In March of 2012 while living in my parents’ small beach house in Alicante (Spain) I lost access to the Internet for a whole month. I spent the very best month of March of my entire life reading the Great Works of Jules Verne -translated into Spanish- that I had kept, unread, since I was a child, a collection that my sister and I got from the local savings bank when we made a deposit of twenty thousand pesetas to open our first savings account in the 1980s.
Jules Verne inspired me as he has inspired millions of other dreamers, children and adults. He is the one personality from the nineteenth century I would choose to meet first, if I could time travel to the past. Subsequent to his Great Works I read Agatha Christie’s incredible stories, and watched Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen’s complete filmography. Along with Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, entertainment’s greatest stars inspire a vision to put the World where it should be: on the efficient frontier of best possible futures, and to do so using the most powerful weapon of mass persuasion: entertainment.
No time travel to the best possible future is possible in the absence of a scenario, of a destination, that individuals choose to travel to. Like a dream vacation in a paradise island, Humans need a dream future destination that knocks out today’s oftentimes difficult, rough and even miserable reality in which most seem to struggle. I have built it all and figured out a strategy that can be realistically deployed to make it happen: in other words I have discovered a Time Path leading to the best possible future. A handful of so-called futurists (which oftentimes are not) envision the conquest of Mars, perhaps Jupiter, the establishment of Human colonies in Mars and Venus, forsaking Earth, accepting we as a Humanity are doomed. It is easier to daydream about future conquests of other Worlds which most likely do not exist, than to take care of business now, than to do what it’s got to be done no matter who or what is jeopardized or who has to fall figuratively speaking.
Madagascar is doomed, so are a majority of Subsaharan African countries which today remain among the World’s poorest and hungriest, and it is everybody’s fault. With Subsaharan African current population of circa one billion predicted to triple or quadruple by 2100, everyone can understand we have, globally, a serious challenge to address. And our political and corporate leaders are doing little to nothing no matter what the World Economic Forum says.
In a class paper I wrote at Columbia University in 2008 I presented “The EU Expansion into the Southern Hemisphere“, identifying Madagascar as the extremely poor country most appealing to join the European Union on a win win basis, along with the French overseas territory of Reunion and the Republic of Mauritius with its satellite island Rodrigues. The rationale behind the selection of Southwestern Madagascar was explained in “Innovative Financing“, Chapter 25 of my first book presenting a radical real estate appreciation fundraising strategy which could yield for Madagascar and the Malagasy up to one trillion dollars of development funds which could be invested in infrastructure building in the massive island which has the size of France and Belgium together and which length from North to South is the same as the distance between Gibraltar and Paris. The visionary new President for Madagascar which could make of this vision a reality is Zaza Ramandimbiarison, whom I met at the World Bank headquarters in 2008 and I introduced on The Huffington Post in 2016 “Zaza Will Be Madagascar’s Next President“.
In order for the real estate funding strategy to work, a thorough understanding of the drivers of country risk is fundamental. A new sovereign nation-state leased from Madagascar for a 99 year period will overnight deserve the attention of foreign direct investors. The World of investment is complex. The offer of funds, ie the money investors worldwide are willing to put to work, manifestly exceeds the available offer of sound investment opportunities. In the absence of the latter, investors choose obscure investment vehicles that proved to be at the very center of the financial fiasco of 2008, or put their money in inflated stock which is sooner or later likely to collapse.
One of the fundamental reasons why the European Union is going through a crisis of identity is the lack of a European capital. The European Union is today a difficult to understand supranational organization, far away from the United States of Europe Jean Monnet visualized in his imaginary. Europeans are unable to federalize and the European Union has been left incomplete, unfinished. The centers of power are multiple, adding to the confusion. Berlin, London before Brexit, Paris, Rome… and Brussels, all competing to set up priorities and define the policymaking agenda. The European Central Bank based in Frankfurt and the European Parliament based in Strasbourg only add more uncertainty to the increasing confusion.
The United States is large and populous, yet it has one and only capital city, unlike the redundant overlapping policymaking headquarters of the European Union. Brazil chose to build a brand new capital city they inaugurated in 1961, designed by the late genius Architect Oscar Niemeyer. Today Brasilia’s population is circa 4.3 Million inhabitants with a per capita income in excess of $20.000. This is a phenomenal success story.
“Why Madagascar?” is precisely the title of a previous article published courtesy of Arianna Huffington.
