Chidambaram

2009: A Year of Achievements
S. Chidambaram  

We started the year 2009 with great trepidation. Some predicted dire catastrophes ahead. “The worst is yet to come” went the refrain, repeated ad nauseam. When threats appeared on the horizon – World Food Crisis, H1NI and the worst economic crisis since 1929, the prophets of doom were on the way to celebration.

 

The world itself was torn by anxiety and fear and there was no sign of lessening of the tensions. Government and people, while being attentive to what was going on in the world, took very bold measures to meet this unprecedented threat. In fact they had acted proactively since 2005 without waiting for the sky to darken. Measures ranged from aggressive marketing of our products and services, stimulus packages, tourists without passport, cost cutting operations while safeguarding employment, productivity campaigns and measures to contain H1N1.Efforts were made in every direction and on every front.

Meanwhile we watched with great anxiety and fear the loss of jobs and the closure of companies in the developed world. Soaring unemployment in China, U.S., India and Europe flashed across the TV everyday with tales of woe and despair. We wondered when our turn would come. How could we resist the onslaught when we knew we were so vulnerable? We watched carefully the tourist arrivals, the employment figures, factories closing down and the flow of FDI.

But there was more fear than harm. Measures taken by government were quickly implemented. One innovative step followed boldly upon another establishing beyond doubt that great impetus towards job creation. Mauritian industries responded magnificently to the stimulus of our economic policies. The worst did not happen – government measures did pay off and job protection remained at the centre of government policy. The economy grew by 2.4% when major countries experienced negative growth. Jobs were lost but more jobs were created. The textile and the tourist sectors proved resilient and BPO flourished. Even FDI proved reasonable given the grim economic situation.

Government measures which would have daunted the most stout-hearted were not confined to economic policies. There were signs of improvement on all fronts, resulting from a determination to improve the quality of life of the people. Health measures limited the spread of H1N1.The ban on smoking and alcohol advertisement was successfully implemented .Food control had made a great stride. Crime rate declined from 5.9% in 2008 to 4.2% in 2009. CCTV cut crime by 75% in the Flic en Flac region. The number of homicides fell and there was more rigorous enforcement of driving regulations through speed cameras and alcohol tests.

Access to education was widened immeasurably and the revamping of IVTB, the setting up of the Fashion and Design Institute and the integration of SDIM and EST with the University of Technology guaranteed a seat in tertiary education for all who pursue post-secondary and higher education. For those who want to pursue medicine there will be greater opportunities with the DY Patel School of Medicine. A blueprint for educational reform is ready for the second stage of our development. On the international front, economic diplomacy has achieved remarkable success under the leadership of the Prime Minister whether it concerns AGOA with the US, the European Union, China, India or Africa. There are also a number of successes in the area of environment and agriculture but the list is too long.

Today no one can doubt the inherent strength of the economy. Mauritian workers are proud of what they had achieved and the dynamics which has been unleashed augurs well for the future. There is still a number of projects which need to be completed. Shortage of manpower at all levels posed a major obstacle to development. There is also a number of problems which need to be addressed and these require courage and leadership. Our economic reforms show that we have both. Today we all recognize that it was the fundamental reforms which have paved the way for our remarkable success and to those who complained about the economic measures when they were initiated in 2005, it is well to remember that we cannot build on unsound foundations.

On the threshold of the New Year, we cannot rest on what we have achieved if we want Mauritius to flourish, create jobs and entrepreneurs. We need to persist in our endeavour and initiative at all levels. The way has been charted and we should not let ourselves be distracted by utopian goals or the rhetoric of bygone days.

S. Chidambaram

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