By L.E. Pep
Government has decided to introduce free tertiary education in public tertiary education institutions (TEIs) for both full-time and part-time courses leading to a certificate, diploma or degree. This was not a planned decision based on well-thought analysis but was hastily put together, a populist move in view of the forthcoming general elections. Now the posters (financed by taxpayers’ money?) are on display: “Education tertiaire gratis; aster nu tu capav”. Really? Isn’t just conning people?
First, there is no such thing as free tertiary education; someone must always pay for it. We, taxpayers, are having to pay for it. Second, it was not listed in the manifesto of the Lepep alliance, which means that the electorate did not vote for it. This measure will mainly, as in most developing countries, benefit middle- and high-income students who can pay their way to tertiary institutions, unlike those from low-income families. Thus free tertiary education is in effect a transfer of resources from lower- to middle- and higher-income individuals within the national population.
Third, it is not a priority now when most of the graduates are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed. The priority for the moment is to devote higher public spending to tackle basic skills shortages and create more jobs for the young. With the exception of year 2011, employment creation in 2018 was one of the worst since 1991. Between 2014-2018, this government has created on a net basis only 5,400 jobs whereas the previous one had created 25,000 jobs over the period 2011-2015. The present government has also failed to tackle youth unemployment, which has remained as high as 25%.
And last but not least, we’ll soon come to realise that Government cannot meet the increasing demands of higher education for funds for new infrastructure, new technologies, the upgrading of the teaching faculty, new curriculum and courses, and research. We cannot have high quality education solely relying on the public purse.
Populism, or electoral bribes, without a proper assessment of the consequences, usually come with an expensive price tag. Winning over the electorate is one thing, but that should not be at any cost, for it will then amount to “une politique de terre brûlée”.
* * *
“Insane News”: The gutter press of the regime
Bloggers have named it the “Insane News” because of the vile propaganda it spits out as “news”. Last week it stooped so low as to qualify one of our respected colleagues, H.C, who has gone through a tough time fighting against a severe disease, as “mort-vivant”.
It seems to have taken malicious pleasure in writing: “En tout cas, sachez, cher monsieur, que ce n’est pas dans nos habitudes de faire du tort à quiconque surtout encore moins à un mort-vivant… Vous comprendrez sans doute où nous voulons en venir!”
Irate bloggers are outraged at such a nauseating attack, which is unacceptable by the norms and ethics of the common press; they are calling upon the Media Trust and other newspapers to condemn such a coward, shameful and immoral abomination towards a fellow respected journalist.
This well-orchestrated and targeted campaign is also aimed at Paul Lismore, a friend of H.C, an anonymous blogger who has been hitting hard at the present regime. “Insane News” is trying to figure out the identity of the person going by the name of Lismore, this with a view to hitting at him in the same way that they did to Shameem Korimbocus who was deported from Dubai.
This seems to have incensed Paul Lismore, who has hit back more fiercely in these terms: “We have never reached this terrible level of corruption, nepotism, asking for favours and getting them, the mentality of “my shit smells nice compared to yours”, this incredibly selfish mercenary attitude that afflicts so many and compels them to do the most shameful activities imaginable… for the brand new car/villa/air tickets/mission bidon, etc., to be obtained free of charge, and for any contract to be awarded in dark rooms. I am afraid that keeping quiet when dangerous idiots are allowed to destroy what still remains civilised in our society makes you a collaborator of the vermins…”
* * *
NSS agents monitored by drones
In the wake of the incident last Wednesday involving a relative of the owner of Pakistan Hotel, Plaine-Verte, and an agent of the National Security Service (NSS), local inhabitants allege that they have noticed several elements of the NSS monitoring the residence of former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam at Desforges Street.
Another interesting development to this story is that regulars in the Plaine Verte region would have seen drones in the vicinity monitoring the agents fielded by the NSS to keep watch over the former PM’s activities. It is for this reason, it is argued, that the NSS would have opted for a rotation of its agents placed on this area, even sending young recruits from the police to stand guard.
And you would want us to believe that we are safe with the Safe City project! It is like having the NSS posted at every street corner, notebook in hand. One should not be surprised if it comes down to having Huawei Technologies technicians helping the government to spy on its political opponents by using cell data to track their whereabouts – just like it’s happening in some African countries with the help of Huawei Technologies security tools.
* * *
FCM: What’s Father Grégoire’s game?
