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Big task ahead for Madagascar's new president

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Big task ahead for Madagascar's new president

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He’s only 34, his last job was as a disc jockey, but nevertheless Andry Rajoelina is set to steer Madagascar on a new course.

For months, Rajoelina has been leading anti-government rallies and pressing President Marc Ravalomanana to step down so he could replace him. The locals want to see change, too. “Yes, it’s important,” one man said. “It’s life. We change.” “We are waiting to see change with all the benefits to the people and not only for a few people,” said another. It was the promise of change that brought ousted President Ravalomanana to power 7 years ago and not everyone in Madagascar’s capital thinks he failed. “I consider a lot of things has been achieved by the former president that we could see, through the roads through the telecommunications and through a lot other things but of course he has made a lot of mistakes, “ said a businessman. When Ravalomanana came to power in 2002, he arrived on a wave of optimism. He promised to revive the crippled economy, broaden democracy and improve the daily lives of all Malagasies But 2008 focused attention on the failures of his government. Called the ‘Malagasy Berlusconi’, he was accused of misspending public funds and undermining democracy while becoming one of the Madagascar’s richest citizens, as others languished in poverty. Madagascar is potentially wealthy. It has substantial deposits of gold, coal, nickel and uranium. Tourism brings in 390 million dollars a year and its fertile soil and warm climate supports abundant crops of rice, vanilla and coffee. But in spite of its potential, 70 per cent of the population are on the edge of poverty and half of all children are physically under-developed. Madagascar is classed as one of the world’s poorest nations. In recent years, the Indian Ocean island off the southern coast of Africa has attracted considerable foreign investment, though the population has failed to benefit. The economic crisis has threatened these investments and if political uncertainty is added to the mix, the investors may flee. It’s a heavy responsibility for Madagascar’s new, young president