Vohémar, a small secondary harbor in the SAVA region in Madagascar’s northeast, has earned its reputation as the main precious wood’s gateway. Legal exports or not, the business is more than juicy. The HAT environment minister praised the governmental measure officially reopening the legal exportation of Rhodes oil plants. The ministerial decree issued in September 2009 would have granted some 30 billions of ariary of revenues to the State. Apart from royalties, the exporter pays some 72 millions of ariary of penalty per container.
The decree is normall effective until November 30th, 2009. Prime minister Camille Vital decided to reopen the Rhodes oil plant export in January. The measure is unclear, and caused fears to defenders of the environment. “Gates to all kinds of smuggles are being wide opened anew; everyone knows well that in Madagascar, precious wood stocks are swaying”, denounced the association Voaharin’i Madagasikara. For this very committed NGO in the struggle against depredation of the country’s natural resources, any measure in favour of exportation is a boost for illegal smugglers.
The environment minister tried to moderate the debate as a response, and told that the measure is merely exceptional. “New agreements are off the point, let alone shape up complicity with smugglers”, reassured General Randriamiandrisoa. He reiterated that the concerned stocks have long been legally registered by the administration. All sorts of legal taxes have long been paid. According to the minister, so they have been long before November 30th, 2009.
“Because of our far too small harbors, namely Vohémar, the government had to address the issue, and since money has already been received, exports had to be reopened”, justified the environment minister. Only 200 containers are concerned by this governmental measure. “Leading illegal cuts is strictly forbidden (himself dixit), there are no more agreement to be delivered “, emphasized Calixte Randriamiandrisoa.
The minister of the environment only swears by the task force, the interdepartmental team basically put in place in order to halt Rhodes oil plant smuggles. He is fully satisfied by the money flowing into state chesses as it would have never had before. The export authorization that has been followed by forest depredations has, however, tarnished the HAT government’s reputation. The United States have officially issued condemnation, and called upon a boycott of Malagasy wood. One can now fear, rightly or not, an incoming legalization of smuggles.
“The task force’s mission is the protection of natural resources; its withdrawal is an opened gateway to smugglers”, argued minister Randriamiandrisoa. “In 2010, there will be reorganization, it is going to be enhanced”, he added. The minister conceded that some small scale abuses have occured, as isolated cases however. “The Task force’s elements have been, as a matter of fact, carefully selected, but, somehow, two or three of them were guilty of jaywalking”, he said. “Containers kept in Vohémar have been successfully secured thanks to the task force’s action 24/7, weekends and holidays”. THe positive balance sheet is far from being unanimous.