the Malagasy economy, besides biomedicine?

H.E.N.R.: We are in a virtuous cycle right now, since our growth rate jumped from 5% in 2006, to 6.3% in 2007. The government has taken significant measures to maintain this pace. In January 2008, we passed a law designed to attract more foreign investors to our country. This new law specifically targets foreign operators looking to invest their money in Madagascar, by making it possible for foreigners to acquire immovable commercial property. The Economic Development Board of Madagascar (EDBM) was created as a one-stop shop that makes it easier for investors moving into Madagascar to complete all the administrative formalities. It begins helping them right when they get here, when they first create their company, all the way until the issuing of a residence permit allowing them to live in the country.
I would also like to underscore the measures taken to fight corruption, starting with the creation of Bianco (Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau), which is putting these battle strategies to work within public administrative bodies. The results have been quite encouraging. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (ICP) ranks us 85th out of 180 countries, which means we dropped 10 places in one year. There is clearly a great deal left to be done, but we are on the right path. We are quite confident for the future, as these indicators have confirmed that we made the right choices.
An agency called SAMIFIN was recently created to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and criminal financial networks. This again goes to show the government’s determination to build an honest, safe and reassuring business climate.
In 2008 our economy will be boosted by the launching of new ilmenite (roughly 10% of world production), cobalt and nickel (respectively 10% and 5% of world production) extraction operations. This production will alter the structure of our economy, as even before hitting their full stride these operations are already generating significant added value in terms of bringing in investments and creating jobs.

T.D.L.: Three years after joining the South African Development Community, Madagascar joined the free trade zone launched by SADC at the summit held on 16-17 August 2008. How do you expect this to change Madagascar’s trade with SADC markets, and with South Africa in particular? Will specific measures be taken to eliminate the obstacles that have hindered the growth of this trade, such as the language barrier and high transportation costs?

H.E.N.R.: SADC is a great opportunity for us, in that it is closer to Madagascar, geographically speaking. It is also only natural for countries with similar development levels to create partnerships, and we are lucky to be part of one today, as this regional approach has been ignored in years past. Diversifying our partners is in our best interests. This geographic proximity should also bring down costs and subsequently help Malagasy consumers.
Language shouldn’t be a barrier to trade. Do you think, for one instant, that all the French need to know how to speak Mandarin, before your country starts doing business with China? We were also looking to foster greater regional and international cooperation, when we decided to make English our third official language.

T.D.L.: The August SADC Summit failed to reach a compromise on how to end the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Knowing that your country will take over the presidency of the African Union in 2009, could you tell our readers what you think brought on this crisis, and what needs to be done to meet the requirements for good governance as laid out by NEPAD?

H.E.N.R.: The last thing I want to do is pass judgment on what is happening in Zimbabwe, as it is neither my place nor my responsibility to do so. It is up to Zimbabweans, alone, to resolve this crisis, unless they themselves ask a third party to step in and help.
Generally speaking, good governance practices differ from country to country, and so be it, as each country has its own history. But if we are referring strictly to notions of democracy as defined in Western countries, then Madagascar has meet all the prerequisites, as every election it has held since the December 2006 presidential election - municipal, legislative and regional elections, and even this year’s senatorial races - have unfolded calmly and transparently, under monitoring by neutral international observers. No one needs to be giving or getting any advice in this arena, but could perhaps instead be sharing their experiences?

T.D.L.: Madagascar lies at a key spot in the Indian Ocean, along the Mozambique Channel and sea routes used increasingly to transport oil. How can it take advantage of this asset? India has opened a radar station in the northern part of your country. Is Madagascar planning to launch other cooperation projects to help combat terrorism and piracy in the region?

H.E.N.R.: Having oil tankers pass through this part of the world could obviously be of great benefit to our country. We could collect fees from these tankers, for instance, by charging a right-of-way fee for crossing through our exclusive economic zone. This could also opens up opportunities for our country to purchase fuel at a lower cost, since we wouldn’t have to bear transportation charges if we bought it at offshore fueling docks from tankers crossing through the area. This new configuration also makes these big oil tankers potential clients for SECREN, our naval shipyard based in Antsiranana. There will be, all the same, a greater risk of marine pollution. Madagascar’s strategic location makes it a key outpost in the Western Indian Ocean, especially in the battle to rid the region of terrorism and piracy. We believe that terrorism must be condemned and fought with no considerations of an ideological, political, religious or any other nature. We must approach this by focusing on mutual assistance, with efforts that are continuous and global. With that in mind, our country has signed all the antiterrorism agreements, both those brokered by the United Nations and those put forward by the African Union. We are likewise joining all bilateral and multilateral initiatives aimed at fighting piracy, who is unfortunately beginning to plague the region. On that same score, on 17 March 2006, while meeting in Antananarivo, the member states of the Indian Ocean Commission signed a regional security agreement that provides for regular information exchange between member countries and sets up an annual meeting between their national security leaders.

