Madagascar Cabinet Quits on Criticism Over Living Conditions

Madagascar’s government resigned after criticism by the opposition and protests over deteriorating living conditions in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Prime Minister Roger Kolo and his cabinet submitted their resignation to President Hery Rajaonarimampianina yesterday, Ralala Roger, secretary-general in the presidency, said in a statement broadcast on state television in the capital, Antananarivo. The process of forming a new government is under way, he said.

“The government resigned in response to heavy criticism as the president could not lead any concrete action and the population did not feel any improvements in their lives,” Sahondra Rabenarivo, a political analyst at Madagascar Law Offices in Antananarivo, said in a phone interview. “The prime minister and the government have been fall guys for the lack of advancement in 2014.”

Rajaonarimampianina assumed office a year ago with a pledge to improve living conditions by ending electricity shortages, reducing crime and boosting foreign investment. The elections that brought the 56-year-old to power were the first since a coup five years ago plunged the country into a political and economic crisis.

Power cuts have become more frequent since Rajaonarimampianina took power, sparking protests and the removal of Fienena Richard as energy minister in October. At least one protester was killed in the eastern city of Toamasina during demonstrations on Christmas Eve, according to Rasoanaivo Lova Alisoa, president of a youth association which has participated in the protests, including in the capital.

Slowing Growth

Economic growth slowed to a halt after the coup and the World Bank last year estimated nine out of every 10 people in the country of 22 million lives on less than $2 a day and a reduction in budget aid forced the government to reduce services. The crisis cost the economy, which relies on mainly tourism, agriculture, and mining, at least $8 billion in lost output, according to the bank. The power cuts have hit factory production and led to job cuts, said Alisoa in an interview.

Rajaonarimampianina is meeting with his predecessors today for the second time since December in Antananarivo, in a bid to foster political unity after years of instability. Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who has been detained by Madagascar authorities since returning from exile in South Africa last year, is expected to be among former rulers at the talks, which are being organized by a coalition of churches.

The country’s parliament is holding a special session today to discuss possible replacements for the prime minister.

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