Pepping Up The Economy

The Moment’s Challenge

The future still holds bright hopes for us. Only we need to change from the prevailing dominant frame of mind which frequently gets lost into more about presentation than the required policies, more about form than substance

Since the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, the economy hasn’t cruised at good speed. It is normal that an export-led economy, such as that of Mauritius, can be affected when slowing global markets don’t pick up all we could have exported to them. We are therefore partly not to blame for the situation.

Constantly overcoming constraints

Despite severe resource constraints, however, we managed to get going certain activities in which we have inherent strength. Examples are the provision of hospitality and financial services. There have been some low performances even in these sectors but we have managed to keep the boat floating after overcoming the low tides.

The point to note is that whereas it proved difficult to keep up in the real goods sector, such as when Europe decided to reduce the preferential price of our sugar exports and finally to dismantle the sugar export quota as from next year, we overcame its negative effects thanks to exports of services and inflows of FDI. Consumption growth has also helped to pep up the economy through the multiplier effect.

Model of the future path

This ability to set off or counterbalance downtrends in some sectors by increased activity in others is the path for us to follow. The groundwork for it is laid down in structural reforms.

Say, we want to have a greater part to play in the fast-changing global technology production platform. This will require us to aptly train up our labour force for this and to create constructive links with outside firms already dealing in this field. It is where arrangements made under the CECPA with India, for example, might pay off. It takes time, no doubt. One has to set out implementing it in meticulous detail right from now. It is “structural”. Even in India, performing technology firms recruiting engineering graduates complain that they have to train up university leavers almost one year to make them suitable for the workplace.

After the revision of the India-Mauritius DTAA last year, our international financial sector can overcome the handicap by re-directing its talent into products that don’t face unnecessary international pressures and indictments. This requires very fine tuning indeed so as to be absolutely irreproachable from taxmen and the like. It also needs skills build-up and productive international link-ups. Our interlocutors need to be convinced that we actually hold something good for them. While it takes time to do all of this, the economy’s resilience in future depends very much on concrete progress made in this direction.

Proactive decision-taking

We most probably cannot on ourselves make the necessary improvements in our production platform opening up adapted economic avenues for us as the global economy keeps undergoing changes. We’ll need support from talented people who are already in the concerned fields in other countries. They will not move from their current occupations in their respective countries to come over to us without ascertaining that they’ll have a better deal in our midst.

For this, our decision-making will have to move several notches up. A shift will have to operate from the customary personalised approach in certain decision-taking to a more intelligent and objectively predictable platform. The aim is to increase economic scope, no less. This will require competent public servants, inspiring confidence that they will not play in the hands of politicians, to bring about the needed transformation out of conviction. We have shown in the past that we can do this. Too much interference has undermined the trust which should have remained.

Nevertheless, we still figure in top African positions in some of the indices of good performance. We cannot remain complacent about what we’ve achieved. We’ll need to remain at least one step ahead of others to change the economy’s profile successfully by sticking to an internationally state-of-the-art and attractive status. Someone has to be in charge to keep us ahead of the curve.

Too much time has been lost

Unfortunately, we’ve lost too much time in what Harold Walter, the outspoken late Minister of Mauritius’ first autonomous government, once characterised as “finissons-en avec ces trèves de tergiversations et venons en aux faits”. It is the kind of attitude we need at the country’s highest levels of decision-making. The culture of polite but firm refusal of unacceptable conduct in matters of public principles, once restored, will force everybody to keep pace with the country’s real agenda for the future.

The fact that people play against each other instead of sticking to thinking out and implementing what’s best for the country has considerably weakened us in what should have been our drive forward. Along with the feeling one currently has that there might not be too much point to choose from among existing sets of politicians, the public service appears to have lost its way in the footsteps of vacillating politicians.

Actually, we don’t have so many performing stars in the public service in open view as to be able to pick and choose from them. We need to muster up all the best we have. Maybe some of the talented ones have gone into hibernation due to political interferences and need to be taken out to the front stage if we are minded to give shape to a more dynamic public service understanding economic and social imperatives.

The future still holds bright hopes for us. Only we need to change from the prevailing dominant frame of mind which frequently gets lost into more about presentation than the required policies, more about form than substance, more about who should be in specific positions than about relevant decisions needing to be taken, more about the past than the future.

Yet, humanity has progressed by transcending previous bounds, shedding away shoddy beliefs, dated dogmas and false assumptions. The time has come to salvage it all by sticking to a concrete strategy of work rather than clutching the last straw.

Anil Gujadhur

 

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