2019 – Back to business

Many sectors which had been meandering along without clear policy or directions may in the wake of cabinet reshuffling and the crop of new faces find a more than necessary jolt

By S. Callikan

The 2019 general elections are over and while numerous controversies about its conduct still abound, some of which will wind up as challenges before the Supreme Court, the new cabinet constituted by the MSM and appointed by the PM Hon Pravind Kumar Jugnauth has a number of issues to attend to.

The first is to navigate with circumspection the appointments to various boards, para-statals and companies where the State has a controlling interest. It may be more thorny than expected as the twenty-odd former MPs and Ministers, left by the wayside for the electoral joust, could be eagerly pressing at doors of the Sun Trust for their “reward”. While some like Maya Hanoomanjee or Anil Gayan always seem likely candidates for ambassadorial positions, it may be more problematic for the vast majority of those who were left out, no doubt with good reasons. And there will also be those fifteen or more who trudged their constituency and pumped hands to no avail, losing at the post. Not many posts are vacant as this is a continuity government, unless some MSM-ML office-bearers, board members, advisers and CEOs are deemed to have been under-performing. This period of uncertainties should no doubt be as short as possible under current circumstances.

The substantial crop of new faces as ministerial appointees is a welcome change, all the more since several departmental responsibilities have been without a substantive minister, in some cases, for more than a year. The winds of change in overall continuity have brought in eleven new ministers, some old-timers, others at their first experience at the deep end of responsibilities. Rejuvenation has also taken the shape of a major reshuffling of cabinet responsibilities: in effect, out of the cabinet of 24, only Deputy PM Collendavelloo and Ministers Dookhun, Daureeawoo, Callichurn and Toussaint have kept their previous portfolios, where they must have been judged to have effectively discharged their duties. We note nevertheless that three of those Hon Ministers seem to have been downgraded in the official hierarchy, Callichurn at 19th, Toussaint at 16th and Mrs Daureeawoo, former Vice-PM, now only ranking 9th.

“The rise in political fortunes, clout and magister of Hon Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, now one of the only two Vice-Prime Ministers (along with Dr Anwar Husnoo), cannot be called a surprise. Running-mate of the PM in No 8 constituency, we had recognized here her undoubted bravery, articulateness and subject-matter mastery both in managing the Education behemoth and in driving the Nine-Year Schooling program. While we may and do hold different views on the education architecture more adapted to our society, which have been canvassed here and elsewhere, her stewardship over those untested outstanding issues will be welcome by government…”


Be that as it may, the rise in political fortunes, clout and magister of Hon Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, now one of the only two Vice-Prime Ministers (along with Dr Anwar Husnoo), cannot be called a surprise. Running-mate of the PM in No 8 constituency, we had recognized here her undoubted bravery, articulateness and subject-matter mastery both in managing the Education behemoth and in driving the Nine-Year Schooling program. That reform, accompanied by several initiatives towards holistic education of undoubted interest to children, educators and parents, is poised to enter a critical year in 2020.

While we may and do hold different views on the education architecture more adapted to our society, which have been canvassed here and elsewhere, her stewardship over those untested outstanding issues will be welcome by government. To wit, the entry of operation of the elite Academies for Grade 10 students, the first edition of the National Form III examination, the fate of the extended stream pupils, the credit requirements for getting into HSC streams, the uncertain structures of technical and vocational education, the lowering of standards with automatic promotion or the pervasiveness of private tuition, are all matters of rising import during the coming years.

She had, en passant, also to deal with the unplanned announcements dealt her way, and has done so with some deftness, like the tablets for early primary grades, the saga of internet connections with DCL, the “mise en musique” of the “free” tertiary education policy and, now, the “free” secondary school textbooks campaign pledge. We wish her well in those continuing endeavours, even if we will continue to highlight some of the undesirable implications of the slippery pitch of NYS she is batting on at primary-secondary levels. As for tertiary education, the legislative and organizational restructurings of 2018-19 are still very much work-in-progress which can hopefully be re-energized now that the Training and Human Resource Development (HRDC) have been detached to the purview of a different ministry, that of Hon Callichurn.

Many sectors which had been meandering along without clear policy or directions may in the wake of cabinet reshuffling and the crop of new faces find a more than necessary jolt. None more so than the three traditional pillars that are agriculture, cane-sugar and affordable renewable energy; the tourism sector and the manufacturing economy. If the Economic Development Board had been expected to provide the sort of think-tank abilities and competencies government was looking for to move these sectors forward, then recognition had to come that these were not happening. Neither were there any meaningful happenings on new or emerging pillars of our tomorrows beyond the occasional Blockchain, Fintech and Artificial Intelligence seminars. Nor can we naively and somewhat ludicrously expect serious prospective investors in non-property domains to give advance details and channel their ideas, proposals or projects through essentially the local private sector.

“A lot of the budgetary leeway will now depend on the new full-fledged Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Planning, Dr Renganaden Padayachy. He will have the unenviable task of settling the claims and expectations raised during a particularly furious campaign of financial pledges, ranging from total reimbursement of former BAI policy-holders (deprived by the same MSM-ML government), taxi owners gratia to, perhaps more importantly, the consequent rise in old-age pension and minimum wage. As one of government’s prime economic advisers, he is obviously the right man in the right place…”


A lot of the budgetary leeway will now depend on the new full-fledged Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Planning, Dr Renganaden Padayachy. He will have the unenviable task of settling the claims and expectations raised during a particularly furious campaign of financial pledges, ranging from total reimbursement of former BAI policy-holders (deprived by the same MSM-ML government), taxi owners gratia to, perhaps more importantly, the consequent rise in old-age pension and minimum wage. As one of government’s prime economic advisers, he is obviously the right man in the right place. Only after proper due diligence of the cumulative impact of these social handouts, will he be in a position to judge what leeway he has to assist the SMEs, handle the national debt burden or dispel the gloominess of traditional sectors and operatives.


* Published in print edition on 29 November 2019

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