A Letter to My Daughter

Titbits

Is this the country that we were parading abroad, proud of its cocktail of races living in unity despite the diversity?

I always had the feeling that wherever you are it cannot be as good as home. There is no better place than home. I am feeling sorry today to have had such feelings because now I am having that uneasy sentiment that this cannot be home. Indeed, I am not recognising it. Is this the Mauritius that we struggled and fought for? Is this the country that we were parading abroad, proud of its cocktail of races living in unity despite the diversity? Yes, as you said, I am growing old, I need to change glasses; I did and I started looking at it through the new glasses – through your eyes – and everything became clear and I understood that wherever you may be, it is your choice to make that place a home, by your attitudes, your values and by standing up to uphold them. Yes, thank you for lending me your eyes. It has revealed our underbelly, and a lot of people won’t like what I see. It also made me understand that the path that our country is taking depends a lot on the prism through which our people are seeing the world. I was shocked; we are still stuck with Albert Memmi’s alienating effects of ‘The colonizer and the colonized’ where racism is central to the system and not an incidental detail; we refuse to grow out of ethnic thinking; we are so comfortable in our ethnic cocoons that we narcissistically enjoy wallowing in our own dirt and one-pointed thinking -the small mind. Such thinking occasionally has to go public showing its true colours and providing a sense to our fake identity by aggressively “protège nu ban”. We are no different from the “rodeur bouttes” — the new generation of cronies that is being created and the unaccountable elites with their own vested interests. Who cares? We will not mind joining the present vultures to pick the bones of the State. To hell with meritocracy, our community must reap its “bouttes”. We have become consummate schizophrenics, perfecting it daily by being a fake Mauritian national and a true ethnic Mauritian. Le comble !!! Everyone is complicit – we the people, media, politicians. There’s no concept of “Mauritianism” anymore. There are no human rights but ethnic rights (recall LGBT). Our loyalties now go to our religion, our caste, our community… But, dear daughter, I can see now why you, young people, cannot tag along with them, c’est repugnant! It may be true when you say that “they have made it a swirling racial stewpot of the 21st century, as bad as apartheid!”. Our rainbow nation has failed. I understand now why you want to stay far from such mess that encroaches on your level of sanity. The last time you were here, you gave me some hope that we can still ”sauve les meubles”. But recent events show that we may have gone beyond repair; a majority wanting to pursue their small minds even convincing those on the fence to join in and their newer trick is to send upfront their religious porte-parole –– the shepherd or rather the paid piper of the enraged and the resentful communalists, guiding his flock in its fight for its ethnic rights and inciting it to thread the political needle providing fuel for the bonfire of historical tensions…, unconcerned that their ethnic schism is sundering our “paradisiac” Mauritius. Most worrying of all, many people fail to see much of an alternative to the status quo. But still I think there is a way out. There is increasingly frustration and a groundswell of anger at our leaders who seem to be completely out of touch with community aspirations. And beneath the facade runs a wary, almost palpable, anxiety as the country faces a make or break moment. Now is the right time to sow an idea even if takes a while to take roots. Clinging to a “lueur d’espoir”, our untainted youth – their yearning for change, can be our greatest ally, especially some from the diaspora — can give us a helping hand. Please come forward before it is too late, and rid us of these entrenched, complacent and self-serving old guards, who are ruining us and whose time is up – à la Macron. It is time for such a leadership to open people’s minds, ears, eyes and mouth to finally react and become the masters of their fates.

