Meet the new Ratbag government, same as the old Ratbag government

While I am glad that Antananarivo did not become a war zone, I am disappointed that a stand against the current regime basically amounted to nothing (not that I was expecting it to anyway). Isn’t it funny sometimes how you get so desperately bored of the way that this illegal government behaves that you hope that anyone who dares oppose it have some level of success? Sometimes I am scared that the people of Madagascar are going to become so desperate that they will pick anyone to be president, so long as Rajoelina and his government disappear… I know I am starting to feel that way.

Anyway, despite there being no real “action”, so to speak, in Madagascar, there are still quite a few stories (listed below):

And these are only the ones that I want to touch on briefly, there are some more interesting information if you go to the “news links” tab of my blog. In case you are wondering about the title, I borrowed it from John Moore a radio host in Toronto that frequently uses this phrase to describe the federal government in Canada, thought it would be more applicable to the HAT and all their cabinet shuffling.

So about reshuffling the cabinet, I have become unbelievably bored of hearing how many times TGV are going to replace their ministers. At first I thought to myself that it must be me, surely I just “think” that they are changing government THAT frequently… it makes no sense. But then, thanks to Twitter and all the people following the crisis like myself, I get this link to “50 ministers in 15 months” (French article). Unreal isn’t it? Here I was thinking that it isn’t possible to shuffle a government cabinet this many times and there is an article about that very thought.

The government Monday of Pentecost is still and always composed of a plethora of 32 ministers, who, with 44 members of the transitional authority, are all paid for with scarce taxpayer resources. By comparison, under Ravalomanana, successive governments of Jacques Sylla (2002-2007) and Charles Rabemananjara (from 2006-2009) each had 21 members. Over the past 15 months, 51 people are exactly who participated in the waltz of ministers orchestrated by Andry TGV, ex-disc jockey

So if you read this right, Rajoelina has added 6 additional ministers to his government and by doing that and everything else he is doing wrong, he is burning through taxpayer money like no one else. The only real reasons that I can think of, but doesn’t necessarily justify how many minsters have come and gone is that he likes to treat his friends and supporters too much. It seems he likes to let everyone share power so they can have their piece of the Madagascar taxpayer pie. If you think about it, there can really be no other explanation since he “hand picks” new ministers for the job, despite knowing perfectly well that another unilateral Rajoelina branded “neutral” government means nothing to anyone outside of Madagascar.

Andry Rajoelina argues that the new cabinet is in line with his plan to establish a “neutral” government in the run-up to elections —legislative and presidential — before the end of the year.

“Once again, it is a unilateral initiative, as such, can not get international recognition, “he told Reuters Fetison Andrianirina, leader of the movement loyal to ousted President Marc Ravalomanana.

Back to the mutiny for a second, it appears (as it usually does) that Andry Rajoelina has his man when it comes to the mutiny of May 20th. According to most news Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is said to held in connection to May 20th and to have spilled the beans as to why the mutiny was called in the first place. The reason of course, is that Marc Ravalomanana caused this because <insert reason here>. Everytime there is every any trouble involving his government Andry Rajoelina is quick to point out in some way that the former president is responsible somehow thinking that this will deflect criticism of his government for possibly being the real reason as to why this had happened.

The police say Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is being held in custody in connection with Thursday’s battle between security forces and a dissident group of military police.

The mutineers were said to be angry at alleged abuses by their superiors.

The office of President Andry Rajoelina said Friday the former president was trying to create tensions within the armed forces.

President Andry Rajoelina has accused Ravalomanana of backing Thursday’s mutiny by a military police faction, saying he had thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars at military chiefs in an attempt to destabilise Madagascar.

It is really just all a PR stunt that will be used later on down the road as a reason why the HAT will not attend any upcoming negotiations with the former presidents.

Marc Ravalomanana of course denies any involvement with this, which is believable. Even if he did provide money to the military (seems like they can be paid off fairly easily anyway) does anyone think for a second that a mutiny paid for like Marc Ravalomanana would the the miserable failure that this mutiny was? Besides, how is it even possible to resolve the impasse by paying for a mutiny? If it were possible at all, it’s not like Marc Ravalomanana could resume his presidency without having to answer questions about how he returned, he would end up being no better than Rajoelina.

