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Madagascar Pres. to Raise His People`s Living Standards

Posted November. 04, 2008 09:27,   


“I am a businessman-turned-president with no political background. My mission as president is to have a real impact on the standard of living of my fellow citizens through economic development. This is my priority.”

So said Marc Ravalomanana, president of Madagascar, in an exclusive interview with The Dong-A Ilbo at his office in the African country’s capital of Antananarivo Oct. 30.

The reform-minded president expressed his strong determination to change his country over his five-year term.

“The most crucial thing for Madagascar is not to draw investment from which corporations of what countries, but how to achieve a series of economic development projects as soon as possible,” he said.

“This is the most opportunistic time to invest in this country since the government has opened every sector to private corporations. A case in point is the Ambatobi nickel mine development project that a South Korean consortium has participated in.”

Taking office in 2002, he was re-elected to a second term last year. He announced a five-year economic development plan dubbed the “Madagascar Action Plan,” which establishes direction and priorities from 2008 to 2012.

He said, “I intend to raise the economic growth rate from 4.6 percent to 8-10 percent and lower the illiteracy rate to 20 percent from 37 percent by implementing bold and aggressive projects for rapid economic development.”

Of Madagascar’s 20 million people, 80 percent live on less than two dollars a day. He said he is urging his people to participate in the action plan projects, stressing every individual’s role in development.

“When I was a student, my family was so poor that I had to cut grass before going to school,” Ravalomanana said. “The Madagascar Action Plan is an ambitious program to hand down a better country to the nation’s young people and children.”

A businessman who started Tiko, the largest dairy company in Madagascar, Ravalomanana has a similarity with Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and even the late Korean President Park Chung-hee, in that Ravalomanana and Park sought to raise their countries out of poverty through five-year economic plans.

For these reasons, Ravalomanana is often dubbed as “Park Myung-bak.”

Considering the importance of English on the global stage, the Madagascan president designated the language an official language in additional to the indigenous Malagasy and French.

He directed the public sector to use English in a number of work processes including Ambatobi resource development projects.

The action plan consists of eight major policy ideas including responsible government, education reform, building infrastructure such as roads and harbors, and national unity.

Closing the interview, Ravalomanana expressed his intent to visit Korea, which he called his role model country for economic development.