Chronic poverty is Madagascar's foremost burden. Its wage rates are amongst the lowest in the world, and, according to a 1993-94 survey, 70 percent of the country
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Madagascar|
|Survey year: 1993|
|Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
lived below even Madagascar's own baseline poverty level, and conditions had not improved by the end of the century. Average per capita GDP sits at US$250 per annum (1999), low even for sub-Saharan economies, and one-hundredth of France's GDP per capita. Although the economy continues to grow, the effects remain unfelt by the majority of the population, for whom disease and famine are continual blights.
Poverty levels are not helped by skewed distribution. Traditional Malagasy society is highly hierarchical, with a rigid ranking system according to ethnicity, age, and gender. The effect has been to rigidify social structures and to leave Madagascar's richest 10 percent controlling 35 percent of the country's wealth. Corruption and patronage too tend to concentrate wealth in the hands of the elite, though the planned devolution of governmental power to the regions may go some way to expanding the political class.