Remarks by Ambassador Robert Yamate – Transparency Internationl – Corruption in Madagascar

Honorable [minister of….]

Government officials

Colleagues from the non-governmental sector, diplomatic colleagues and friends….

Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.

These are from the remarks made by President Obama at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa last July.  It is a simple fact that is as true for Madagascar as for any other nation.  Unfortunately, it may be even truer here.

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It is the very critical importance that we place on fighting corruption that has brought me here today, in support of this event.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is the leading global indicator of public-sector corruption, and is a key piece of information investors use in determining levels and methods of investment, and donor governments use to decide how best to distribute their development dollars.

I commend Transparency International for its work around the globe and here in Madagascar.  You perform a valuable service.  Thank you.

Madagascar is an easy place to fall in love with.  .  This is an incredible place, blessed with an abundance of natural resources, human talent, as rich in history and culture as it is in biodiversity.  But corruption – which, unfortunately, continues, persists, and is even growing in some sectors – is one of the principle enemies standing in the way of your progress.

Fortunately, there are institutions in Madagascar designed to wage this battle, shine a spotlight on fraud, and inject transparency into society.

I am pleased to note the National Strategy for the Fight Against Corruption, launched by the President of the Republic, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, on September 21 of last year.

The President said the fight against corruption must be intensified because it is unacceptable for the practice of squandering public and natural resources to continue.  He reiterated that such practices were harmful to the economy, and that we had to work to establish conditions to ensure their eradication.

Please also allow me to commend the Director General of BIANCO.

Since its founding in 2004, BIANCO has had to face down many challenges – including five years of non-constitutional rule that practically incapacitated it and opened the floodgates to the very kind of malign practices that we are gathered here to address.

BIANCO faces many challenges, but it deserves to be respected and it needs to be strengthened and given the independence to do its job in an unbiased fashion – to go wherever it must to re-build faith in governance.

Perhaps no other sector in Madagascar is more vulnerable to corruption than its precious natural resources.    The government must take this threat to Madagascar’s future seriously.  The failure to convict anyone of trafficking in natural resources, despite the best efforts of BIANCO and certain courageous individuals willing to speak out – has been noted.  Indeed, not only has there been a failure to prosecute; there have been active efforts to gain the release of those who have been arrested, and some have even been nominated to positions of authority.  And, as we have said in the past, more people have actually been sent to jail for blowing the horn on traffickers than have been sent to jail for trafficking.

The singer Bono once said that “The worst disease in the world today is corruption.  And there is a cure: transparency.”  This is so true.  And for its efforts in this sector, I commend today’s announcement by Transparency International, and pledge our support in helping eradicate corruption in Madagascar and remove it as a roadblock to a very promising future.

On a lighter note, I passed through the exhibition hall briefly on my way here, to see the different political cartoons designed to illustrate the fight against corruption here in Madagascar.   A recurrent theme of many of the submissions is the depiction of people of all backgrounds coming together to shine a spotlight on corrupt practices.  They are extremely creative and well-done.

I congratulate all those who submitted entries, and I encourage you all to take a look and enjoy the creativity and civic-mindedness on display.

Thank you for your attention.