Problems of Madagascar

Mada is great, but it's no paradise, for both the Malagasy and the traveller.

Let's start with a few facts:

These are not a great set of figures, and along with them come all the expected human consequences - low life expectancy, rapid population growth, poor health care, periodic famine, hand-to-mouth living, exploitation, the list goes on.

A little bit of money can buy you a lot in Madagascar; a point not lost on unscrupulous Malagasy and foreigners alike. Cronyism is said to be rife, and heads can be easily turned from all sorts of unsavoury or downright illegal activities if the price is right. Human predators are ready and willing to take advantage. Sexual tourism is obvious and can involve children. There are also reports of human trafficking.

The problems have been exacerbated by decades of bad government. The little infrastructure and few social institutions left by the French colonialists were allowed to run down during the 40 years of socialist rule that followed independence.

Today Madagascar is just starting to pick itself up under a revised constitution and new president, but the long-term outlook remains uncertain, although any future tremors will probably just roll over the body of Madagascar. And it's this inertia that is the country's biggest problem, though perhaps, up till now, it's also been its saving. The question is, as the 21st Century closes in, can Madagascar move beyond tradition?

Most Malagasy are intensely proud of their country and aware of its vast potential. They want their island and their fellow citizens to prosper. They want to progress while retaining their traditional Malagasy ways. One can only hope that they succeed.

Perhaps their best opportunities lie with education and environmentally sustainable development.

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