For six decades since independence from France in 1961, Madagascar “The Great Island” as it’s known locally, has sunk in a poverty trap. Time and again, from communism to autarchy to capitalism, from democracy to dictatorship, and over the course of six decades, leaders of all ages and ideologies have attempted, without success, to pull the Great Island forward. Interestingly enough Madagascar is unique and offers an exceptional case study of what went wrong and what can be done going forward to propel Malagasy society forward towards prosperity once and for all.
Madagascar’s population was a mere 6 million in 1961. By 2100 it is expected to reach 105 million. 85% of Madagascar’s flora and fauna is autoctone to the Island. Instinct for survival is provoking the burning and deforestation of the Great Island at an alarming pace. By 2100, perhaps by 2050 there might be little of the once great forests and jungle remaining. And of course Malagasies have a perfect right to burn to cultivate, as they have first of all to survive.
Madagascar is exceptional also in its inability to pull away from its own poverty trap. On 17 November 2017 French newspaper Le Monde publishes a relevant piece entitled “Madagascar est le seul pays qui s’appauvrit depuis soixante ans sans avoir connu la guerre” explanatory of why Madagascar is today the World’s only country which in the absence of war for sixty years –virtually since independence- has impoverished, the World’s only. For the three Authors of “Enigma and paradox: political economy of Madagascar” Mireille Razafindrakoto, François Roubaud and Jean-Michel Wachsberger (affiliated with French think-tank DIAL) the 2013 Malagasy general election which catapulted current president Hery Rajaonarimampiana to power, has changed nothing at all. Per-capita income levels have decreased by one third in Madagascar since 1961, whereas they have tripled in the remainder of Subsaharan Africa in the same time. The Madagascar enigma and paradox are at least in part associated to three factors: the predatory role of the elites, a weak civil society, and the tabu of violence, according to the French scholars.
In his 2018 bestselling essay “The Despot’s Accomplice”, Author Brian Klaas –a professor of government at the London School of Economics- coins “the Madagascar effect”, described by Foreign Affairs Author G. John Ikenberry in his book review of The Despot’s Accomplice as follows:
Such compromises have led to what he calls “the Saudi Arabia effect,” as the United States and other liberal states cozy up to nondemocratic regimes in the name of geostrategic expediency, only to find themselves one step removed from the role of an active accomplice in oppression. He also warns against “the Madagascar effect,” which finds Western governments setting extremely low standards for “counterfeit democracies” so that they can justify working with them, which is what happened in the wake of the rigged elections held after a 2013 coup in Madagascar.
The worst episode of violence –not reaching the war level- that Madagascar has seen since 1961 took place in the aftermath of the inconclusive general election of 2001, which six months later would win former president Marc Ravalomanana, now exiled in Pretoria (South Africa). The episode which was a civil conflict and not a civil war divided the country into ethnic lines and provoked a blockade of Antananarivo, the country’s capital. For a while it was thought, Madagascar would split in two along ethnic lines: two distinct groups the Imerina and the Coastal Malagasy, the former of Indonesian descent inhabit the plateau including Tana, the latter of African descent, inhabit the coasts. The Imerina have historically ruled the country and dominate Malagasy politics. In reality there are as many as 18 ethnic groups in Madagascar according to former British Ambassador Mervyn Brown author of the extraordinary “History of Madagascar”.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index, Madagascar is today a hybrid democratic regime, scoring 5.08 in a scale from 0 to 10 in the 2016 edition, up from 3.93 (2010) and 3.94 (2011, 2012) when the country fell one notch to the category of authoritatian regime.
I became interested in Madagascar in the fall of 2007 while studying at Columbia University and beginning to write my first book published by Wiley Finance in 2010. At Columbia I took Professor Glenda Rosenthal’s course “Challenges of the European Union in the XXIst century”, part one in the fall semester and part 2 in the spring semester. For the spring semester my class paper was “The EU Expansion into the Southern Hemisphere” which proposed, in a nutshell, that Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius become part of the European Union, arguing why and more specially how. Professor Glenda Rosenthal found the proposal odd in her own words “a self-fulfilling prophecy” awarding a B+ to my 80 page essay, available upon request.
When building the outline to my first book one of the key questions was, if there was a World capital where would it be established? If the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were to move to a city in an extremely poor country, which country would this be and where in this country would the institutions be established? I found Madagascar, in the antipodes of New York City and Washington D.C., immediatelly appealing, because of its massive size, its beauty, its benign climate and most importantly because it’s extremely poor. The impact of creating the World capital territory would have to be phenomenal and long-lasting for whatever country was awarded this extraordinary incentive.
