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Norwegian development cooperation with Madagascar

Norwegian development cooperation with Madagascar

Madagascar received status as a Norwegian development partner in 2004. In May 2004, Norway opened an embassy in Antananarivo. Norwegian missionaries have provided this island nation in the Indian Ocean with social services since 1866. This unique historical relationship gives Norway special standing in Madagascar and provides a solid basis for today’s bilateral development cooperation.

The situation
Following a political crisis in 2002, the political situation in Madagascar moderated and today is considered stable. Fighting poverty and promoting good governance are key aspects of government policy. Marc Ravalomanana was elected president on a reform programme that stresses decentralization and the struggle against corruption.

Since independence in 1960, Madagascar has experienced declining economic growth and too little economic and financial stability. Gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant declined from USD 430 in 1960 to USD 220 in 2003. Since 1975, the population has grown at 2.8 percent annually while GDP growth has averaged 1.2 percent. The International Monetary Fund estimates that 75 percent of the population lives in poverty (2004).

Madagascar’s economic situation improved in 2003 after a sharp decline caused by the 2002 crisis. In 2004 the economy was buffeted by negative external factors such as cyclones and high international prices for rice and oil, but economic growth today has stabilized at about 5.3 percent. In July 2003, Madagascar produced a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Its strategy, based on a thorough poverty analysis, is characterized by a high degree of local ownership.

Though Madagascar is one of Africa’s poorest countries, the macroeconomic picture has been stable in recent years. Foreign debt was estimated in 2003 at USD 4.8 billion, but in 2004 Madagascar qualified for debt cancellation under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. As a result of the initiative, Madagascar’s foreign debt is expected to fall by more than half in the coming years. In addition to bilateral debt forgiveness to Madagascar of around USD 1.5 billion, the G-8 countries are expected to contribute to the cancellation of debts incurred by multilateral institutions. Madagascan authorities have committed themselves to using the resources freed through debt cancellation to implement the national anti-poverty strategy. Having joined the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2005, Madagascar is expected to strengthen its economic integration with other nations of the region.

Status of Norwegian development cooperation
In addition to the century-long bilateral relationship cultivated by missionaries and others, Norway and Madagascar have a long history of development cooperation. This cooperation has been channelled through a variety of volunteer organizations and the United Nations system. In large part, it has focused on agriculture and infrastructure.

Under terms of a letter of intent signed in March 2004, the joint developmental effort focuses on issues of education and governance, with emphasis on anti-corruption measures.

Support for the education sector makes up the largest portion of today’s country programme. Funding is divided between direct support to the Madagascan Ministry of Education and support to two UN organizations – UNICEF for primary school education and the International Labour Organization (ILO) for school construction and other activities.

In the field of governance, Norway is particularly supportive of Madagascar’s fight against corruption. A national council devoted to combating corruption has been among the recipients of support. Norwegian support has also helped in the establishment of a special anti-corruption bureau (BIANCO). Through the UN Development Programme, Norway has assigned an anti-corruption adviser to serve in the president’s office. Eventually, this work will be folded into a larger-scale governance programme.

Today’s assistance portfolio is an extension of Norway’s long-term cooperation with Madagascar, in particular its recognition and support of Norwegian volunteer organizations. One recipient of Norwegian assistance (through an agreement with the Royal Norwegian Society for Development) is Fifamanor, a Madagascan centre promoting agricultural development. In addition, Norway gives the Norwegian Missionary Society support for Madagascar’s Lutheran churches and their work in teacher training, agricultural schools and primary schools.