The Camel’s Back

A government usually lays down the solid foundation of its work in the earlier period immediately after its installation. This gives it time to remove everything which prevents the system from performing according to target. It also helps by not causing everything to be cluttered up in the final years of its mandate. It does not appear that the present government has adopted such a plan of work.

It was taken up rearranging the chairs on the deck after the MSM split away from the government in the background of the MedPoint scandal. Governing with a majority after securing defectors from the MSM did not give it the strength it needed to firmly address issues having long term impact on the foundation of future society. Besides, time was spent managing the risk of internal insurgency with certain Labour members unhappy that the new guests were being served royally at their cost.

The matters that should have been addressed instead of spending energy in this direction, are numerous. The agenda would have consisted of actions to diversify external markets, add to our range of skills and economic production, bring up our exploitation of marine resources to the implementation stage on the table, undertake a land reform program that would have given us the quest for opening up to new and serious business entrepreneurs without putting the price of land out of reach of ordinary citizens and jeopardizing our food security, deal with the public transport system comprehensively, improve permanently the efficiency of each and every one of our public institutions, increase our energy and water supply security with each item delivered at a price industry and the public can sustainably and competitively bear. These are not one-off flashy things that can dazzle the population for some time. They are part of what might be called the real ‘reform’ of the economy, an essential superstructure to drive into the future.

After the tumult caused by the breakoff of the MSM in 2011, a lot of energy and time was consumed in the next phase discussing about “electoral reform”. It was a total waste, as proved by the deadlock reached ultimately whether because of the Best Loser System or proportional representation. Almost three years are gone from the present mandate of the government. There are risks that the government may not receive all the support it needs internally to bring to fruition the above strategic and structural reorientations the country was and still is in need of.

The good thing is that all is not lost yet. The economy has continued to show positive growth. Unemployment and inflation have not shot up to unsustainable levels. Public finances and public debt are manageable at the macro level. The negative consequences of the Euro crisis have been stemmed whether in the tourism sector or in export manufacturing. The base is still here, a launching pad for undertaking all the relevant actions to redress the economy, a far better state of affairs as compared with the persistent decline that had started hitting our major activities in the latter years of the 2000-05 MMM-MSM government.

All it needed was to flog up productive private investment geared to newer export markets until such time as our traditional markets pick up again. One can only keep fingers crossed that this is where our decision makers, both in the public and private sectors, raise themselves up to so as to give substance to this required new orientation.

It is most unfortunate that while tough challenges in the management of public affairs are beckoning us for quite some time now, we have ended up diverting our attention to highly emotionally pitched issues. The emotional outburst which began during municipal elections at Maurice Curé College last November has taken on more depth when all it needed was for that incident to be discarded at the earliest opportunity. Whereas the opposition did not score such a resounding victory at the municipals as it is made out to be, the amount of digression of political energy invested in this direction might tend to convey that that was so.

Was it really necessary to give the matter more importance and limelight than necessary by a Minister going out to depone at the police against Pravind Jugnauth? What was sought to be achieved thereby which could not have been achieved through direct political action? Does it help at all if Pravind Jugnauth has convinced the police that, after his statement given to the CCID in this context, he is in physical danger and will need police protection?  Who has proved to be smarter? Unwarranted incursions into privacy is to be defended by all means but when it comes to giving the media the chance to stand up as victims of a so-called “gagging order” in a highly politically pitched condition, would Labour not have been using better wisdom by letting the media do its part in a manner of stating, as it were, that nothing it has done has been against the public interest?

Voters may be silently gathering sympathy towards persons who they see as the real victims of this situation, not forming part of the main protagonists of all that has been playing out since the incidents of Maurice Curé College. Scales have been tilting to one side due to allowing emotions to take over throughout this episode. If this direction is taken, the Labour-led government will have to count on a serious blunder the opposition could make in time to come to take back the reins of political command into its own hands. This is a gamble too many. The best thing would be to produce results, to perform, to take the private sector along into a new adventure of diversifying the economy, etc.

Thanks to the camel, Arabs were reputed to cross vast expanses of hot, arid deserts. That very camel also has a reputation of having so fragile a back that this could break if only a last piece of straw were added to its load…

* Published in print edition on 18 January 2013

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