My conversations began in the fall of 2007, interviewing via phone and Skype about twenty Malagasy Experts, including the late Fidele Rabemananjara who at the time was working for USAID in Antananarivo. Fidele Rabemananjara was awarded a green card and moved with the family to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2008. Ironically he moved to the United States in search for a better life but he could not find a job. He had to continue working for USAID but based in Sierra Leone while his wife and two children remained in Washington D.C. He died of a heart attack from natural causes according to the U.S. State Department later in 2010.
Fidele Rabemananjara and I met twice in Washington D.C. while I was pursuing studies at Georgetown. In our second encounter at the Starbucks close to Dupont Circle on P Street on Thursday 18 December 2008, Fidele Rabemananjara and I discussed what the ideal location of Decemland’s New International Territory (introduced in Chapter 26 of The Monfort Plan) would be, in the Ifaty forest north of Toliara in southwestern Madagascar we concluded. He also recommended to meet with Zaza Ramandimbiarison, a former deputy prime minister with former president Marc Ravalomanana, who at the time was precisely working for the World Bank in Washington D.C. Immediately after our encounter I wrote to Zaza Ramandimbiarison’s World Bank email address, surprisingly and unexpectedly he replied to me within the hour. We met the next day, my last Friday in D.C. prior to flying back to Spain to spend the Christmas holidays with family and friends. The
coincidence was extraordinary. I thank you Fidele Rabemananjara who guided me in the process of proposing Zaza Ramandimbiarison as presidential candidate, inviting him in a video message which still today can be found on YouTube “A message for Zaza Ramandimbiarison” (2010), documenting with evidence my determination for Zaza and for Madagascar.
It was in Washington D.C. that I also met two times in 2008 and one time in 2009 former Ambassador Jocelyn B. Radifera at the Malagasy Ambassy on Embassy Row in Washington D.C. Ambassador Jocelyn B. Radifera, who passed away in 2013, was convinced that my unorthodox proposal would one day become a reality and remained convinced former president Marc Ravalomanana would embrace it.
In 2008, after reading “A History of Madagascar” written by former British Ambassador Sir Mervyn Brown I decided to contact the diplomat as at the time and still today is President of the Anglo-Malagasy Society based in London, founded in 1961 “to promote links between the United Kingdom and Madagascar”. Sir Mervyn Brown, born in 1923, was Britain’s Ambassador to Madagascar from 1967 to 1970. When I approached him and proposed a meeting in London he mentioned he would not be available because of his age and suggested to meet Ambassador Brian Donaldson instead. Brian Donaldson had been Britain’s Ambassador to Madagascar between 2002 and 2005. In 2005 the U.K. Foreign Service under Secretary Jack Straw decided to cut operating expenses, to close 10 embassies, including Madagascar’s. Ambassador Brian Donaldson, in disagreement, chose to move into retirement at 60, starting his charity “Madagascar Development Fund”. I approached him and we met in London, for lunch at Kingsway near the London School of Economics, in September 2009. My lunch with the extraordinary Ambassador was eye-opening, he provided insider’s remarks that made me wake up from my naivete.
My perseverence bore fruit and finally met Sir Mervyn Brown in his London penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, in November 2010. Sir Mervyn Brown who at the time was taking care of his ill wife, awarded me with two hours of insightful information critical for the design of this beautiful scheme.
In October 2010 I had to drop out of Georgetown because of insufficient funding. I flew to The Hague to spend five days with an old friend of mine and then flew to Exeter in the United Kingdom, where Ambassador Brian Donaldson, who had just moved to a beautiful sea town on the coast in southwestern England, was waiting for me. I spent two weeks with Ambassador Brian Donaldson in St Austell and another two weeks in Madagascar. The month spent with the extraordinary Ambassador was perhaps my life’s learning experience, from the man who knows it all about the Great Island, from the hidden, modest hero, the respected authority, the noble persona, a real celebrity with category and caliber, unlike the vulgar celebrities American reality television has awarded us all.
As an analyist, as an unorthodox thinker, before proposing and projecting, I delve into the roots, reading the history, meeting and interviewing the key individuals, letting the information, the knowledge gradually fall in its proper place, as sediment. My choice of Madagascar and of Zaza Ramandimbiarison are not random, capricious, but deliberate, as the most likely way to take off a real paradigm shift, at the right time, in the right place, with the right individuals.
Unlocking history’s mystery is, in a way, a modern venture and adventure. The future is ours if we learn to navigate the present and forward travel in time along the History of Tomorrow. What comes next is not an accident, a random outcome, if we work together and project before deciding to walk the journey, perhaps history’s best. Many oracles in the form of individuals have opened doors and let me in to continue to navigate forward. Decisions are not taken overnight, but over years of serene and tranquile meditation, contemplating all the facts, altogether.