Madagascar: New legislation puts local communities at risk of eviction to pave way for investors | Land Portal

Conflicts over land are rife in Madagascar, and the population suffers in silence from the injustices stemming from these disputes. According to a 2022 report from OBS Mada, 25% of social conflicts in 22 regions in Madagascar were related to land. Land grabbing by states or mining companies deprives communities of agricultural lands they have worked on for years and diminishes agricultural yields. Sometimes, family disputes over land inheritance escalate into violence and murder. Powerful business actors acquiring land leave deprived families homeless. The state taking away lands to build a controversial highway without notice dispossesses farmers who watch helplessly as rice fields are destroyed with no warning and no compensation. The Malagasy people have had enough of this systemic violence. Civil society organizations in Madagascar are now deeply concerned about the threat the recently passed foreign investment law poses. Currently undergoing a constitutional review, if approved by the High Constitutional Court, it enables foreign investors and companies to lease land for 99 years and renew such agreements through emphyteusis, effectively granting them ownership of the land. With such a law, 80% of the Malagasy are at risk of eviction from their land. [...] The new law on investments, already adopted by the Council of Ministers  and voted by the National Assembly on May 22, 2023 and the Senate on May 25, 2023 aiming at promoting an attractive business environment, is criticised by members of civil society who see it as  a commodification of Madagascar’s land heritage. This is a law that facilitates the access of foreign investors to the acquisition of land. According to the Tany collective, this bill harms the Malagasy society in favour of foreign investors who could renew their emphyteutic lease several times, thus depriving nationals of access to land for several generations.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Economic Development Board of Madagascar, spearheading the efforts of the Malagasy government, have championed the adoption of this law with the primary objective of enticing foreign investors to establish their businesses in Madagascar. According to an article in l’Express de Madagascar, these institutions contend that the reform enables Madagascar to align itself with international principles and standards, thereby attracting investment from domestic and foreign sources alike. The primary objective of the reform is to augment the country’s attractiveness and foster a business environment that is favourable and secure for both local and international investors, consistent with the investment action framework delineated by the OECD. Through the enactment of the new law, equal treatment is assured for investors irrespective of their origin (foreigner and Malagasy), and a comprehensive system is established to uphold principles of fairness, equity, and parity in the treatment of all stakeholders involved.

When questioned about whether foreign entities such as nations and institutions promote the approval of this law, Mr. Raparison responded by suggesting that the World Bank, being pro-investment, and financially influential countries might not only be using influential actors to lobby for  greater investment, but also to safeguard their interests in our country. However, he refrained from explicitly stating that foreign countries or international organizations endorse this vote.

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