In 2015 and 2016 a number of things happened which cast doubt on the stability of the L’Alliance Lepep government.
There was clearly a struggle for power within the ranks of the MSM itself. This was amply illustrated by the twists and turns taken by the Heritage City project until it was finally decided to dump it. Not everybody involved in the fray escaped unscathed.
This incident showed how individuals within a government who take it upon themselves to realise projects which, at the end of the day, would not be as productive as others that might have been undertaken instead, have the potential to seriously undermine government unity.
A couple of days ago, former Minister Dayal who had to step down as Minister due to his possible involvement in a scandal, expressed his unhappiness at someone else having been given the temporary charge for the Environment, a portfolio that Dayal was responsible for when he was a Minister. This is possibly a message being conveyed to the MSM that he might embarrass them one way or another. It also shows that the government is made up of a number of disparate cut-and-paste individuals, lacking in commitment and solidarity to the national objective.
In the face of such events, one can understand the assurance being given by the leader of the MSM, in the course of an inauguration ceremony in Moka, that the government will complete its remaining three-year mandate and that it will implement its governmental programme – thereby signalling that even the recent departure of the PMSD from government will not prevent it completing its term. The PMSD explained its break from the government to the latter’s insistence to go ahead with the Prosecution Commission Bill which would retroactively examine decisions taken about cases dealt with by the Director of Public Prosecutions, after amending the Constitution.
On the other hand, way back in 2015, the government went about de-constructing well before implementing the projects it presented in its governmental program. It is still busy picking up the bits and pieces of its too hasty decisions in this context. Let alone the havoc caused to insurance policy holders of the defunct British American Insurance, the Apollo Bramwell Hospital of the same disbanded group found a new operator only last week after faltering with the two preceding ones during past months.
The government went on to enunciate certain main lines of action in its first budget in 2015 and then again in its Vision 2030 statement of large projects to be undertaken, as announced by the Prime Minister in 2016. That was to be followed up by the latest budget proposals of Pravind Jugnauth himself in his role as Minister of Finance. All this has cast doubt on the government’s focus and ability to undertake projects which may lift the economy to where it ought to have been.
The infighting that has characterised it signals a concentration on trivial private concerns instead of demonstrating that the government meant business at the national level, after identifying publicly endorsed priority activities to be undertaken to re-launch the economy. This kind of feeling was only confirmed when it preferred to lose its cohesiveness and purposefulness of the government by spending all that energy with the Prosecution Commission Bill, in the process helping the PMSD to clear itself of all the bungling-up that had been going on.
The government thus gave the opposition ammunition to raise itself from its ashes. If parties within the government coalition could not stick together, the signal to the people obviously was that they should start looking for others who might fit the role. With the addition of the PMSD to the opposition now, the government has itself to blame for strengthening the hand of the opposition against it.
People are flabbergasted at this unexpected turn of events, barely two years into the life of the new government they so massively voted to power. The vast majority of undecided voters are at a loss about which party to put their faith in anew to govern the country. Should they again take the same kind of risks they endured by electing Lepep to power in 2014?
It must be said that the international state of affairs does not make it easy for the government to deliver where most it is expected to – the economy. It is also not very clear whether the business sector quite trusts it after all the havoc it has caused to itself. Yet, the government alone cannot ride over the international economic storm seemingly under preparation. It will need a pro-active private sector which believes in government’s capacity to survive at least up to the end of its mandate, to accompany it with the required vigour and drive.
Will the government be able to breathe a sane and new life into its action? If so, it would help the country put behind a series of miscalculated actions and decisions that have proved unnerving to both its partners within the alliance and to people outside looking for a predictable platform on which to increase Mauritius’ economic scope.
Will it be able to convince the whole lot that it will not take actions to weaken public institutions even if its private interests are in question? Will public officers deliver decisions efficiently without having to owe allegiance to the government for whichever actions they have to take or not take in accordance with the rule of law? Or, will they run the risk of being thrown out if they don’t toe the political line?
The profile of 2017 will depend on what the answers are to such questions. For the sake of the country, one would hope that the government collects itself on the priority line of action the country is calling for, without the need for it to debauch defectors from the opposition to run the show. The political agenda is no doubt important but even more important it is for the country not to proceed as randomly as it did the past two years. For the vulnerable small island state that we are, at all times it is the economic agenda that must have priority over the political agenda.