By B. Foogooa
Not necessarily that I am feeling nostalgic. Actually it is very sad that for many years to come we may not have Mauritian parliamentarians of the calibre of Messrs S Ramgoolam, R Seeneevassen, H Vaghjee, J Koenig , S Bissoondoyal, AR Mohamed, G Forget, K Jagatsingh, G Duval and H Walter. Those were the days my friend.
Of late Sir Harold Walter, people used to opine that he could have well become the Secretary General of the UN, had Mauritius been the size of and rich like South Africa or Congo. This shows the degree of seriousness, maturity and personal charisma of the afore-mentioned leaders in spite of the fact that some among them did not hold high academic qualifications.
Now the whole world is living in successive crises. Climate change, frequent natural disasters, soaring cost of living, economic collapse of hitherto rich countries of the world and galloping population growth. These are more common occurences at present.
In the face of all this, our policy makers from both side–government and opposition– are contemplating to bring forth some electoral reforms which in the long run will be very detrimental to the economy and the country at large. Besides introducing a dose of Proportional Representation (PR) they want to disproportionately increase the number of MPs.
We already have an overcrowded Parliament with 69 MPs, out of which more than 25 are ministers. For a tiny country with a population of 1.2m and which has no common border with any country, it is obviously more than necessary.
The Colonial Period
Prior to Independence, in the late 1950s, there were 40 MPs for a population of slightly over 0.5m. But then, unlike today, we could look to the colonial masters for financial help. Now the very economy of previous colonial powers themselves is going awry. No one cares for the others and no one owes us a living, as we are often rightly reminded. In the past days, cost of living was very low (an inflation rate of less than 2% before 1971) and labour was cheap. People, not being aggressively intoxicated with the credit card system, led a very frugal lifestyles.
Nowadays, extravaganza knows no bound. Kids want to have mobile phones worth R.10k. Young boys and girls want a car each as soon as they take up a job. Married couples want to have separate living accommodation, far from parents and in-laws. Such unprecedented changes in our mode of living are taking a heavy toll on the economy of many countries — rich and poor.
As for the number of MPs, let us compare likes with likes by considering a few ex-British colonies: Mauritius, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Trinidad.
Mauritius, with a population of 1.2m has 70 MPs.
Singapore: population 5.2m, MPs 100.
Sri Lanka: population 20.7m, MPs 225
Trinidad: population 1.3m, MPs 40.
So we see that Mauritius tops the list with the highest number of MPs per capita. Not to speak of Rodrigues with 18 Commissioners for a population of less than 50k. Ten would have been more than enough.
So ratio-wise we have the following.
Mauritius – 1 MP for 17k population.
Singapore – 1 MP for 52k population.
Sri Lanka – 1 MP for 93k population.
Trinidad – 1 MP for 32 population.
With a bid to have as many MPs so as to satisfy the gargantuan appetite of political parties, let us opt for the Trinidadian ratio. That will make (taking a round figure of 30k) 40 MPs for Mauritius.
In many ex-British colonies there are Defence Ministry, Railway Ministry or Scientific Research Ministry while we don’t have any such ministries.
Therefore logically, Mauritius can well manage with a maximum of 50 MPs. We don’t understand the folly of those willing to boost the number to 90 or 100 MPs. If anyone is out to ruin our economy, then we should be given the opportunity to decide whether we want to go down this route. We hope this will be the case. In many spheres we already have too many cooks who have been spoiling the broth!
* Published in print edition on 20 January 2012