The bottom line where any country is concerned is that it is only as strong as its institutions are
In his Independence Day speech to his country from the Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed the wish that India be ‘A country prosperous, secure and strong’ by 2022, when it will have completed 75 years post Independence.
We too could wish the same for our country, but about the timeline – that is the question. Will it be 2022, can it be earlier, what with the IMF being confident about the capacity of Mauritius to reinvent itself time and again?
Compared to the other Sub-Saharan countries, there is no doubt that our economic indicators show that we have indeed become more prosperous, especially after the sugar boom of the 1970s, the second industrialisation phase of the 1980s, and the expansion of services and the IT sector in the past couple of decades. According to the World Data Atlas, the GDP per capita of Mauritius increased from 3,540 US dollars in 1997 to 9,424 US dollars in 2016, growing at an average annual rate of 5.62%. Other figures pertaining to 2016 may give us comfort, such as inflation rate 1%, unemployment rate 5%, poverty rate 0.5%, international reserves 5 billion USD. But we have to set this against a Government gross debt as a share of GDP of 62.7%, into which we may have to factor the cost of the ‘Metro Express’ including repayment of the debt in dollars. So that we may not be in a position to assess when we will see the Government gross debt as a share of GDP falling to more comfortable levels.
However, while on the prosperity front we may feel that we have made gains over the years, the same however cannot be said about our security situation, which has certainly worsened even as we have become relatively better off. There is not a single day that goes – and this has been the case for the past several years – that some case of murder or the other is not reported, with a degree of gruesomeness and that baffles our understanding. The latest one is that of the young woman of South African origin who had been here only three months, and was living in a high profile apartment in Pereybere. If in such a setting there is no security, one can well imagine the fears of those who live alone and do not have similar round-the-clock security arrangements.
More worrying are some trends that have gained currency, such as the perpetration of crimes by hooded individuals who operate in groups or as gangs in targeted regions or localities. By all accounts this is a fairly recent phenomenon, and is gives even more cause for concern.
Over and above this is the fact that so many crimes, especially murders, have remained unsolved years after they had been committed, with no clue as to the criminals. Such, for example, as those of Nadine Dantier and Vanessa Lagesse, and the Irish newly-wed Harte who had come for her honeymoon to the country and was staying at the Legends hotel. Yet there must have been a murderer. Where is the weakness – weaknesses – in our investigating and judicial system that we are unable to solve so many murders?
There are many aspects of security, such as economic security, food security, but in general here when we talk about security we mean the law and order situation, and in light of the crimes being committed on an almost daily basis we certainly do not score high on this front. Rapidly, the authorities have to tackle this situation more robustly than seems to be the case at present, and at least give the assurance to the population at large, including visitors to our island, that no stone will be left unturned in combating the unhealthy state of affairs.
As regards being strong, the bottom line where any country is concerned is that it is only as strong as its institutions are. The findings and revelations that are surfacing at the Commission of Enquiry on drugs headed by Judge Lam Shang Leen, showing that the drug mafia as it is called has infiltrated several levels of the country’s polity – from the customs to the police, the prisons, politics, the legal system – are nothing if not frightening. The big question that arises is, will the Report of the Commission lead to actionable measures?
Overall, therefore, it would seem that we have a long way to go before we can call ourselves secure and strong, and unlike the Indian Prime Minister’s pledge, we are unfortunately not in a position to give a timeline. Unless things change radically for the better, a rather remote possibility by current estimations.
* Published in print edition on 18 August 2017