Madagascar Presidential Candidate Vows Tax Cuts for Economy

Madagascar presidential candidate Jean Louis Robinson said he’ll cut taxes and take steps to attract foreign investors to help resuscitate economic growth that’s been at a standstill since a coup four years ago.

Robinson, 61, will run against at least 30 candidates in elections scheduled for Oct. 25. The vote has been delayed multiple times since Andry Rajoelina, a former nightclub disc jockey, seized power with the help of the military in 2009, deposing President Marc Ravalomanana and causing donors to shun the Indian Ocean island nation.

“I would like to lower taxes, and make sure investors come back,” Robinson, 61, said in an interview yesterday in the capital, Antananarivo. “Many investors have told me that they have been waiting for these elections to happen, and that they will leave if it takes much longer.”

The coup plunged the world’s second-largest vanilla grower into a political crisis and the economy has posted no growth over the past four years, according to International Monetary Fund data. That compares with a 5.7 percent annual expansion before Rajoelina took power. Economic growth is forecast by the IMF at 2.6 percent this year and 3.8 percent in 2014.

The African Union suspended the nation and imposed sanctions against Rajoelina and 108 other government officials, the European Union froze a $600 million aid program and the U.S. shelved a preferential trade agreement.

Mining Projects

Rio Tinto Plc, based in London, has a $5 billion titanium mine in the country, Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. has a 40 percent stake in the Ambatovy nickel mine, and Lemur Resources Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, operates the Imaloto thermal-coal project.

“Investors need to know that contracts are contracts and once signed, will be respected; at the same time, the population is suffering from criminal attacks,” said Robinson. “There can not be development without security.”

The country’s tourism industry faced a possible setback this month when mobs killed two Europeans accused of organ trafficking, prompting Western nations including France to issue travel warnings. The country attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, according to the African Development Bank.

A medical doctor and a former health minister under Ravalomanana, Robinson formed the Avana party to take part in this month’s election. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, in August were removed from a list of presidential candidates. Former President Didier Ratsiraka was also barred.

Power Players

Rajoelina, Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana, who lives in exile in South Africa, will remain influential figures and still wield power from behind the scenes after the vote, U.S.-based Strategic Forecasting Inc. said in an e-mailed note on Sept. 18.

The men “will continue dominating Malagasy politics, even if the three cannot directly run for office,” Stratfor said. “In fact, barring them from candidacy could result in a backlash as their supporters respond with violence.” Bombs have exploded in Antananarivo this year ahead of elections with no casualties reported, according to Stratfor.

Voting will go to a run-off if no single candidate gets a majority in the first round. Robinson will reach the second round, according to 70 percent of the 1,084 people surveyed by Tana News, a Madagascar-based news website.

Robinson said his policy priorities also include enrolling more children in school, expanding access to health care, creating an independent judiciary and fighting corruption.

“I believe this country can be developed very fast,” said Robinson. “It just needs serenity, reconciliation and investment.”

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