By L.E. Pep
The just released Social Security monthly statistics show that in August 2019, 223,947 seniors benefited from the monthly old-age pension, of which 218,770 were Mauritians and 5177 Rodriguans. In the 60 to 89 age group, 214,484 Mauritians and 5061 Rodriguans received a sum of Rs 6,210 each. Those aged between 90 and 99 years, 4135 Mauritians and 110 Rodrigues, received a sum of Rs 16,210, while the 157 centenarians (151 Mauritians and 6 Rodriguans) obtained Rs 21,210.
Taking care of the elderly is not just a question of increasing their old-age pensions; the ageing of our population is one of the major challenges that Mauritian society has to face now and in the future. Its socio-economic implications are enormous and this phenomenon affects many other countries as well. Currently there is a major problem about the availability of retirement homes for the elderly with all their required needs. After the investment splurge on prestige projects, Government seems to be short of resources to invest in such facilities and actions to make our society fit for the elderly, namely a dedicated health care system that supports as far as possible the older generation in their own homes and communities, and helps them to engage in meaningful activities and reduce social isolation.
Indeed, we need more data than ever to better assess the impact of ageing and what could be done to improve their lives. Any attempt to control public spending will have to be aligned with effective action to promote healthier ageing and limit the spiralling costs of our ageing population.
Older people are much more likely to vote in the coming election than their younger counterparts. But there is no real evidence to suggest that self-interest will motivate their votes in response to any increase in monthly basic retirement pensions. As active citizens with views and voices, older people want a better deal for themselves and for generations to come. They are also concerned about the generational costs of the pension system and its impact on the future for their children, grandchildren and increasingly great-grandchildren. Whether this will be reflected in the forthcoming political manifestos remains to be seen.
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National Drug Control Master Plan: some readjustments needed
The National Drug Control Master Plan was made public at the opening of the 29th meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa (HONLAF) in Balaclava on Monday, 16 September. This master plan, which was long awaited by NGOs and the institutions fighting the drug scourge, should help them to coordinate their actions.
But most of the NGOs, such as the Solidarity Centre, PILS or the Collectif Urgence Toxida (CUT), are of the opinion that some readjustments are needed to the Master Plan. Some, like Edley Jaymangal, director of the Centre Solidarité which focuses on the rehabilitation of drug addicts, deplores that despite a significant increase in the number of admissions to the centre due to addiction to heroin and synthetic drugs, a ‘minimal budget’ has been allocated to the rehabilitation sector. Kunal Naik, on the other hand, rues the fact that some of the important recommendations of the Lam Shang Leen report have not been included in the plan.
Kunal Naik believes that the “minimal” resources allocated to rehabilitation, prevention or risk reduction in comparison to those allocated to the law enforcement sector must be revised. Danny Philippe, the president of CUT is of the same opinion. “With the rejuvenation and feminization of drug use and trafficking, the funding allocated to prevention, rehabilitation and risk reduction should be readjusted.”
The national commitment of all stakeholders in the fight against drugs is one of the ‘positive’ aspects of the master plan, say the NGOs. Now the focus of the NGOs and concerned institutions should be on its implementation while ensuring that the critical agencies, like ADSU, etc., are provided with the required funding to have a greater impact on the illegal drug business than we have seen so far. What this means is that the people want to see more of the sharks rather than the small fish caught in their nets.
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Metro Express: The chaos continues
Everyone is praying that we see the completion of the metro project at the earliest. After the inconveniences at Rose-Hill, now it is the turn of the Port Louis Victoria Bus Terminal. Passengers were having all kinds of problems to identify the buses they had to take to return to their homes. The bus lines of several companies were spread out from Rogers House to the new parking lot for the duration of the works.
Several Traffic Branch officers were deployed to direct passengers to their respective bus stops. Police bikers were also present not only to secure this area but also to ensure the smooth flow of road traffic on the M1 motorway. However, there was still the slow traffic on the M1 southbound at Place d’Armes with buses queuing up from Rogers House. Bus passengers caught in this mess denounced the bad planning for the confusion. The communication was bad; instead of using the MBC-TV for propaganda, they could have used the TV to inform the public well in advance about alternative bus stops to different destinations around the island!
As for transport workers affected by the project, it has been two years since the unions of bus workers are waiting for a tripartite agreement on the redeployment of workers. “Pa kapav amenn sa kalité sanzman la, kré enn pagay dan péi san met en place ene komité et enn akor tripartite,” argues Ashok Subron.
As a result, the Union of Bus Industry Workers (UBIW) is stepping up to the second phase of their action. Workers at United Bus Service, Rose-Hill Transport and other companies directly affected by the project will indicate, through a vote, whether they are for or against union action that will take place in the context of the launch of the metro. If the result is favourable, they will proceed to the third stage and will ask Triolet Bus Service employees and other companies to join in.
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Appointment of “petits copains” at the FSC
A letter that has been addressed to ICAC and copied to the press takes issue with the appointment of a Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the Financial Services Commission Mauritius (FSC), without any prior advertisement and that’s contrary to the Commission’s employment policy. In fact, Section 1.2 of its Employment Policy of the Terms and Conditions of Employment of the FSC stipulates as follows:
“The Commission may employ, on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit, such employees as may be necessary for the proper discharge of its functions. Where the Commission decides to fill any vacancy arising on its establishment for any post, it may resort to any form of advertisement, whether internal or otherwise, and prescribe such qualifications, experience, competencies, skills and aptitudes for such post as it deems appropriate.”
