As you can see on the main picture, when I need to get money from ATM, I am taking the maximum possible of bills.. for a total of 400 000 Ariary, but not more.
Do you know why ? The reason is mechanical : the ATM machine can not deliver more than 40 bills at once. If I need more, I have to repeat the operation a second or a third time.
You are probably thinking why do I need such a big amount of bills ?. Let me explain…, as illustrated on the picture, one bill of 10 000 Ariary is representing a little bit less than 3 euros, … 2,8 € exactly, which does not represent a lot for us in Europe, but which is representing much more there. Indeed, for the vast majority of Malagasy people (> 90%), 10 000 Ariary represent more than a daily salary, as more than 90% of the population are living with less than 2 € per day (and 1€ = 3700 Ariary) .
It’s a really strange situation for me to bring such a big pack of bills from ATM, but when you have to pay cash renting of your room, you have no choice…. in my case, I have to pay one million Ariary per month for the studio (+/- 280 €). Nearly everything is paid cash here, as the vast majority of people does not have an bank account, neither a magnetic payment card, especially outside the Tana city.
What about the cost of living here ?. It is between 2 to 3 times less expensive at the supermarket, and 3 to min 5 times in restaurants, or in street shops, except if you select “EU imported goods”, which are twice more expensive (like French cheese, wine, etc… ;-)). Of course, most of Malagasy people cannot afford to do their shopping in supermarket, they are buying the minimum essential required in Streets markets, and always in small quantities. Rice, fruits and vegetables are the basic food here in Madagascar. Cost of goods in Tana is also higher than in the countryside.
As mentioned in my previous blog, the Tana city, with more than 2,3 millions people, is overcrowded, polluted and congested by traffic, … nearly the whole day. Roads are narrow, full of cars, buses (Taxibe), bicycles, scooters, carts (pushcarts), and full of people doing business along the streets, or going at work. There are also too many roads in bad conditons, with plenty of “big” holes, and these holes cannot be compared to Belgian ones…(sure that I will never complain anymore on Belgian roads conditions, knowing the situation here). On the other hand, we need to understand that the number of inhabitants has more than doubled in the past 15 years, with a political and financial situation which is far from being adequate.
In the city, there are not a lot of “green” areas, with the exception of two to three parks and rice fields. And despite the heavy traffic, the huge number of people and the dirty roads (waste are everywhere in the city), there are amazingly plenty of birds (different species of aigrets, herons, kingfishers, ducks, and smaller birds,…. ), and especially in these parks. See few pictures (I took) hereafter…