|The Courier N° 156 - March - April 1996 - Dossier: Trade in Services - Country Report : Madagascar (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)|
|Madagascar: A history of the unknown|
A cool-headed Opposition
The new Mayor of Antananarivo and President of larivo Department (which includes tire capital is a pre-eminent figure in Madagascar politics He is a former Prime Minister who held office during the transition, prior to the 1993 elections, and he has also held the mayoralty before. Of all the leaders of the divided opposition, he is currently regarded as someone capable of proposing a new political direction. He spoke to The Courier in ear/y November, answering questions on the e/ections he had recently won, on key issues facing the newly-formed government and on the country's main problems. He chose his words careful/y, but was nonetheless decisive and self-assured in expressing his viewpoint.
'Out of the seven big towns and cities in the country, there are only one or two which could now be said to be within the president's sphere of influence. All the others have gone over to the opposition. Admittedly, part of that opposition has not come out clearly against the government. Some politicians are dashing around frantically, seeking ministerial office, whilst others are just waiting, disillusioned with the lack of competence which is now there for all to see.
'I used to be a Member of Parliament and I returned to the House two years ago. I had hoped that we would see a renewal of the political class and the emergence of younger people. However, the parties have taken the upper hand again and are in the process of stifling everything, giving no thought to the Republic's future. Why are people turning away from the ballot box? The answer is that there have been too many elections and a lot of disappointments. There is a surfeit of political parties. The electoral code was adopted when I was Prime Minister during the transition and my personal preference was for proportional representation with elimination of lists which did not reach a certain ceiling, but no one would listen.
'Why was it that two floors of the Finance Ministry went up in flames at ten in the morning on 6 November? Should this fire be linked to the one at the Queens Palace? I was there when the fire started in the Palace, and what worries me from what I saw is the total absence of authority and of competent administrative reaction. Although I myself had no legal competence, I found myself compelled to give orders which were not carried out very well, given that the forces of law and order are well aware that I was only a Member of Parliament, not even Mayor of the city (ed. note: Mr Razanamasy was Mayorelect and had not yet taken up the post when we interviewed him in November). Not surprisingly, there were tensions which began to be seen the following day, and a number of politicians have been trying to fan this movement. I am afraid that some of them are seeking to provoke a confrontation between certain inhabitants of Antananarivo and others who have come from the coastal regions: in short, a tribal war. I personally spent four days trying to defuse this criminal plan. I can quite understand your amazement that the government or the minister responsible did not think to request foreign expert assistance to determine the origin of the fire, and you are neither the first nor the only one to have those feelings. However, what happened must be seen in context. It occurred on a Monday and the new Prime Minister had only been installed the previous Friday evening, so there had not yet been time to appoint any leaders.
Contrary to what is often said, the Queens Palace has not been the so called symbol of Merina domination for a long time. With colonisation and then independence, Antananarivo became the Malagasy Republic's capita. If those sorcerer's apprentices knew any history, they would know that the kings and queens buried up there included many with blood links to princes from other regions in the country. A council of wise men came into being spontaneously to discuss the way in which the aftermath of this fire should be managed, and it included descendants of princes from the six provinces, so the rebuilding will undoubtedly be an opportunity for the spirit of national solidarity to be made stronger; to be revived.
As for the problems of overpopulation and deterioration of infrastructures in the capital, it should be remembered that this is a city which was designed for a maximum of 400000 inhabitants. The current population is in excess of 1 million, not counting the floating population. To relieve pressure on the city, we would first have to change the government's attitude and then modify the boundaries. It is probably true to say that successive governments have planned to solve the problem, but they always got cold feet. That's the very least one can say with regard to Antananarivo. And civic leaders were not always up to the job.
I am under no illusions. We have to look at the financial resource problem of Antananarivo in both the short and the long term. This is why I am turning to the European Union. It would benefit no one if it were to become a city after the style of Mexico City. There is a plan which could be implemented over the next four years and a second plan which should be put into action as quickly as possible, and which will have even more far-reaching effects.
But my budget is only 7 billion francs, and, after wages have bean paid, there is barely 20% left. What am I to do with only one and a half billion francs? There is an urgent need for better drinking-water supplies and primary schools. We should try to give our children good health, and the opportunity to enter primary school, so that they can learn to read and count. This is the minimum required for a decent working life.
Particular attention must be given to investors and, above all, to a particular category, namely those who are able to take on a large number of employees and who do not run businesses which pollute. We have serious environmental problems here. It is impossible to breathe the air in some places. The problem is that the average citizen doesn't actually grasp what all the talk and publicity about the environment actually means. They don't see it as providing a contribution to solving current pollution problems.
I am interested in Tana being twinned with European cities. This might make it possible, at the very least, to obtain equipment from partner cities. I brought the matter up at a meeting of the International Association of French speaking Mayors, formerly presided over by Jacques Chirac and I intend to follow up my initial approaches. The urgent problems I face include the capability to fight fires and I hope to get some assistance from the EU in this area. Then there is the reconstruction of the Queen's Palace. The city will make a contribution but, according to the first estimates, it will cost us 60 billion Malagasy francs. Interview by H.G.