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Brief History

Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, was formerly known as Malagasy Republic. It was part of the French colonial empire from 1890 to 1960, and became independent on June 26, 1960. The constitution that was adopted in 1958 and amended in 1960 provided Madagascar with a strong presidential form of government. During 1992-1993, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held ending 17 years of single-party rule. The current president is Andry Rajoelina since March 18, 2009, who came to presidency after the stepping down of former president Ravalomanana due to protests over increasing restrictions on opposition press and activities. In 2006 the country experienced an attempted coup. A power-sharing agreement with a 15-month transitional period was established, but has not yet been implemented after negotiations in July and August of 2009.

Geography

Madagascar, capital Antananarivo, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa covering an area of 587,041 square kilometers. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world. The climate is tropical along coast, temperate inland, and arid in south. Towards the east, a steep escarpment leads from the Central Highlands down into a ribbon of rain forest with a narrow coastal further east. The Canal des Pangalanes is a chain of natural and man-made lakes connected by canals that runs parallel to the east coast. The natural resources that Madagascar has are graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, and hydropower.

People

Madagascar has a population of 21,281,844 (2010) of many ethnic groups including Malayo-Indonesian, Cotiers, Arab ancestry, and small numbers of French, Indian, Creole, and Comoran. The official languages are English, French, and Malagasy. Madagascar has a literacy rate of 68.9% (2003). Its religions are distributed among 52% followers of indigenous beliefs, 41% Christians, and 7% Muslims.

Government

The government of Madagascar is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on French civil law system and traditional Malagasy law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The chief of state is President Andry Rajoelina, since March 18, 2009, and the head of government is Prime Minister Albert Camille Viyal, since December 18, 2009. The official currency is the Malagasy ariary, where 2210 ariary are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Madagascar is a poor country, 50% of the population falling below the poverty line (2004), and GDP per capita estimated to be US$1,000 (2009). Madagascar has followed a World Bank- and IMF-led policy of privatization and liberalization. This strategy placed the country on a slow and steady growth path from an extremely low level.

Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for one fourth of the GDP. Major exports are coffee, vanilla -Madagascar is the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla- sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanuts and livestock products.

Industry consists largely of processing agricultural products and textile manufacturing. It accounts for 16.6% of the GDP (2009). Other industrial activities include meat processing, seafood, soap, breweries, tanneries, sugar, glassware, cement, automobile assembly plant, paper, petroleum, and tourism. Madagascar is rich in biodiversity and many plants and animals found there exist nowhere else in the world. Hence, ecotourism is a sector of the economy with great potential for development.

Madagascar was the tenth-largest producer of chromite (chemical- and metallurgical-grade), and its mining industry has also been known for the production and export of phlogopite mica and high-quality crystalline flake graphite. Madagascar also produced mine gold, natural abrasives, feldspar, kaolin, cipoline marble, marine salt, and dimension stone. There are deposits of gems, iron, pyrochlore, and contained fergusonite, xenotine, euxenite, and uranium.

Bank restructuring and privatisation have resulted in a stronger financial sector. The economy's response to these reforms has been positive. A 3.6% growth and inflation of 5% were prevalent in 1997. In 2009, the inflation rate rose to 9%.

The country's infrastructure remains poor, with inadequate roads preventing the transportation of agricultural products from farm to market. Railroads and the port system are also undeveloped, although the telecommunications system is being revamped.

In 2000, Madagascar embarked on the preparation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

The Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US$406.35 (2010).


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