Illegal construction at Poudre d’Or

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep

Mauricoast Ltd, recently started building a concrete wall on its Poudre d’or barachois. The question that is being asked is whether this construction is in compliance with the relevant regulations, which prescribe that permanent constructions are prohibited within 45 m of the tide mark?

It seems that the wall that has just been erected on the leasehold is situated only about fifteen metres from the sea, much closer to the tide mark than the 45 m imposed, hence another controversy involving cronies of the regime.

According to established procedures, it is usually the Ministry of Fisheries that must give permission for any construction involving barachois. But since it involves terrestrial and marine environmental issues, the ministry must first get the approval of the Ramsar Committee before issuing a possible “clearance”.

Why is the Ministry not taking any action against what appears to amount to a blatant irregularity given that this construction can constitute a real danger for marine ecology?

* * *

Real estate developer blocks public beach access at Pointe-aux-Piments

Yet another controversy which goes on to suggest that such things only happen under this regime!

Residents of Pointe-aux-Piments have sent a petition to the Senior Chief Executive of the Ministry of Lands and Housing to protest against the actions of a real estate developer. The latter is undertaking the construction of private villas near the Le Méridien hotel and the Max Shop. According to the petition, the proponent would have blocked the access leading to the Pointe-aux-Piments public beach located between the Le Méridien hotel and the Max Shop.

For residents, this beach has been used by the locality’s inhabitants and visitors for more than 100 years. Construction works are ongoing and these prevent the people, especially tourists, from reaching the sea through this access. The petitioners argue that the lease agreement clearly states that access to the beach must be open to the public. They are calling on government to take appropriate measures to safeguard and protect our national heritage. Copies of the petition were sent to the office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Lands and Housing.

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Immigration Act: Targeting some undesirable immigrants

The speed with which the amendments to the Immigration Act were promulgated and applied raises the question of its real intent.

 The amendments to the Immigration Act were hastily tabled in Parliament on April 16 and proclaimed two days later. It was not until Saturday morning that members of Parliament were informed of the bill on Tuesday’s agenda. The First, Second and third readings were made the same day. Why the urgency?

It seems that the amendments were written specifically for a specific person, the former Air Mauritius captain, Patrick Hoffman of Belgium. The Labour Party says there’s a hidden agenda in the government’s demarche. “You cannot give so much power to one person. We cannot pass a law for one person. It goes against the Constitution.” The pilot must be allowed the right to live in Mauritius.” Only in a banana republic are such things allowed!

* * *

The Labour Party goes on the offensive

The anti-corruption commission is interested in Commissioner of Police Mario Nobin’s role in giving a passport to drug trafficker Mike Brasse. The CP could be called to give his version of the facts.

The Labour Party has challenged the PM to instruct the CP to step down till the end of the enquiry. In his speech at his party’s Labour Day meeting, he denounced the lack of respect by the present government for “democratic standards”, citing posters and banners “torn” and “illegal signs” installed without proper authorisation. He added: “We know how they lead the country; it’s as if Mauritius is their personal property. They do not have a democratic culture, he said and added that “neither the PMSD nor the MMM nor the Labour Party have ever used such methods”.

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“Chantiers” fizzling out next year: IMF Art IV 2019

Despite a massive grant from India at the expense of the DTAA, the massive public investment splurges – the so-called ‘chantiers’ with billions being spent on the Metro Express , the Road Decongestion Programme, the Safe City project – have not had the multiplier effect that was expected on the economy. Should we be investing so many billions on prestige projects when the country has other priorities namely, among others, the need to boost growth and create productive jobs? We are paying today a heavy price for that as our elevated level of public sector debt is no longer sustainable, such that the staff report of the 2019 Article IV consultation has recommended that fiscal consolidation should be pursued as from the forthcoming budget itself. The authorities had tried to delay the adjustment two years down the line, but IMF had put its foot down given that the slowdown in the financial sector and the possible contingent liabilities are already posing a risk to the growth outlook and debt sustainability.

The authorities have agreed in their consultations with IMF that they will be taking both revenue and expenditure measures to achieve the desired consolidation: higher excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol as usual, toll taxes on new roads, introduction of property taxes, streamlining of tax incentive framework, targeting of social spending and subsidies, wage growth contained and pension reform including targeting. The largesses of the previous budgets seem to have caught up with us, with more dire times ahead. The prioritisation of expenditure and greater revenue efforts of government mean that they will have to tone down the ‘chantiers’ and the giveaways. The generous scattering of handouts and hints of more to come have sown the seeds of future problems for our economy.

 PJ’s generosity was not the result of a sudden big improvement in our economic fortunes; it would seem it has been designed with the sole purpose of swinging voters with a bonanza to be paid later – by you and me.

* * *

The IMF demand more of transparency

We have on many occasions highlighted the colourable accounting or the fudging of the budget and debt figures. In quite diplomatic but firm ways that sound more like a reprimand, the IMF demands greater fiscal transparency towards general government reporting and the implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) which “will bolster credibility”. This would suggest that we were therefore not that credible in our reporting. To be more credible, there is need for a full consolidation of the budget figures by including the special funds and other off-budget expenditures.

The IMF has carried out the consolidation exercise this time (it has a special table for borrowing not included in the budget figures) but it has bundled up the figures which it will surely correct later. One will recall our consolidated budget deficits of -3.8% of GDP for FY 2017-18 and 2018-19.

IMF is also critical of the project monitoring and coordination ministerial committees. These committees have failed to better grasp the complexities of project management — including a proper evaluation of costs, funding options and risks and tendering procedures which are often the cause of most cost overruns and delays — to ensure “deliverology” on our priority capital projects. In an indirect way, the IMF grudges them the jettisoning of the Programme Based Budgeting that would have delivered , if properly implemented, better outcomes than the dismal capital spending which has worsened from an average of 2.6% of GDP annually under the previous regime to less than 2% (1.7%,1.9%, and 1.7%), under the present government. There has been persistent substantial under-execution of investment spending at all levels of government. Public investment has been stagnating at around Rs19 billion annually for several years

IMF also calls for greater transparency in the public procurement process by clarifying the processes and outcomes—including those for special purpose entities. Such censures are inevitable when the government persists in putting their chums in charge of supposedly independent institutions. Just two weeks back we had noted the increasing number of cases that are being referred to the Independent Review Panel by unsuccessful bidders as well as the number of reviews of the decisions/awards of the Central Procurement Board. One therefore wonders whether the CPB can be referred to as a model for an efficient and effective public procurement in Mauritius.

* Published in print edition on 3 May 2019

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