Moreover, the author/s of the protest-letter question/s the qualifications and skills of the appointee, and allege that he would be steering the FSC in wrong directions. It is also alleged that ad-hoc decisions and redundant procedures are being taken and executed and this has affected the quality of services and the impartiality of the FSC in the granting of financial activity licences.
Cronyism, the author/s add/s, is affecting the good running of the FSC, once regarded as a premier institution of the country. Politicisation is taking its toll on the effectiveness of our institutions. This is yet another institution, as pointed out by the IMF in the last Article IV document, that is seeing a deterioration in some aspects of institutional quality indicators, including an increase in the perception of corruption.
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Financial Services: Only half of the battle is won
At the sitting of the National Assembly of 13th September 2019, the Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance made a statement on the outcome of a second application made by Mauritius to the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) regarding the technical compliance re-rating of 21 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.
The Minister reported that Mauritius has made significant progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report. Accordingly, at the 19th Meeting of the ESAAMLG Council of Ministers held on 6 September in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the recommendation of the Task Force for the upgrading of 19 technical compliance ratings from the 21 applied for, were unanimously approved. Of these, 18 were rated Largely Compliant or Compliant and one Non-Compliant to Partially Compliant. As such, as at date, Mauritius, is either Largely Compliant or Compliant to 35 of the 40 FATF’s recommendations.
The minister did not mention anything about the progress made by Mauritius in improving its effectiveness. It seems that progress in this area will be assessed as part of a subsequent follow-up assessment. On the basis of FATF’s methodology, effectiveness is rated on 11 outcomes, ranging from whether supervisors effectively supervise, monitor, regulate financial institutions and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) for AML/CFT compliance commensurate with the risks and whether money laundering and terrorism financing offences and activities are effectively investigated and offenders prosecuted and subject to proportionate sanctions. Mauritius is rated as low or moderate on all of the 11 effectiveness measures.
Only half of the battle is won. We have done the easy part, the technical part, that is the passing of legislation. Now we will have to ensure the effective implementation of anti-money laundering laws. We were expecting the Minister to announce an action plan to overhaul policies, institutions and manpower for the proper effectiveness of anti-money laundering legislation. If we want to join the white list, we will have to put in greater efforts to ensure that the laws and regulations are effectively enforced.
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Pravind Jugnauth: ‘Pas moi, li sa!’
A series of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) are being renegotiated and the one with Senegal is being terminated. Pravind Jugnauth explained in the National Assembly on Tuesday last that the DTAA with Senegal was signed in April 2002 and entered into force in September 2004. However, on 18 June 2019, the Government of Senegal informed the Government of Mauritius of its unilateral decision to terminate this agreement. But, in accordance with the law, the treaty will continue to be in force until December 31, 2019 in Senegal and until June 30, 2020 in Mauritius.
MP Reza Uteem of the MMM queried the Prime Minister on the high number of DTAAs that are being renegotiated or terminated under his government. To which, Pravind Jugnauth, in a bid to score a point vis-à-vis the opposition, retorted that another double tax treaty, namely with Indonesia, was terminated in 2004 under the MSM-MMM government and blamed the then Ministry of Financial Services for that.
But Pravind Jugnauth is wrong, in fact he scored an own goal, for the renegotiation or termination of treaties falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) as it has to do to with fiscal issues. Similarly, for the renegotiation of the DTAA with India, though the Ministry of Financial Services was present, it is the MOF which has the last say. If we are not mistaken, it was Pravind Jugnauth who was then Minister of Finance…
We cannot understand the persistence of the MMM at clinging to a fast-disappearing tax-centric financial industry. They do not seem to realize that the whole offshore sector is moving towards a new threshold. Second, there is so much fuss doing the round equating criticisms of our financial sector with unpatriotic blabberings. Are we being unpatriotic when we are pointing out that we have to be more effective in controlling the inflows of illicit funds? Why are amendments to offshore legislations being carried out in response to international initiatives on the conduct of offshore business in emerging international financial centres, like Mauritius, in other so-called tax havens? Why are we being put on the grey list? Is not because some of our local smart alecks misread the OECD BEPS initiative, and miscalculated the determination of the EU to deal with profit shifting to low tax jurisdictions and thought we could continue with business as usual?
Being patriotic is to acknowledge our weaknesses and squarely confront them, and chart out a more diversified and sustainable course of development in financial services.
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General practitioners demanding their rights
The first trade union action of general practitioners took place on Wednesday, September 18th, with a demonstration in front of Government House. That union action heralded the first of a series of initiatives that the association intends to undertake to bring the Ministry of Health to the table for negotiation with the doctors’ union with regard to the number of hours of work for ‘generalist’ doctors. Not all previous negotiations/initiatives have been successful; the earlier announced doctors’ strike could not take place as a result of a point of law raised by the Ministry of Labour. The challenge of general practitioners in the Supreme Court was also rejected. Hence the general meeting held, September 14, which gave rise to several resolutions, among which a peaceful demonstration scheduled for Wednesday 18th September. A march would also be organised in the coming days if the Ministry of Health does not agree to negotiations.
The Medical Health Officers Association (MHOA) has also taken the decision that practitioners will devote 10 minutes to every patient for consultations at the hospital. This measure is variously commented in the public. While some agree with the proposition, others consider it as a disguised go-slow to the detriment of patients. Dr Vinesh Sewsurn, president of the MHOA says: “This measure will not be implemented overnight; we’ll be giving to the Ministry of Health time to review the system and appointment schedule before proceeding with our action.”
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Quote: Aurore Perraud
“The Public Accounts Committee is useless in its current format.”
* Published in print edition on 20 September 2019