The current government will have completed its first year in office this week. It was sworn in on 12th November 2019. The early months of the government have been marked by many an upheaval both locally and abroad. It began with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impact has been such that to date the global economy is still not out of the woods. Nor is there any indication as to when things will get back to normal. The Mauritian economy has not been spared either; besides its manufacturing sector and tourism experiencing a period of decline and facing new challenges, on other fronts too problems continue to plague the country, not least amongst which are escalating public debt, the financing of electoral promises, the social havoc being caused by what has been called the drug epidemic, etc.
On the political front, the circumstances surrounding the conduct of the last elections have been criticised by the opposition, and electoral petitions have been filed to invalidate the elections in a number of constituencies. The Court will hopefully hear these cases at the earliest, but given the pace at which justice is delivered in these matters it should not surprise us that judgement could be delivered well into the mandate of the government. It has also been a year of significant political upheavals that began with the rejection of the opposition parties by the electorate in November 2019. It is still trying to find its way through an “entente” before something more concrete takes shape, pending the ironing out of potentially contentious issues in relation to the filling of constitutional posts.
The MSM-ML alliance has not been spared either with the dismissal of the former Vice Prime Minister and leader of the ML in the wake of the allegations in the matter of the St Louis Power Plant Redevelopment project. As could be expected, the ICAC has still to complete its inquiry into this matter. But more was to come with allegations levelled by the opposition about the emergency procurement of medical supplies and equipments by companies suspected to be close to the ruling alliance. This has come to mar the efficient handling of the Covid threat by the government – which had allowed the partial reopening of our borders and the resumption of economic activities.
Another issue which is a matter of serious concern has to do with the functioning of and decisions taken by the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd, set up by the Bank of Mauritius as a Special Purpose Vehicle under its aegis with an initial “ONE-OFF exceptional contribution of Rs 60 Billion” by the Central Bank. The MIC, which has been established by the BOM has the responsibility of providing “through a range of equity/quasi equity instruments in view of ensuring that domestic systemic economic operators are kept afloat…”. As yet, it is not known what are the conditionalities that are being applied for the disbursement of the bailout funds. The opacity surrounding the MIC is not only totally unacceptable, but a matter of grave worry for the public whose taxpayer money is here involved directly
There is a wide range of other problematic issues that have plagued the first year of the government, such as the Wakashio shipwreck and latterly the acquisition of property at Angus Road by the Prime Minister, and it would be in the interest of government to come up with the appropriate answers to the queries being raised.
Although the challenges facing Mauritius presently and in the years ahead are daunting, most economists argue that the country has the potential to overcome them if the appropriate conditions are set in place by the government. Overall, our public infrastructures are quite good, despite shortcomings in certain sectors. Nonetheless, economic and institutional transformation has not taken place to keep us going faster and more effectively ahead in keeping with the demands of the time. It may be too early in the day to pass judgement on the intentions of the government about changing course and reversing the trend that is obstructing the proper running of the country, so that confidence and trust can be restored in the country at all levels. These are the twin imperatives that can propel the country forward – if there is a genuine will to this effect.
* Published in print edition on 10 November 2020