Corruption, “lack of genuine decentralization” among Challenges Hindering Madagascar’s Development: Catholic Bishops

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Madagascar (CEM). Credit: Vatican Media

Catholic Bishops in Madagascar have identified corruption, lack of genuine decentralization, poverty, insecurity, and drug abuse among challenges that they say hinder development in the Indian Ocean Island nation. 

In a statement shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, May 15, members of the Episcopal Conference of Madagascar (CEM) decry the increasing gap between the “small number” of rich and the “large number” of the poor in the Island country that lies off the Southeastern coast of Africa.

“The cost of living is rising exponentially. Insecurity still prevails in many regions. Many national roads continue to deteriorate and lack maintenance. The plundering of national wealth, both in terms of exploitation and export, persists,” CEM members lament.

In their message dated May 9, they say that “freedom of expression and mutual understanding are non-existent. Drug production, trafficking and consumption are growing out of all proportion.”

“A small number of the population are affluent, with money and wealth of doubtful origin, and are getting richer and richer, while a large number are sinking into blatant poverty,” they add.


The Catholic Church leaders identify corruption as a major challenge that is behind other challenges in the country, and lament inaction on the part of relevant authorities saying the vice “is getting worse”.

“We will not cease to affirm that corruption is one of the main causes of poverty in Madagascar. Yet this disease is getting worse in our country,” they lament, and add, “Corruption starts at the grassroots and goes all the way to the top authorities. It is often the high-profile and wealthy who are the unavoidable sponsors.”

CEM members further decry the pervasive nature of graft in the country, saying, “Almost every sector of national life is plagued by corruption, even within the Church itself. Anti-corruption institutions have been set up, but many wonder what they are for and who they are for and for whom.”

In Madagascar, they lament, “nothing is possible without corruption or bribery.”

“In the face of corruption, the law is non-existent, invisible. It has become a system that runs daily life...And those who wish to denounce or resist pay, are subjected to pressure, bribes, threats, arrest warrants, the building of cases for trial... even attempts at physical elimination are to be feared,” the Catholic Church leaders say in their May 9 message.

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The systemic nature of corruption in the country, they say, “makes men and women of good will give up. As a result, illegality is gaining ground, while the rule of law is still preached.”

Another challenge hindering Madagascar’s progress and development, CEM members say, is the “lack of genuine decentralization.”

“Initiative-taking and the organization of projects and strategies remain in the hands of the central government. Local authorities have no choice but to follow the central government's orders and organization,” the Catholic Bishops lament.

The centralized system of governance, they say, “has given rise to the mentality of always expecting a wait-and-see attitude on the part of the State, despite the local expertise that could accomplish the project.”

“Moreover, there is a lack of mutual understanding. As a result, those who are considered opponents or prejudiced are not received, even though they may propose truths for the good of the people,” CEM members say.


The Catholic Church leaders say they find it regrettable that the government has not prioritized the needs of the citizens.

“There is no clear strategic plan that highlights the people's priorities. Most of the infrastructure built does not meet the real priorities or could have been built in the bush to benefit the latter, which has no facilities,” they lament. 

CEM members urge the government to rethink the current way of governance, and serve the people, facilitating the provision of “food and clothing, schooling for their children and, last but not least, the possibility of medical care, electricity and water, and work to survive.”

“Madagascar needs leaders who know and are willing to address the needs of the people according to their priorities. These priorities shouldn't be the subject of speeches during the election campaign but should be clearly visible during the term of office,” they appeal. 

“Infrastructures built everywhere must respect the aesthetic side of nature's beauty, which demands to be cared for,” CEM members say.

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To address the pervasive challenge of corruption, the Catholic Church leaders advocate for education in integrity that they say “must always be reinforced from the family”, with emphasis on “the exercise of responsibilities.”

The Catholic Bishops recognize the “commitment” of Madagascar citizens, who mean well in their daily struggles, saying, “We cannot fail to thank and encourage the men and women of good will who are faithful to their commitment despite the sacrifices they must endure.”

“We pray for every family, our homeland and the world, eager for peace and mercy,” CEM members say. 

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.