Deposit Insurance Scheme at last, but how fair is it?
Seven years after the idea was first mooted in 2011, last Saturday PM Jugnauth presented the first reading of the Mauritius Deposit Insurance Scheme Bill. The aim of the Deposit Insurance Scheme is to provide protection for the first Mauritius Rupees 300k (USD 8.5k) of depositors money, in case of bank failure. This is equivalent to 81”% of the per capita income of USD 10.4k. I think many people will find this is an inadequate quantum.
For comparison, in the UK per capita income is USD 44k and the Deposit Insurance Scheme provides protection for USD 110k which is equivalent to 250% of per capita income. At the very least, the authorities must find ways of providing a better protection level for pensioners, widows and orphans who mostly rely on their deposit interest to survive.
Rs 300k at 2.5% yields a measly Rs 7.500 per annum. Even with an old age pensioner of Rs 5.810, a male pensioner will have an income of only Rs 6.435 per month to support himself and his wife. NB – the National Minimum Wage is Rs 9.000.
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The world today before tomorrow
As 2018 comes to an end, the world today is in a financial, ecological and political mess. All over the world, forests are disappearing and agricultural lands are eroding. Aquifers are being exhausted. Land, water and air are being poisoned. Many species of living things are disappearing. The planet is getting warmer, resulting in increasing storms and changes in rainfall. Those who study natural resources and the condition of the earth issue warning after warning.
Catastrophes loom ahead, but they have even been taking place in our own time. A society in which government lacks legitimacy and basic support of the people is unsustainable. It may prop itself up for a while by sheer force and terror but this cannot last. Whether it is the world’s court of justice or not, history does record rather consistently that tyranny or the abuse of power don’t last. It is just as true for individual tyrants as it is for tyrannical regimes.
Empirically speaking, all the empires of the past that were based on tyranny or the abuse of power, subverting the common bond of humanity, have fallen from their heights, sometimes to their nadir and becoming extinct. These events have occurred right before our eyes. As these tyrants and their tyranny find their place in the annals of history, they seem to consistently repeat a common lesson of history – in the words of gorge Bernard Shaw, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
2019 will see a more sober and diminished America, the “Omni power” and “indispensable nation” we heard about in all the hubris and braggadocio following the cold war victory is history.
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Mauritius – An Incomplete Democracy
The Judicial & Legal Act 2018 enacted on the 15th November 2018 got a ferocious welcome as the question of constitutionality has been evoked. The Act under its section 5 brings amendments to the ICT Act 2001, and that has caused annoyance to the public at large as there is no more the need to have a proven intent of causing harm to be charged. Debates have followed since then to highlight the pros and the cons of such amendments, and we have seen members of the government boasting about Mauritius being a fully democratic country, but are we really as democratic as we say we are?
The issue of constitutionality has been raised as it is deemed by a major segment of the population, as well as the opposition parties of the National Assembly, that this amendment does not have a genuine raison-d’être because the legislation prior to the amendments already catered for cybercrimes and misuse of electronic devices. Thus, it is perceived by some as a political move as we can already smell the general elections cooking from up. The fact that one can now be charged for up to ten years of imprisonment for causing annoyance or inconvenience despite not having the intention to do so has been raising eyebrows as it tampers with the freedom of expression which is sacred. While ministers have been given the responsibility to educate the population about the amendments, in a desperate attempt to reassure the population they have failed to give proper explanations as to how the amendments have brought a positive change; there is only an increased term of imprisonment. During one of the debates on a private radio, Minister Etienne Sinatambou proudly voiced out that we are among the twenty countries indexed as a full democracy.
While I am convinced we are doing better than many nations, it takes me aback that people consider Mauritius a full democracy. Before speaking about anything around democracy, however, we should understand the very concept of democracy. According to political scientists democracy should cover elements such as a legislative system that allows the people to decide who governs them, a bilateral system that allows active participation of the people in decisions of public interest, and a legal framework that ensures human rights being observed within a country and a fair judgment for every citizen respectively. Should all these elements be present, then a country can be deemed to be democratic. Mauritius is yet to have all these elements gathered under its sky. How can we then proclaim ourselves as a full democracy?
There is an urge for the strengthening of democratic institutions so as to promote peace and stability, and also to be able to grow economically. In order to run a proper democracy, power needs to be given back to the people to a certain extent. For instance, we need to consider a referendum for matters of public interest and not just force the people to accept anything. A political reform is also required, educating people on the importance of the right to vote and how to vote. Voting should not represent who we choose to send to parliament as proxy to choose in our place, but it should be sending the people who want to put forward the ideas and plans for our country that align with our vision of betterment. How useless it is to vote for someone who does not believe in the same values and requirements that we believe in.
Also, the media has to have a certain degree of independence. A proper solid Freedom of Information Act is a must to enable national media channels to act as watchdogs of the government instead of being their marketing tool. The economy should be based on inclusive growth strategies that create jobs for poor people, an economy that implies poor people are part of the activities which contribute to the growth of the country. Remuneration increments should not be flat percentages for everyone but rather a higher increment for the poor and lower percentage for those who are higher up in the ladder. This shall close the gap between the different economic segments of the society and get rid of a capitalist system which has turned out to be the mother of all political vices and scourges. Our educational system should promote women empowerment and youth engagement as well as core human values. Every citizen wherever they work should not be prevented from participating actively in political matters. There are so many things that could be done to strengthen our democracy and to make us healthier as a nation.
In fifty years of independence we have not been shattered as many would have thought at first, in fact, we have done fairly well. But we are still far from our true potential as we aspire to be the leaders of the Indian Ocean and the African continent. The dreams and aspirations of every citizen need to be catered for, we need to restore patriotism and national unity and harmony. Until then, we are not a fully democratic nation and if political parties do not revise their mode of operation that shall remain only a wild fantasy that we will watch from afar. We do have the potential as a nation to achieve greatness similar to our economic growth after independence, now comes the time for a revolution, to achieve the dream of a new generation and a new breed of Mauritian. It is said that the first step is realization, let us hope that the time for a full Mauritian democracy comes sooner rather than later.
* Published in print edition on 14 December 2018