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The Madagascar population is quite dispersed (UNHCHR 1993). The urban centers and other vital sectors, such as the deltas and alluvial plains are populated. But the rest of the land is thinly populated. Only a few regions are enclaved and have roads, but these are in a deteriorating state because of the lack of material and financial resources. The growth rate of Madagascar went up from 1.59 to 3.5% between 1960 and 1970. In 1990, the population was estimated at 11 million and evenly distributed. There are 171 live births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The crude mortality is 17.6 per thousand with life expectancy at birth at 54.5 years. The natural increase in population is 2.7 to 3.2% per year or to double within 22-26 years. The population is 46% for those below 15 years old and only 3% for those over 60. The dependency ratio is quite high at 93%. The population is largely rural at 76-80%.
Soldiers and Politics
Madagascar has a military force, consisting of 13,500 members and 12,5000 of them are in the army (MSN Encarta 2007). An 8,000 member complement performs paramilitary functions. In the spring during the rule of Tsiranana, a student strike grew into a riot. Elements of the military ousted the army chief of staff in early 1975 and then put Didier Ratsiraka as head of state. Economic pressures and political unrest led to antigovernment plots. After massive anti-government actions, he promised reforms. A transitional government was established and a new constitution was set in place by a popular referendum in August 1992 (MSN Encarta).
Economic Growth and the Environment
Despite its biological and cultural richness, Madagascar has remained among the world's poorest countries (Mongabay.com 2007). Astronauts remarked that deforestation in the country makes it look like it is bleeding to death because of the red soils being carried by rivers. Environmental degradation is severe. Around 90% of its forests have disappeared and 25-30% of the rest is burned every year by agricultural fires. Soil erosion takes away the country's agricultural capacity and worsens poverty in the rural areas (Mongabay.com).
The rule of didcator Kidier Ratsiraka and his corrupt government has been costly to Madagascar (Mongabay.com 2007). Officials steal substantial funds intended for aid and development activities. Economies, based on natural resource extraction, as in Madagascar, are prone to corruption. In the same light, economic colonialism has impeded the development of Madagascar, despite its independence in 1960. The lack of investment in sustainable industries has significantly slowed its economic development down. The lack of infrastructure has been another restraint. Only 5,780 of the almost 50,000 km of roads are paved. Most of these paved roads are also in very bad shape, full of potholes and can accommodate only single vehicles. Bad weather often damages or destroys roads and bridges and makes travel more difficult. Madagascar's geographic isolation may be a unique feature but it also increases trade costs. Its population is relatively small and poor so that is has been underserved as a market by global firms. Foreign corporations lack the motivation to develop, transport and market many of their goods to Madagascar. Children suffer from inadequate education system. Poverty prevents the government from providing enough funds for education (Mongabay.com).
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