T.D.L.: This year Antananarivo and Washington are celebrating the 140th anniversary of the initialing of their first bilateral treaty. After serving from 2003-2007 as Malagasy Ambassador to Washington, can you describe how the United States’ role in your country’s cooperation and development policies has changed over the years?

H.E.N.R.: Since Marc Ravalomanana took over our land’s highest public office, in 2002, the Malagasy administration has sought to achieve rapid but sustainable development by focusing on three main pillars: good governance, fighting corruption and the rule of law. This development plan has been crystallized in the road map known as the Madagasikara Am-Perin’asa, or the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP).
With the President’s incredible pragmatism, poverty, famine and illiteracy should be rooted out in this era of the third millennium. In Madagascar, we are perfectly aware of the reasons for these three scourges, but we also know how to cure them, starting with: reforming the educational system by making education available to all; increasing agricultural production and productivity through mechanization and land reform; improving how products are marketed by promoting service networks and enhancing communication networks; improving Madagascar’s financial and banking system.
Clearly, none of this can be done without an effective partnership with our traditional development partners, such as the EU, the FD, the World Bank and all the others. But along with all our bilateral and multilateral partners, the Malagasy government is convinced that foreign direct investments (FDI) will play a decisive role in our economy’s growth. This is why we are open to any form of public-private partnership, be it national or international. Modern-day Madagascar is resolutely realistic. It intends to diversify its partnerships in order to become an active instead of a passive player, not only at the regional level but also on the international stage. With that goal in mind, we worked very hard to become the first beneficiary of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The compact we signed with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a perfect illustration of our determination to no longer simply stand by and watch the efforts to improve the Malagasy people’s living conditions. With this compact, and the sizable private investments pouring into the energy sector (from Exxon Mobil, for instance) and other areas, the United States has stepped up its efforts to foster the development of Madagascar. The United States is destined to further bolster its positioning, as the new Malagasy elite is being trained in American universities, which has led to increased cultural exchanges between the two countries.

T.D.L.: December 2008 will bring an end to the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, your country’s leading financial backer. The EU has set aside funds in its 10th European Development Fund (EDF) to support the implementation of the Madagascar Action Plan. In what arenas would you like to see cooperation with the EU strengthened? After signing an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with Brussels in late 2007, what additional steps must Madagascar take before a comprehensive EPA can be initialed? How would this help the Malagasy economy?

H.E.N.R.: The 10th EDF, as you mentioned, outlined the EU’s ties with the ACP (Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Islands) countries, of which Madagascar is one. My country has launched wide-reaching infrastructure projects since 2002, with the aim of opening up regions with strong agricultural potential. This work is absolutely essential, and must be finished. Other financial backers are joining in to help fund many of these projects, which require enormous investments. Our efforts must only naturally be focused on these projects, so that we can make the most of the latent added value they generate by bringing about positive changes. The agricultural sector will be the first to benefit from this, but it still isn’t getting enough support to become an industrial-sized sector. As you can see, everything is tied together. Any given sector is always a link in a long production chain. And so we are determined to ensure that this transition - from the EDF to the EPAs - is painless for our economy.
Having said that, Madagascar discusses these things with the EU as part of a group, which pursues a clearly defined common strategy. And as you well know, EPAs have sparked reservations, especially as regards the liberalization of service sectors. Similarly, on a broader level, if the scope of these agreements aims to truly help developing countries, then the issue of farming subsidies in wealthy countries must be tackled head on. As proof, let me just mention the bitterness of the talks at the World Trade Organization’s last Doha Round meeting, where the demons of national selfishness reared their heads.

T.D.L.: After President Ravalomanana’s state visit to Paris on 14 April 2008, Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophonie Alain Joyandet made a trip to Natananarivo, where he announced on July 23rd that the two countries’ Framework Partnership Agreement would be revised before the end of the year. What would you like to see done to boost bilateral relations in the meantime?

H.E.N.R.: The visit by the Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophonie did indeed follow on the heels of the meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Marc Ravalomanana, during the latter’s visit to Paris in April 2008. It is, firstly, the sign that two countries linked by history have a shared desire to work together. That desire is bolstered by the very frank and sincere contact between their two Heads of State, which enables them to work through issues very quickly. The actions undertaken by France in Madagascar’s favor are outlined in the framework document for this partnership. It would be pretentious of me to give you my version of the objectives I think ought to be included in it. Secretary of State Joyandet had a direct meeting with President Marc Ravalomanana, and now has in his possession all the factors necessary to effectively give a “fresh impetus to Franco-Malagasy relations.

T.D.L.: After his meeting with the Malagasy Head of State, Secretary Joyandet reiterated France’s desire to see closer cooperation within the Indian Ocean Commission. Would the creation of a working group made up of EU and IOC member states help get things moving in this direction? Could you tell us a little bit about your country’s involvement with this organization?