After a period of hibernation of the Federation of Mauritian Creoles (FCM), Father Jocelyn Grégoire has returned to the front stage with the organization of a rally, last Sunday at the Octave Wiehe Auditorium, with its rallying cry being “Ler nou la viktwar ape sone”. On the invitation poster, which carries a picture of Father Grégoire, we can read: “Vini ek to fami ek to vwazin, vini pou lavenir to zanfan ek tizanfan”.
The “move” of Father Grégoire has once again raised many questions and comments both within the political parties and in the population, and particularly among Catholics because of his status as a priest. Several people are apprehensive about the nature and purpose of that rally given Jocelyn Grégoire’s previous carefully orchestrated interventions which hinted at specific voting directives in past election campaigns. There is not much, they say, that demarcates FCM from other sectarian socio-cultural groups fighting that their “nou-bannes” get a bigger share of the national cake.
Those who revolve around the FCM and its president have been disturbed by the Father cosying up to the present regime and the Prime Minister in particular, and it appears they will take it pretty badly should Mr Grégoire issue an unequivocal voting directive in favour of the government.
But the consultations with his public seem to have convinced him that there is a huge silent majority which feels that, like with other regimes, they have been mere bystanders for the past five years, bypassed on many of the so-called pro-poor measures taken by the government. Mr Grégoire has been wise enough not to voice out any political support or issue any political directive this time round.
* * *
The NRA confirms the findings of the Mutual Evaluation of Report of ESAAMLG
The National Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment of Mauritius, released recently, shows that that the general level of money laundering threats is considered medium-high.
Domestically, the National Risk Assessment findings show that the main proceeds-generating crimes in Mauritius are drug trafficking, fraud, illegal bookmaking, high value larcenies, tax crimes and corruption. The external threat mainly emanates from proceeds of crime derived from fraud (including tax fraud) and corruption committed outside of Mauritius. In most detected money laundering cases, funds are moved through the financial services sector in Mauritius as a transit destination either by the criminals themselves or through the use of professional money launderers. The professional money launderers can be foreign- or locally based.
The overall national ML vulnerability rating is Medium-High. This rating is influenced by an overall national combating ability which is rated Medium-Low, mostly as a result of the absence of formal risk-based Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) policies, as well as other shortcomings. Key weaknesses in the ability of the national authorities to combat money laundering include lack of resources of authorities in charge of investigating these offences and asset recovery, the absence of a national strategy and insufficient national coordination/cooperation. The prosecution of such cases faces considerable delay due to the number of pending cases.
In this report, the Minister of Financial Services acknowledges that the National Risk Assessment exercise has benefited from the findings of the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). You will recall that the key finding of the MER is that the AML/CFT regime of Mauritius “has not kept pace with the evolving global AML/CFT environment and therefore it has several weaknesses that negatively affect its effectiveness”.
Mauritius’s legislation had not been aligned to the Financial Action Task Force’s AML/CFT standards and we have fallen behind in the global endeavour to clean up financial systems worldwide. Despite the recent legislative amendments, we still have some doubts about whether the discredited ICAC, an FIU without direction, a dispirited police and a diminished Asset Recovery Unit will be able to perform efficiently and deliver effectively on their mandate to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
* * *
A Labour-MMM alliance that is palatable to voters
If they want to avoid another drubbing or a downright rejection in the next elections, they will have to demonstrate that they have a strategy or a narrative that goes beyond the ambition of their respective party leaders – Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Berenger. We hear that some voices within and outside these two parties are advocating for a new leadership — “that will be the real politics of ‘rupture’ – that is by really doing politics differently and projecting an alternative ideological narrative to an MSM still anchored in dynastic politics, cronyism, and turncoats…”
Indeed such a coalition, they believe, will be unstoppable and unbeatable if the two leaders opt to be Mentor Ministers in a government led by “one of the popular war horses (Anil Baichoo or Arvin Boolell or Kailash Prayag…) as PM for the first three years, and an MMM frontliner (Arianne Navarre-Marie or Rajesh Bhagwan…) for the following two years”. They add that “70% of the candidates from both parties should be new faces or young Turks, who though novice in politics should possess the right kind of talent in terms of experience and expertise to be given the opportunity of assuming eventually the mantle of leadership.
