- The government of Madagascar is implementing an enormous scheme to improve a total of 22.000 kilometres of highways and rural roads by 2008. This represents 69 percent of the national road network. The US$ 1.2 billion efforts follow decades of neglect, resulting in the near isolation of 90 percent of the country's prefectures.
Madagascar has a road network of 32,000 kilometres, over 25,700 kilometres - or 81 percent - of which are in poor condition. The Malagasy government however last year presented plans to restore, by year 2008, the quality of service and operational capacity of a road network of a 14,000 kilometres highway and 8,000 kilometres of rural roads.
The enormous road improvement scheme is slowly advancing as Antananarivo authorities are securing funding of the programme. Only today, the African Development Fund (ADF) approved of grants and loans totalling US$ 49.5 million to finance a part of the Malagasy scheme.
The ADF funds will go to finance the rehabilitation of two sections of the roads in Madagascar's impoverished south-western Toliara province, on the highway connecting the western port of Morondava with Antananarivo. According to an ADF statement, this funding will "help prepare the opening up of the province" and improve accessibility and mobility for its rural population of 750,000 inhabitants.
According to the Malagasy government, the vast Toliara province is one of the worst examples on how a poor and neglected infrastructure has hampered economic development and cemented poverty. By reducing the travel time and transport costs to the province, the government hopes to promote investments and tourism here, in addition to enhance agricultural production, generate employment and provide access to socio-educational centres for the province's inhabitants.
The government of Madagascar says it is "aware that the growth of foreign investments, the development of the ecotourism potential, the increase in agricultural production and the improvement of social services all depend on the competitiveness of the transport services and the existence of a basic transport infrastructure."
- Three decades of lack of adequate maintenance, coupled with inefficient management policies, have resulted in the serious deterioration of the road network, the Malagasy government recognises in a description of its national transport programme.
In 2001, a study had revealed that 33 percent of the communes did not have access to a highway and that 30 percent did not have access to a provincial road. The same study also established that 90 percent of the communes were isolated and highlighted a strong correlation between this remoteness and poverty.
In its scheme to improve infrastructure, the Malagasy government plans to spend a total of US$ 1.16 billion until 2008, of which US$ 963 million are going to the road sector. For the road sector, these efforts should lead to a marked improvement of the state of the roads already at the end of this year, the Malagasy government foresees.
By then, some 4000 kilometres of highways are to be in good condition - 60 percent up on 2002 - and 3500 kilometres of rural roads are to be rehabilitated. Further, the government with the programme plans improvements for Madagascar's rundown railways, ports and airports.
And when the roads are rehabilitated, the Malagasy government is not going to let the transport network degenerate again. New legislation on minimum standards for vehicles - to improve safety and hinder destruction of the roads - is upcoming. Road taxes are already funding the new Road Maintenance Fund and 25 percent out of the total costs for the Malagasy transport programme are already set aside for maintenance of the rehabilitated roads.
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