By L.E. Pep Admirab
Many of them present at the gathering of the Plateforme Militante at the Municipality of Port Louis were debating on the future of progressive activism. Paradoxically many of these people have found themselves in power – somehow either at the national level for some time, at regional level for longer stints or at the helm of important institutions. In what ways were their spells in office different from others? Marginally!!! We had built our hopes on them but most let us down, turning out to be the same once in power – same arrogance, same me-know-everything, same cronyism, same lack of boldness and newness in reforms and policies, with a few exceptions. They have lost all credibility. They have every reason to indulge now in the nostalgia of “le militantisme”, the only thing they still have left. La lutte continue… but by others – by the politicians with new ideas and the guts to see them through.
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‘Les Petits Empereurs’ of the Public Sector
They are in position of authority, not necessarily because of their competency but out of their proximity to the levers of power. They tend to behave like emperors in their fiefs, hitching themselves to the all powerful bosses in the civil service, be it FS or Sec to Cab or whatever, and they go on doing more or less the same things in years past as in their current postings, driving those who swear by principles to fall in line — the recalcitrants. The few talented heads, who have the good sense not to subserviently toe the line, are unceremoniously chopped off and marginalized and a whole saga of harassment and persecution then follows.
But we have to acknowledge that these PSs and similar bosses and their cheerers, their yes-men, have the political flair of the “how and when” to hitch themselves onto the wagon of the governing party. And once on board, it is just a child’s game; they leave it to their megalomania and the resonant titles and accompanying privileges to ensure compliance and enforce total submission. Are we surprised that we have a decaying public sector?
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Cronyism continues unabated
The nexus between business, politics and cronies was never out in the open as it is at present. Over the past few years, crony capitalism has become rampant and a new breed of cronies has emerged in an environment characterized by governance and ethical deficits. WhatsApp abounds with caricatures and clips on the recent examples of cronyism: biscuits, fish for the prisons, notary fees to the tune of millions…
The latest uncovered by a weekly week refers to an alleged nexus between an IT company, the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation, and the officer who sits on the board of ICTA. The allegations levelled are that it’s only in a banana republic that Rs 45.4 million would be disbursed to an IT company allegedly contrary to established financial procedures and which would have been sued by the Ministry of Education.
Wouldn’t it be very tragic for a country if it were not to help the hardworking and deserving ones but would continue to help the families of the same influential set of people at all levels? And it’s usually these beneficiaries of crony capitalism which lead many to worry that we may be undermining the country’s hopes for future growth and development.
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The PNQ on drugs: Some concerns
Despite some routine and undaring questions on the drugs issue, Government did not fare well. It seemed to have been stunned by the disclosure that two radars at the port have not been working for a year, which was received with shouts of “incompetent government, useless advisers!”
The Minister Mentor’s comments on the drug report that government is not bound to agree with everything that has been said in the report are not reassuring. Neither are we by the claim that there is a lesser quantity of drugs in the country. The National Drug Observatory Report of March 2018 shows a significant increase in inpatient treatment cases due to drugs problems. Nor are we reassured, either, by the casual statement that the interministerial committee had met just once – on 16 August 2008 – following its publication of the Drug Commission’s report in July. Nothing about the establishment of three agencies recommended in the report! Is this how this Government means to eradicate the drug problem? There are giving us enough reasons to doubt it!
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THE EDB: A shot in the dark
For once that the EDB/FSC engages in some debate, it overly misses the target. In their IMF Working Paper (which are not the views of the IMF) ‘The Cost and Benefits of Tax Treaties with Investment Hubs: Findings from Sub-Saharan Africa’, Sebastian Beer and Jan Loeprick do mention that they have examined the effects of concluding Double Tax Treaties (DTTs) with investment hubs empirically on the basis of a panel data set of 41 African economies from 1985 to 2015. The argument by the EDB/FSC that the paper does not reflect on the contribution of Mauritius towards productive investment in Africa is ridiculous. The article focuses mainly on DTTs. Moreover, the EDB, by arguing that the WP ignores the recent changes brought to the global business regime (mainly to ensure greater substance and tax transparency and to combat anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism (AML/FT)) only strengthens the WP’s case for the large magnitudes of treaty-related base erosion and profit shifting, that is before the legal amendments in the Finance Act 2018. As the perpetually confused Minister of Financial services puts in “Now we are fully compliant…” meaning that before…
A recent article from ‘Foreign Policy’ – “African Governments Are Paying for the World Bank’s Mauritius Miracle” does support the IMF working paper’s findings that “ghost offices on the small island provide legal but questionable means of siphoning tax dollars away from poor countries and into the pockets of the global elite.”
A wasted effort by the EDB/FSC, a mere “coup d’épée dans l’eau”.
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Same old tricks appealing to the vote bank
Politicians never learn. Some are using the same old sectarian issues, while others use some incidents to their advantage to win people to their side. There is an issue dealing with widows/pensioners which suddenly has to be brought to the forefront. There is the case of a too-zealous blogger posting some unconvincing and defamatory comments which is an excellent opportunity for posing as a victim appealing to voters’ sense of fairness and basic decency in interactions. Effective tactics to try to win over voters!!!
But we are a step ahead of them. With the spread of social media their tactics have an ephemeral effect as these are analysed, shared, mocked at and rapidly dismissed as trash. These same old tricks work no more. Now, more and more, the politicians are being put to the grill. We impose our agenda, our set of questions and issues. We want to know their views on India’s plans on Agalega, on the targeting of pensions, on Saudi Arabia’s rogue behaviour, on the slashing of fuel taxes, on the Freedom of Information Act, on the Declaration of Assets Act, on cronyism…
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The Ethnic Census: Majority-Minority unending debate
at a press conference on the question of ethnic census, Jean-Maurice Labour of the diocese of Port Louis had this to say: “The minority of yesterday is no longer the minority of today.” You would think that this man of god would transcend the divide of majority-minority to reflect on universal human interests? He wants his flock to have access to more opportunities and they need access to the levers of power and Affirmative Action.
But the battle is not between majorities and minorities. It’s between forces and institutions that want to bend the arc of history away from mature meritocracy and equality and forces that want to claim those rights. This is a contest that cuts across communities with varying degrees of intensity. But it is something of an own goal when our priest, rather than reconfiguring the debate as one of access and equality also comes to be invested in the contest of compulsory identities rather than the human identity we have in common.
If we continue with race-driven policies in the delusion that they will enable us to “get beyond racism”, we will only ensure the perpetuation of racial and ethnic divisions far into the future.
2018 International Convention on QCs in Singapore
Out of a total of 480 teams from 14 countries, each of the six teams which represented Mauritius at this International Convention won Gold Awards for their respective project. Cervonic Ltd from the IBL Group won the Best In-Country Award among the six Mauritian teams. The 3-year Strategic Plan elaborated by the National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (NPCC) and its efforts at providing opportunities to Small and Medium Enterprises as well as large companies and public sector organisations, and to showcase outstanding productivity and quality improvement initiatives will definitely help in boosting productivity, reduce waste and enhance overall competitiveness. Over the period 2007-17, the contribution of labour to the 3.8% average annual growth in GDP over the period had been 13% and that of capital 64%. The remaining 23% represented the contribution of Total Factor Productivity (TFP) – qualitative factors such as training, management, technology, institutions and policies. Mauritius will have to rely more heavily on such initiatives by the NPCC to boost TFP growth and move to a higher plateau of sustainable economic growth.
* Published in print edition on 1 November 2018