20 November, 2008

Madagascar: Paradise That Would Be

Picture an island that has everything. A dream tropical island. Large, lush and green. With mountains and valleys; streams, rivers and lakes. With some of the most exotic, rarest and weirdest form of animals that exist nowhere else on this Planet. And inhabited by some of the friendliest and humblest of people. That is Madagascar. A Paradise. A paradise that has become so desperately poor, that it has to give half of its arable land to foreigners to earn some money.

What went wrong? Why is Madagascar not that dream island? Lack of proper economic planning with a vision, and having had for a long time, incompetent governance and a flawed economic system that aimed at achieving a 'socialist paradise' but failed; it is desperately poor, is ranked near the bottom of the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index; and most of its people live in poverty and live on less than a dollar a day. Much of its rain forests have disappeared and with time and no proper conservation policy, the large island has suffered massive habitat loss.

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The giant island, which the Malagasy call the 'Great Red Island', has tremendous potential. It has substantial mineral resources and it's rich in other natural resources; if developed well - the fourth largest island in the World, can undoubtedly become a prime tourist destination, especially in ecotourism. Madagascar shouldn't be poor; it shouldn't be struggling. It shouldn't be begging. It shouldn't be leasing half of its biologically rich arable land, 1.3 million hectares, to foreigners; for very little and for almost 100 years.

It does not need to be so desperate. It doesn't have to make another big economic mistake like it did with 'socialism'. All it needs is a proper and sustainable economic plan and vision. An economic plan that is independent of foreigners and has the future and well being of its people and its priceless, rich ecosystem - most in mind. Isolated from the main continent, it could easily be one of Africa's best success stories. Like its neighbor, Mauritius. With a will, it can still be a success and a Paradise.

Photos: National Geographic & here

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