“They will be supported by a team of old guards as advisers, experts in their own fields, irrespective of their political affiliation, which will be made public as part of the whole package being offered to voters. Can the two historical leaders come down from their pedestals and the altar of their ego, sacrificing their leadership, to help turn around the country that is heading towards a grave economic abyss, a bankruptcy of ideas and a failure to provide an alternative vision for the next five years. If such an alliance gets traction, it could derail the plans of MSM and its newly acquired and potential bands of turncoats. It will also highlight the two parties’ capacity to shed the dynastic politics taint, to effect a transition from the old to the new and to dismantle the hegemony of a coterie of the old guard that has used its loyalty to the leaders to stay politically relevant.”
Affaire à suivre.
* * *
500 bus industry workers may lose their jobs
Bus industry workers are worried. About 500 employees in this sector are likely to lose their jobs with the coming into operation of the Metro Express, according to the president of the United Bus Service Employees Union Sheik Abbass. According to the trade unionist, the introduction of a cashless ticketless system in feeder buses is another source of concern for ticket collectors who will find themselves out of jobs.
The Union Joint Panel, which brings together the United Bus Service Employees Union, the Workers Transport Bus Association, the Bus Industry Traffic Officers Union and the Bus Industry Staff Association, have requested for an urgent meeting with the Minister of Transport. The news releases in the media to reassure the workers about their fate are not enough. The unions say they want a formal commitment and a written guarantee from the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Transport, Nando Bodha, that there will be no job losses.
Employees of Triolet Bus Service, Rose Hill Transport, United Bus Service and other bus companies will be voting to decide whether to go on strike over the expected job losses within the industry with the operation of the Metro Express. Since the beginning of the Metro Express project, Government has been pretty secretive about it, whether it has to do with the EIA licence, the felling of trees, and now the possibility of job losses. It isn’t surprising then that the bus industry workers and their unions are insisting for formal guarantees from the Minister.
* * *
Doctors go to court to decide on their strike
This announced strike of General Practitioners was to be held on September 11 to challenge the rotation system introduced in 2016 forcing them to work 40 hours a week, without any additional remuneration, instead of 33 hours as was the case previously. The new rotation system was implemented without consultation with the union. Faced with the Ministry’s refusal to review its position and meet the doctors’ representatives to discuss the new system, the union decided to call a strike. As more than 90% of doctors have come out in support with this union’s action, the MHOA has insisted on having a recourse to a referendum as required by law.
The general practitioners deplore the attitude of the Ministry of Labour. It was expected that a secret ballot would be held on 4 and 5 September to allow doctors from the five national hospitals to decide on a litigation strike over the 33-hour week. However, the Ministry of Labour informed them on Friday, August 30, that it will not send an official to oversee the voting.But for the MHOA, this seemed to be more of a delaying tactic on the part of the ministry.
Their union, the Medical and Health Officers Association, has filed an injunction in court on Monday, September 2, following the Ministry of Labor’s refusal to organize the voting exercise as required by law.
Wasn’t it supposed to be a pro-worker regime? Go and ask the turncoats!
* * *
Trees v/s Infrastructure
6,522 trees have been cut down in the last 48 months to make room for ongoing infrastructure development projects. After the feeling of trees at Roland Armand Drive at Vandermeersch Street, Rose Hill, to make room for the Metro Express and the Saint François bypass at Anse-la-Raie, the environmental disaster continues. This time, it is the turn of the Sivananda Road in Curepipe, which is undergoing the same fate. This slaughter of trees for the benefit of infrastructural projects has unleashed a feeling of revolt among environmentalists, who are sounding the alarm on its harmful impact on our environment.
Yvan Luckhun, ecologist, says: “A day of raising awareness about the environment is not enough to protect the environment. Instead, we need to tackle the source of the problem. They are removing old trees that have greatly contributed to the ecology of our island on the pretext that they are going to replant new trees, but it is important to realize that this will not have the same effect as these trees take time to mature and function as a link in the ecosystem.”
He explains that there are several factors that authorities must consider before felling a tree. According to him, it is necessary to seek the opinion of an expert and carefully re-examine the reasons that a tree needs to be cut down. In many parts of the world people are forming a human chain to protest against the cutting of trees and the authorities have ceded to these concerns by diverting the metro rail tracks to avoid the felling of trees.
If only our authorities had shown such concern for our environment, we would have preserved such invaluable eco-friendly, nature-friendly sites like Roland Armand and Sivananda Road.
Quote: Ram Seegobin in ‘Week-End’
“Many Mauritians are furious at the fact that they are forced to watch the inauguration and ribbon-cutting ceremonies of Pravind Jugnauth along with his speeches on MBC TV…”
* Published in print edition on 6 September 2019
65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.
With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.
The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.