Editorial

Needed: A viable force for Mauritius  

Labour’s decision to go into alliance with the MSM, instead of with the MMM which was discussing such an alliance with it until late, has stunned more than one. Its decision to allocate 18 out of the 60 tickets to the MSM in this alliance has shocked even more. This should not be so, as it is well known that in politics, obscure channels of negotiations, including blackmailing, can give rise to the most unexpected outcomes. What is important is to put all the chances of winning on your side once you have decided what this ‘side’ will be constituted of. This is what the so-called “winning formulae” of a not too distant past were all about. A risk exists that, depending on the number of candidates each one of the parties can get elected, relative strengths of the different parties in alliance may eventually come to be re-defined in a manner which was not in alignment with the number of tickets originally allocated to each party in the alliance. Degrees of difficulty to get candidates elected in different constituencies vary. This is why judgments about the number of tickets allocated will need to be postponed until results have been declared. In elections, though, it is in the interest of each alliance to get as many as possible of its candidates, of whichever party forming the alliance, elected. This is what determines overall majority in the House. Nothing less. It would be utterly counterproductive to join into an alliance with some party or other and, in view of some power arithmetic, try to undermine partners in alliance with a view to remain dominant in the alliance in terms of numbers elected. The real aim is to win the maximum number of seats for the alliance.

It has unfortunately been the practice with our political parties that leaders have not always been inclined to look for consensus within their fold. Opinion makers are adept at exploiting this fault line. The tendency is for the leaders thus to try to dictate and overrule everyone else as a show of force but also not to allow dissent to find its way as dissent is interpreted as a challenge to the leadership. This kind of situation shows that the party leadership finally has little confidence in its own abilities. Had it been otherwise, the parties forming an alliance would find more ground to agree among themselves than to interpret differences with allies as being a challenge to authority. If so, more enduring alliances would be made. In other words, numerical considerations would have been beside the point.

A united front is superior to another which is based on considerations of potential cracks and fissures. Politicians are realistic however and, as far as possible, they would not like to take the risk of being put in minority by an ally, given the situation of more or less permanent coalitions our political parties adopt before, and sometimes even after, elections. This possible consideration cannot be overruled in the case of the Labour-PMSD-MSM alliance, henceforward called the Alliance de l’Avenir (AA). Politicians only have to bear in mind that they should live by the outcomes of the polls and make themselves into a viable force capable of governing the country with its best resources.

It is unfortunate that the formation of the AA has already created a commotion within its ranks. There was no need for that but it has appeared like a collateral damage. It is well known that we have not always been in agreement with the economic policies adopted by Mr Sithanen as Minister of Finance during the past four and a half years, and at times for very fundamental reasons of differences in perception about his social redistribution and micro-management policies that have been, in our opinion, too one-sided. However, we are firmly of the view that he has contributed to give the overall architectural plan on which the Alliance Sociale has built up its economic credentials during these years. People inside and outside of Mauritius needed to be reassured that there was at least one person within the ranks of the government who could understand and give intelligible expression to the logic of economic management.

This person was no other than Mr Sithanen himself, no matter the amount of homage he has paid to others for advice and support received. Even assuming that a suitable replacement could be found for him in matters of economic management, he ought not to have been egged on to the point of suggesting that he could move on to another constituency for the coming elections. It is the failure of successive governments of our country that they have yet to learn the art of garnering gratefully those resource persons (both politicians and non-politicians) who have served the country’s interests to the best of their abilities and who have gained precious experience while attending to high duties of state. Politicians’ preference for outright rejection in a manner of showing their own final superiority has cost us a lot: it has helped to break the stock of experience on which to consolidate our country’s gains in terms of experience and know-how had our leaders managed to be more diplomatic, even at a pedestrian level. It is the country that has been the loser in the process.

If Labour has decided to enter into alliance with the MSM, its aim should be to make the maximum out of this alliance for improving a good cohesion of all the country’s constituents towards its national project. Everyone should be made to feel part of the important strides that the country is urgently called upon to make effective headway into the present era of intense competitive globalisation. This consideration is above personal considerations such as who poses as a threat to whose political ambitions. Surely, we do not want to land into the situations Kirgizstan and Thailand are currently finding themselves into.

The real consideration has more to do with increasing and adapting sharply the skills and productivity of our labour, equipping our children with an education that will last into the next generation just like the British system has done its lot for the past generation and now needs to be dramatically overhauled, adopting and implementing an important comprehensive infrastructure plan going into a mutually consistent and efficient water, road, power and energy management system for the next 50 years (instead of going for ad hoc last-minute implementations) to get us into food self-sufficiency to the maximum and a self-renewing diversified export activity. A serious plan is needed to get ourselves out of a situation in which we have to meet our increasing foreign exchange needs not mainly by selling real estate to foreigners when it would have been far more sustainable to get into the supply of foreign exchange by exporting more and more.

In this age of electronics, we are not selling even a single TV set to the rest of the world or an electronic device as a sub-supplier to the various multinational giants in the field. This is telling about our policy shortcomings. Other countries at our stage of development have been doing so for decades now. We have been content to supply low-end back office outsourced services; we could do that and even more provided effective leaders are allowed to emerge unfettered by some interested parties’ pursuit of private profits acting as serious handicaps to development. We have to export what we thought we never could. Only the right policies could have taken us there; we missed them because of squabbling over private interests to protect. Just like Germany and China, America has decided that the solution to its prevailing predicament lies in exporting ever more and more. Thus, not content with intentions, even a technologically far more advanced country like the US is delving into the details of how to move from the talk to actual exports; why should we not follow the same route? A lot of work is needed to come to comprehensive solutions, which goes beyond overcoming triple or any other number of shocks. Politics would do well to focus on the huge work that needs to be done for our future economic viability rather than “barre goal” merely. It is the challenge of the AA to get on to such objectives rather than finding faults within its own ranks or with adversaries who have to overcome self-inflicted injuries first. 

M.K.

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