The Malagasy Customs Throughout History

The Malagasy customs is a bicentennial administration, whose birth dates back to the time of the Royal monarchy merina (ethnic group from the “highland” of Asian origin quite marked residing in the centre of the island), in the beginning of the 19th century.

The abolition of the anglo-merina slavery on 23rd of  October 1817 contributes to the intensification of international trade under the reign of Radama I and also to the implementation of the Customs for building up the monarchical state coffers. Then we are witnessing the creation of the first customs revenues on the East, West and South Coast, revenues that will have several points in common:

they were entrusted to king’s parents
they have been controlled by generals (the Customs was a militarized service)
they have for objective to intensify international trade and to gain foreign exchange.
The Customs subsequently met varying fortunes under different monarchies and its importance has varied according to the policy adopted by the holders of power.

I. The reign of Ranavalona I (1828-1861), the longest reign (33 years), has been characterized by three periods:

the extension of the system adopted under the reign of Radama I (1828-1845)
the closing of the borders (from 1845 to 1853)
the reopening of the borders and the reinstatement of the international trade (1853)
With the reopening of the ports, customs duties were intended exclusively for the Royal chest and were seen in the import and export of all goods. The export of slaves was the only thing prohibited following a treaty signed by Radama I.  It is very interesting to know the method of separation of the customs duties, in the middle of the 19th century, without knowing the spirit:

- 10/120th to close parents of the Queen and a few preferred people

- 11/120th went to high-ranking officers

- 99/120th Royal chest.

In short, after successfully established his authority over the entire island, Ranavalona I the successor of Radama I was able to establish a true “Customs Corps.” They are not only responsible of the tightness of the maritime border but also of regulating the trade which were possible only in the traffic points continually secured by Customs soldiers.

II. Under Radama II (1861-1863)

The Royal Customs was only an extension of that of the previous regime. However, by the Decree of 20 August 1861, Radama II abolished customs duties for import and export. It caused much bitterness among the beneficiaries of the distribution and promoted speculation.

The policy of openness promoted by Radama II will cost him his life. At the death of the King, the Customs always played its role in the national budget.

III. The customs under the regime of Rasoherina (1863-1868)

During the reign of Rasoherina (1863-1868) and Ranavalona II (1868-1883) historians were able to report no particular feature of the Royal Customs. The previous customs system continued to secure tax revenues, required by the monarchy.

IV. During the reign of Ranavalona II (1883-1896)

As previously, the function of the Royal Customs has not changed about the withdrawal system. However, it took a growing importance because of the opening to the outside. The monarchical State maintained diplomatic relations with the leading countries of the West (France, Germany and the United States of America).

During the reign of Ranavalona III the relations Franco-Malagasy deteriorated due to the goals of France for some parts of the national territories (West Coast and Northwestern). The first franco-hova war which broke out in 1883 ended on December 1885 by the signature of a treaty, subjecting Madagascar to the french protectorate regime.

The treaty contained two very important clauses, as the monarchy gave the conquering France two important ministerial departments:
a- The relations with other countries (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
b- The customs revenue

It was also a question of distribution of war damage. However, the monarchical state chests were empty. A loan agreement was concluded with the National Counter Discount of Paris (CNEP). This loan was secured by customs revenue the collection of which was entrusted to the CNEP.

To ensure these collections, voluntary french expatriates (very rare) were used to replace the malagasy customs officers. However, it was needed to recruit local native people due to the lack of expatriate volunteers. Customs officers in this period were therefore recruited by the CNEP.

V. The customs under the colonial regimecolonial

From 1896 to 1960, the Malagasy customs depended closely the French customs. Main part of the trade was with France, on the understanding that the territory is unique. The national sovereignty is lost, the Malagasy customs fell under the power of the colonial regime. Thus, the french legislation was fully applicable in Madagascar until 1939.

Despite the difficulties of recruitment at the beginning, the Customs staff consisted of expatriates of the Metropolis (leaders and executional agents). In 1942, the conquest of Madagascar by the English put on hold all customs activities until the end of the second World War (1939-1945). In 1942, the customs protection by France had no more sense. Customs duties have been put on hold, but local taxes (TI and TC) compensated after their recovery the removal of the customs duties.

It is that very long after the 2nd World War that Malagasy were recruited after two years training at the School of Myre de Villers. Out of this school, they are given the certificate (CESD: Certificat d’Etudes de Second Degré) equivalent to the 3rd of secondary studies, primary training class on french language and arithmetic.

The active service was provided by the recruitment of former military personnel (Veterans of the Second World war), and was framed by metropolitan officers. The public office was clearly divided between two executive categories (metropolitan and native). It was only after the Act Gaston Deferre (framework law) of 1955 that Malagasy had access to executive positions.

As the customs territory was confused with that of the France and most of the trade was with France, the customs regulations were patterned on those of France. Collections were limited to two taxes: the TI and TC; the third which is the TT (2% transaction tax) was collected on behalf of the Indirect Taxes.

VI. The Malagasy customs during the First Republic

The Finance Act 1961 has restored the collection of customs duties. On October 23, 1963, MADAGASCAR has joined the GATT as a Contracting Participant. From 1964 to 1974, MADAGASCAR was among the States associated in the CEE and applied the rules of Yaoundé I and Yaoundé II, to benefit from the preferential treatment in trade with the CEE.

With regard to a system of free trade in both directions, goods originated from the CEE were exempt from customs duties but returned to MADAGASCAR under the CEE license. Conversely, the malagasy products benefits from the preferential treatment at the entrance to the Community market. (No quantitative restriction and exemption of customs duties). Only, goods originating from third countries are subject to customs duties (protective rights). These rights are of two kinds: the general rate and the minimum rate. The latter is only registered in the tariff. It is drawn from goods originating from third countries, contracting participants to the GATT. General tariff is restricted to third countries not members of GATT and was triple the minimum rate.

VII. The Malagasy customs under the 2nd and the 3rd Republic

As MADAGASCAR joined multilateral and regional conventions, customs control has become more complicated.

a) Various Lomé conventions (I, II, II, IV) and since 1995, the Cotonou Convention.
It’s a one-way free trade agreement: only ACP products enjoy preferential treatment. Customs duties have been reinstated to the CEE since 1976.

b) Regional developments: COI, COMESA, SADC. These are regional arrangements which have a dual purpose to promote regional integration:
- constitute a zone of negotiation in international enclosure
- ultimate goal: Customs Union.

VIII. Modern-day customs

It strives to improve the material means and to train qualified personnel.

She deals with the challenges generated by globalization and international trade by modernizing the means to refine the procedures for the collection, to ensure “a posteriori” control, and to help to secure the 5,000 kilometer border. The extent of the Customs has been extended to 60 nautical miles, and the Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 nautical miles (still to be negotiated with France, Mozambique, the Comoros).

Douanes Malagasy 2017
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