Were I in the shoes of the Finance Minister

By B. Foogooa

There is no denying the fact that the world is in dire financial and economic turmoil. The tsunami is in the offing. So, meanwhile do we sing and dance for weeks? Or do we roll our sleeves and set to work assiduously? 

We all know that we are having more than enough song and dance competition at national level, and hefty cash prizes are awarded to several winners.

At this juncture there was no need to reorganize the Festival Kreol, which was held a few weeks back last December, to the tune of about Rs 10m. The country is already heavily indebted and such largesse is unwarranted. Please don’t mistake me for a miser or anti-Kreol. But with public funds, miser I am. Tightening our purse strings is a must and this should apply to one and all.


La Cigale et la fourmi


Honourable Xavier, were I in your shoes ( though I have not an iota of your competence in this field of yours), I would have gone on TV along with the Ministers of Tourism and Arts and Culture. I would have pleaded with the whole nation and more importantly with those closely concerned with the said festival.


I would have said, “Look friends, the world is going through very, very difficult times, and Mauritius is no exception. Devoid of natural resources, we are more than anybody else extremely dependent on foreign countries’ economic performance. If their economy goes to the dogs as at present trend, its domino effect would be inevitable. And we, being the most vulnerable can be definitely ruined!”


I would have further added, “I am much more apprehensive of those who are at the lowest rung of the ladder.” To support my plea I would have recounted the story of La Cigale et la fourmi from Les Fables de La Fontaine. Or better still from parables of late Sookdeo Bissoondoyal (SB). Please bear with me, I’ll recount one such parable for the benefit of the younger generation.


Late SB (ex-MP and Minster) was the most fiery orator the country has ever known. Though his speeches at public meetings sometimes had a significant dose of demagogy, they were actually lectures. And for the audience they were the most enjoyable treats!


In one of his public meetings held behind the Line Barracks, Port Louis, in the early 1960s, he recounted inter alia the following.


“Friends,” he started, “I have a neighbour who I prefer calling Mike for convenience. So our dear Mike is a lazy, lousy guy. He hates working. He would, at times, do some menial jobs such a washing people’s car, tidying their compounds and running on errands. That is something that demands the least effort and which just suffices to buy his drinks and snacks.


He has 2 wives and 4 children. He drinks 3 times a day and beats the ladies 8 times a week. His elder children do not attend school regularly due to lack of textbooks and money. Food and clothing are supplied by his wives who work as maids from dawn to dusk. Only one pair of shoes is worn by 2 elder children in turn. At home he sometimes has no bread, no butter, and no milk for the smaller toddlers.


One day, out of pity, Mike’s neighbours pulled together and gifted him a sum of Rs.25. You know, dear friends, what Mr Mike did with that sum? He rushed to the shop to buy himself a guitar.” The audience burst out laughing.


SB: “Don’t laugh friends. In government we have many such Mikes.”


Proper use of Public Funds


Hence, dear Mr Duval, with a sum of Rs 10m, five thousand schoolchildren could have got textbooks, shoes, backpacks or whatever needed for starting/resumption of studies. Or the homeless could have been housed in low cost, but decent housing. For a sum of Rs 300k each, at least 35 poor families could have been housed. The list of priorities, compared to a whole night singing and dancing, is really too long.


It’s high time we looked to the Chinese—ours and those from China—to be inspired by their hard-working culture and drive to be self-supporting and be totally independent.


* Published in print edition on 13 January 2012

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