|Area:||587041 square km|
|Currency:||1 Malagasy franc (FMR)|
Madagascar (also known as the Malagasy Republic) is an independent island republic with a democratic government which lies in the Indian Ocean and forms part of the Indian Ocean Islands group associated with Africa. The capital city is Antananarivo. Other major towns are Antsirabe and Fianarantsoa and the port of Toamasina (Tamatave).
The official languages are Malagasy and French. The economy of Madagascar is predominantly agricultural. The local currency is the Malagasy franc (FMG). (US$ / FMG – current exchange rate).
The people of Madagascar suffer from chronic malnutrition and the country’s education and health facilities are severely underfunded. The key elements of the economy are agriculture, fishing and forestry, which bring in about a third of GDP and contribute substantially to the export earnings of the country.
Industry in Madagascar is limited to textile manufacturing and agricultural products processing.
Growth in output in the last 25 years has averaged less than the growth rate of the population (about 3%). As a result, per capita incomes have declined sharply. Strikes and demonstrations against the government, a decline in world coffee demand, and the government’s erratic commitment to economic reform have retarded the economy’s growth.
Policies implemented after the late 1980s have followed a more pragmatic approach. Price distortions were eliminated, energy prices increased, commodity subsidies eliminated and the exchange rate was floated. The Malagasy government, under the guidance of the World Bank, has made liberalisation and privatisation its key goals for economic reform.
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. Other areas have not, however, shown much growth, and further structural reforms will be necessary to boost the economy. The extent to which the Malagasy government implements reforms and the amount of foreign investment and financial aid that the country receives will determine whether the country reaches its growth potential.
The Madagascar oil industry is an important sector in the economy of the country. The upstream oil industry is under-explored although exploration results to date have shown promising reserves of commercially exploitable heavy oil. The country has an oil refinery at Tamatave. The country’s mining industry is another key sub-sector in the country’s economy and one which offers considerable potential for development.
Since the establishment of a duty free export-processing zone in 1990, there has been an increase in light manufacturing, particularly in the clothing and textile sectors.
The international time zone for Madagascar is GMT +3 and the international dialling code for the country is +261. Apart from Air Madagascar, the national carrier, Air France and Air Mauritius fly to Madagascar. Since the mid 1990s, air transport in Madagascar has been liberalised and several new private airlines now serve both domestic and international routes. Under the World Bank sectoral program, the petroleum industry should be liberalised soon. As at September 1995 all nationals require visas in order to visit the country.
Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, typhoid fever and schistosomiasis may be contracted while travelling in Madagascar. Travellers should be aware that advance payment for medical services may be required. Prescription medicines should be carried in their original containers together with the prescription.