“I … deny any involvement in the clashes in Madagascar,” Ravalomanana told Reuters by telephone from Pretoria in South Africa where he is in exile.

“I have nothing to do with the military leaders that are behind this and it is not in my interest to finance violent action in the army,” he said.

Now comes the interesting part. It would appear from the last 3 listed stories that if you are banking (no pun intended) on the HAT’s illegitimate government to run out of money that you should think again. It seems as though the HAT government has no problems prostituting Madagascar’s resources to the highest bidder in order to stay in power. First up, a good article from Barry Bearack of the NY times about how the criminal element and the current government are taking advantage of the coup to reap profits from Madagascar’s protected rose wood:
Exploiting a political crisis, Malagasy timber barons are robbing this island nation of its sylvan heritage, illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of the valuable logs to China.

This accelerated plunder of the rainforest coincided with a military coup in March 2009. Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, was installed as president, and he has since led a weakened and tottering government that is unable — and perhaps unwilling — to stop the trafficking.

“The government does nothing because it shares in the money,” said Ndranto Razakamanarina, president of an association of Malagasy environmental groups and a policy officer with the World Wildlife Fund. “Many of the ministers think they’ll be in office only three or six months, so they decide to make money while they can. The timber mafia is corrupt, the ministers are corrupt.”

“The rosewood is piled up near the rivers; no one is trying to hide anything,” said Guy Suzon Ramangason, the director general of the organization that manages many of the parks. “Chinese businessmen pay the exporters and they in turn pay off the controllers like the police and the government.”

With all the AU/EU/US sanctions that have been coming into place to try and strangle the resources of the HAT, the only real recourse and money maker for the government is to turn to criminal activities to fill the void and since the HAT is criminal, this makes perfect sense. I thought that this would be their only source of income, but I was wrong. Not only does China seem to be responsible for the purchase of most of the illegal rosewood logs they are now getting rewarded with the opportunity to open a mine, which brings us to article #2 “China comes to the rescue with $100 million dollars for a mining project”:
Fresh money for state coffers. The Chinese consortium Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation (WISCO) has to pay the $ 100 million to the state of Madagascar. It is a payment as a right of making available to Soalala iron deposit, located north-west of the Big Island

Soalala is now become the largest mining project ever launched in Madagascar. It represents an estimated investment volume of 8 billion dollars and will generate up to 100,000 jobs.

The project’s outcome is a windfall Soalala important is timely for the regime transition. The organization of elections, among others, or the launch of some priority investments are all projects that become possible through this resource.

It appears that China is perfectly willing to prop up this illegal government so long as it benefits from it. Just look at the total investment volume and possible jobs! They have basically just put the HAT on life support and are directly contributing to the extension of this crisis! Unreal. Besides rescuing his government, it also gives Rajoelina a pretty good excuse to make it look like he is doing something for the people (i.e. exploit them). I am sure this will be a brilliant announcement for job opportunities, and revenue courtesy of the HAT and all the Malagasy people suffering will fill those 100,000 positions and will no doubt be working in sub-optimal conditions.
Finally,  debt forgiveness by Iraq and Russia. I have read somewhere that poor countries that borrow a lot of money, or use many of the programs offered by them stand to pay a lot of money in interest for the money they borrow. As it turns out, the HAT will be saving quite a bit of money in the form of loan forgiveness,  80% of a 234 million dollar loan (187.6 million) and 21 million dollars in interest payments from Russia. So now that this money is not obliged to be given to these countries, the HAT has had 208.6 million dollars freed up, that is, if they even had the intention of making payments.
The impoverished Indian Ocean island saw 187.6 million dollars waived from the 234-million-dollar loan after negotiations earlier this month, said the statement from Madagascar’s finance ministry.

The rest of the debt will be repaid interest free over the next seven years.

Madagascar reached a similar deal with Russia in January, resulting in the cancellation of 21 million dollars in interest accrued from a loan.

There was a funny comment made by Lova Rakotomalala on Twitter that pretty much sums up the Iraq loan forgiviness in under 140 characters:
lrakoto: U know U R not doing well when Iraq feels bad 4 U: RT@Manantsoa@haabanews: Iraq waives 80% of #Madagascar debthttp://bit.ly/bAXnR2

So true.
Looks like the HAT has been given an extension to continue tormenting Madagascar’s people, unfortunately.
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