Appointment at the Electoral Supervisory Commission

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep

It seems that Government is going, or would have already gone, ahead with the nomination of someone, who is allegedly close to the “La Kwizin”, on the board of the Electoral Supervisory Commission and Electoral Boundaries Commission despite strong criticisms from different political parties. Would the latter parties have done differently? We do not think so. What the present regime is doing at the CHC, MTPA, IBA, NCB, ESC… is not any different from what has been done in the past. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

An inexperienced VPM leading the blind

Once upon a time our civil service was known for its high standards with stalwarts like Dayanand Heeralall, Bramduth Ghoorah, Manou Bheenick, Armand Maudave, France Empeigne and a few others. Those standards were inculcated to new entrants and pervaded the whole service. If you are called for a meeting with the boss, it meant that you should be able to answer on the spot on the dossier or sector that had been entrusted to you.

The same cannot be said about the high level delegation to the United Nations led by the Vice-Prime Minister. They failed to keep our banner flying high at Geneva. How could they? That was our present civil service at its best — glorified clerks without any rigour or brilliance whatsoever, it was just mediocre and approximate appropriateness. Disappointing performance of the delegation – but not in terms of per diems!

The SBM: Corporate Governance issues

The shareholders of the bank are worried about their investments. The bank’s stock price has continued to slide, losing some Rs 1.30 since the first week of August of this year.

Many may see a compelling reason to offload their bank shares at this early stage. Others however believe that there could obviously be a net gain for shareholders if the bank were able to tackle some of its governance issues. These issues relate to the composition of the Board of Directors (more of independent directors), the powers of the board (to nominate senior managers), and an effective board and a full-time chairman to respond to technical demands that the fiduciary duties impose upon a bank’s board members.

These basic sound corporate governance principles should provide proper incentives to the board and management to pursue objectives that are in the interest of the company and its shareholders, and facilitate effective monitoring that will enhance shareholders’ value. These will also be a strong check against possible political interference.

Is this Government anti-environment?

It does seem so as it all started with the abandonment of the ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ (MID) project followed by the development of Saint Louis Power Station (coal) and the Albion Oil Refinery. Some 130 trees were felled at the Promenade Roland Armand to make room for the Metro Express project. In the region surrounding Roche Bois, some 200 trees were cut down to make place for the 3-km third lane of the Roche-Bois/Jin Fei project; for the Pont Fer-Phoenix extension, some more trees on the river bank near MITD were cut down too. Most disconcertingly, given the rich fauna and flora of the island of Agalega, the jetty and new 3km-long runway project implemented by Afcons Infrastructure Ltd with Indian grants has been exempted from the requirements of an EIA licence.

You would recall the tussle of “Aret kokin nu laplaz” platform with the promoters of the Chaland Resort hotel which, according to the protest group, may affect the marine ecosystem of Blue Bay and the biodiversity of La Cambuse. And more recently there had been the fish farms controversies with our two local Lucky Lukes hunting down the whales and sharks.

And last but not least, the lower priority given to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From reducing our carbon emissions and building resilience against the extreme weather associated with climate change, to leading international action to enhance the protection of our countryside, rivers, coastline and wildlife habitats, and developing new methods of agricultural and fisheries support which put the environment first, we still have a long way to go.

The Metro Express project: The travails

By the time the Metro will be on the rails and running, it will be remembered more for its travails than an achievement. It started by the bulldozing of the houses on the Metro Express route at la Butte and Residence Barkly despite the resistance of inhabitants. The chaotic situation at the Victoria Bus Terminal, the agonies of inhabitants of Vandermeersch disturbed by the noise and vibration till late in the night, the damaged pipes causing significant water leaks, the felling of trees at Promenade Roland Armand, the traffic diversions and jams causing economic losses and affecting productivity, the poor conditions of roads, sewerage pipes damaged at Margeot Square with the risk of contamination and other inconveniences – you name it! In its hurry to complete the project before the 2019-20 elections and thus win over the electorate by the upgraded transport infrastructure for a modern, liveable, vibrant and smart Mauritius, they seem to have forgotten the need to engage the public in their prestige project. And the public is growing more exasperated day by day, a situation exacerbated by a communication breakdown between the different governmental institutions (CWA, WMA, RDA) and the public. Ena perdi vote la dan!!!

‘Nation Zougader’: Lottotech all the way…

No matter who heads the government, Lottotech always wins. Under the previous government, the contribution of Lottotech to the Consolidated Fund (CF) was reduced from an initial 58.01% to 46.16% based on two authorised games. Under the present government, the contribution to the CF was raised marginally from 46.16% to 47.16%, but in return Government agreed to offer it a boulevard. The operating licence of Lottotech got renewed for two consecutive periods of five years up to April 2029; further Lottotech has been authorised to operate a second weekly Lotto 6/40 game as well as the transfer to it of the brand name and mark of the “Loterie Verte”, which means that Lottotech has moved on to become the sole operator of the lottery business in Mauritius – a monopoly situation that has been offered to it lock, stock, and barrel.

Of course, it has been grinning from ear to ear, as it has just won a lottery for itself. But this wonderful story for Lottotech does not end here, it goes on and it will continue winning in the future. If the next government quashes the 10-year agreement, it will take the government to court and there will again be a mediation agreement where it will be offered another “red carpet treatment”.
These politicians’ little political games and tricks are not in the least funny to us – taxpayers — at the receiving end.

Wasting taxpayers’ money?

There is quite a long list of cases of profligacy with taxpayers money – Rs 400 million for a road at Rivière-Noire, Rs 15 m each for Dayal and Husnoo, Rs 47 M down the drain for Heritage City, Rs 350 M transferred to Price Stabilising Account for petroleum products rather than investing in the replacement of the long overdue CWA water pipes, repayment obligations of the National Property Fund to former policyholders and investors of the BAI Group.

The Minister of technology does not work with “pouritir” but disburses Rs 45.4 million to one communications company, and the Ministry of Education submits claims of Rs 141 M to the same company which will never materialise given that the company has been put into liquidation by the Supreme Court. And the Rs 5 billion that the state will have to pay as compensation to Betamax…
We, the taxpayers, are being taken along for a long ride.

The Judicial and Legal Provision Act: ‘Pa Denigré Mam’

 This “Vire Mam” government now turned “Pa Denigre Mam” is introducing new regulations to restrict blogging and the use of Facebook. This government which came to power with the promise to support freedom of dissent and speech is threatening to censor blogs and control the online sphere. Why? Because internet cultures are reformatting politics and the dynamics of online activism have led to a crucial realization that the users of the media are deeply aware of the power of particular media formats.

The present regime, seeing its popularity plunging day by day, is trying to control, delimit and reshape the domains of public debate and political expression. The issue of securing the internet is emphasised to bolster the legitimacy of censorship. Various regimes have tried to muzzle the media to make it a fragile fourth estate of democracy but have failed miserably.

Similarly, this government will soon realise that its attempts to impose on internet users and bloggers the contours and limits of exercising their freedom to think and write as citizens will only infuriate them. The relentless diatribes on our blogs and social media against this “undemocratic” government will continue unabated and even explode. “Zot rod la gratelle, zot va gagner!” — that’s what is being said on social media…

* Published in print edition on 9 November 2018

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