H.E.N.R.: The member countries of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) share the same values and interests, by virtue of their geography, history and culture. Cooperation within the Commission focuses on programs that serve our shared interests, in areas such as protecting coastal zones, the environment, tourism, fishing, fighting oil spills and telecommunications. The EU has funded most of these programs and has been of great help in strengthening the regional integration process working through the Integrated Regional Program for the Development of Trade (PRIDE), which ended in 2004. This partnership is well worth continuing and bolstering. All the more so as it is facilitated by the presence of Reunion Island, a European region in close proximity to us. As far as we are concerned, the IOC is the perfect kind of local sub-regional organization. Our country has the economic potential needed to conquer this market.

T.D.L.: Military cooperation between Madagascar and France, nations with long-standing ties, is undergoing profound changes. In light of France’s reform of its armed forces and Madagascar’s new national defense strategy, do you think we will continue to see strong bilateral military cooperation in the years to come?
 
H.E.N.R.:
Madagascar’s new national defense strategy is the outgrowth of demands linked to our national needs and the current international situation. This new strategy takes into account, firstly, the traditional military branch, which is currently gobbling up 82% of the defense budget to pay personnel salaries, and secondly, our civil and domestic security.
Despite its isolation, our country isn’t threatened by a potential invasion coming from outside its borders. Our national defense policy focuses on finding ways to maintain a safe climate in rural and urban areas and guarantee better protection of our natural, land, maritime and air resources. This policy also displays greater vigilance and firmness towards sex tourism and the sexual exploitation of children, scourges of which our country is unfortunately not completely free. It calls upon our police force to step in and help when natural disasters strike. This was the only way we could effectively meet the MAP’s challenge to “provide sufficient security to protect people and property.» And so close cooperation - even mutual aid - between the various actors in our national defense and domestic security systems has become indispensable, though neither necessarily needs to encroach on the other’s remit. Civilians - and local elected officials in particular - are also being legitimately brought in to help with this. What’s more, in the past several years the Malagasy Army has started to fulfill its international obligations, however symbolic they may be. It participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI), Burundi (BINUB) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). It was also part of the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Implementing this policy requires taking a set of appropriate accompanying measures, such as redeploying manpower, supplying adequate new facilities and materials, and giving personnel stronger skills, to name just a few. In order to get this done, Malagasy authorities are counting on support from partner countries such as France. Military cooperation between France and Madagascar is going just fine. In the 2003-2007 period, France was involved in Madagascar in a variety of different areas: training; helping reorganize the Malagasy Armed Forces’ logistics and maintenance systems; supporting the Army’s operational capacity and role in supplying public services and fostering development; supporting our security corps; helping reinforce national security and the rule of law; supporting the military police corps; etc. France’s Army was reformed for economic reasons, in order to meet French strategic priorities by 2015 and 2025.
We are now facing new kinds of threats. Our defense strategy must be adjusted to respond to these new forms of aggression. The public policy reforms being carried out in each of our countries have forced us to redefine our needs, so that our means can be used in a rational manner. In the defense arena, our objectives have changed in view of the emergence of new needs, including, among others, the need to better protect Madagascar’s territorial waters.
Entire ocean zones could indeed become high-risk corridors, due to the resurgence of piracy that uses all the means of organized crime, a threat my country faces on a permanent basis. What’s more, the illegal use of our fishing resources leaves us with a US$900 million shortfall every year. This is a priority concern for us. Solving it will require setting up a common security system and pooling our means. We would consequently like to see resources redirected towards these new imperatives.

T.D.L.: Presidents Marc Ravalomanana and Nicolas Sarkozy underscored their desire to strengthen Franco-Malagasy economic ties during the former’s state visit to France on 14 April 2008. France is Madagascar’s leading trading partner. As your country works to shore up its mining, energy, environmental and biotechnology sectors, does the booming Malagasy market hold any particularly good opportunities for French firms?

H.E.N.R.: Creating an environment that fosters the development of the private sector has been a top priority for us since President Ravalomanana took office. Foreign direct investments are of paramount importance to our economy, in that they are helping revitalize it. We have always done our utmost to ensure our partners get their due when they put their money into Madagascar, in a spirit of healthy competition. Let me remind you that our two countries have an agreement. This «agreement for the mutual protection of investments» grants France a special dispensation which, in my opinion, gives it an edge over other countries investing in Madagascar.
There are several fast-growing sectors in Madagascar and there is plenty of room in them for French companies. French firms are already working in several sectors, such as banking - with over 75% of the sector cornered by French banks - construction and public works. They recently moved into the energy sector, where one of the biggest French companies, whose name you will easily guess, has just signed a contract to explore an oil field in Madagascar. That is a good but very limited snapshot, if you will, of how things currently stand between our two countries, and our desire to welcome those who come to our country with every consideration. At the same time, Madagascar in no way relinquishes its right to deal with operators from other countries, and reserves the exact same treatment for them. Having said that, even with all the goodwill in the world, we could never force an operator to come to our country, if it does not wish to do so.

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