 * * *

 Census on Ethnic Lines

What’s the big fuss about it? It does not make any difference to progressives whether the Census is or is not carried along ethnic lines. We need not give additional fodder to the conservatives. They want their Census, let them have it but they should clearly tell us what will be the way forward.  The status quo is unacceptable to progressives as well as conservatives. We need to know how we will be tackling equality of opportunity v/s meritocracy or how will we be improving equality of opportunity as a means to make meritocracy more acceptable, both in the public and private sectors. Will we be needing a transition period à la Malaysian “Bhumiputras” or “sons of the soil” policies? Affirmative actions! How do we achieve mature meritocracy that is yet to mature fully, with its biggest tests perhaps still over the horizon? How do we ensure that we are not replacing one form of ethnic link between political power and patronage by another? Will we be implementing measures to discourage ethnic recruitment in the private sector also? A heavy tax on firms that are discriminative in their recruitment? It is time that we start opening our Pandora’s box and uncover some of the racial characteristics of our labour market and Mauritian society. Thank you, Mr, the conservatives. For once, let us have it their way because it will make it possible to take three steps forward even if we take two backwards.

 * * *

 Forum for a Better Understanding of the Fiscal Measures 

This forum was held on Monday 27 August at Labourdonnais Hotel. The top brass of the MRA and PricewarehouseCoopers were present. «C’est une initiative qui permet… aux opérateurs d’avoir plus de clarté concernant des mesures fiscales préconisées. » Quelle clarté? When they did not even mention the colourable accounting in Budget 2018-19, namely that 1) provision has not been made in the budget for the proposed 6,800 new social housing units – a Project Value of Rs 12.7 billion;  2) the existence of two off budget special funds – the National Resilience Fund and a new National Environment Fund; 3) creation of state-owned SPVs (special purpose vehicles), companies and other public entities, such as Metro Express Ltd, so as to exclude these capital expenditures from the budget and thus underestimate total expenditures, and 4) Government guaranteed debt financing is disguised as equity, namely as redeemable preference shares, to avoid inclusion in public debt.  On the amendments to the Finance Act 2018, we are being told that “ces changements n’ont pas été faits à la va-vite…” On the contrary, many of the measures of the Finance Act 2018, were in response to 

  1. a) the G20/OECD initiative against Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), which is a framework, with a specific list of actions, for a global crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion, b) the EU Tax Haven Blacklist of the Code of Conduct Group of the European Council, especially aimed at curtailing harmful tax measures in emerging international financial centres, and the c) the Financial Action Task Force, which oversees compliance with its international standards of Anti money laundering/Financing of Terrorism (AML/FT).

These measures were adopted without really preparing the financial sector to face the negative impact of these international pressures.

* * *

Global Business: Tax Haven !!!

Maurice ne figure sur aucune liste noire au cours des 25 dernières années. Nous avons toujours été avant-gardistes en termes de législation pour lutter contre le blanchiment d’argent et le financement du terrorisme…” stated Ramesh Awatarsing, Managing Director of Vistra Mauritius to L’express of 27th August 2018. Comme disait l’ex-MOF, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo “La perception est une réalité.” If we are regularly in the news because of foreign tax dodgers and fraudsters, our detractors tend to perceive us as a secrecy jurisdiction thriving mainly on tax arbitrage. In 2018 itself, we have been “involved” or rather named, in a series of alleged financial scams from Beaufort Securities to the reported $2bn fraud of the Punjab National Bank and the Indian jeweller Nirav Modi, to Ireo, one of India’s biggest property developers and one of Donald Trump’s business partners in India and more recently Alvaro Sobrinho and Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais of Quantum Global.  Yes, Mr Awatarsing is right; we have all the AML/FT legislative arsenal in place. But what is at issue is the new methodology of AMF/FT mutual evaluation which does not just assess technical compliance, i.e. the existence of laws, regulations, etc., in force, but also the effectiveness of the legal and other AML/FT measures. “The overall institutional regulatory and enforcement framework, comprising the BOM, the FSC, the FIU, the Asset Recovery Unit, ICAC, the MRA, and the police, may need to be reviewed for greater consistency and cooperation and effectiveness in AML/FT.”  The weaknesses in the implementation of our AML/FT were surely pointed out in the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) draft report and could lead us to be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force in a list of High Risk and other Monitored Jurisdictions.


* Published in print edition on 7 September 2018

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