Imperative of Changing Tack

The people already know who they are not going to vote for. The country cannot afford another five years of inept governance

 By Mrinal Roy

The trading of cheap digs by the leaders of the MSM and the Labour Party at the political meetings organized by them last Friday set the tone on the tenor and level of debate ahead of the forthcoming general elections. Instead of having a serious debate on the proposals to address the many daunting socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the country, it is quite evident that it will be a no holds barred clan battle between the two protagonists with presumably the use of below-the-belt clips aimed at smearing the opponent aired on social media.

Each leader is gung-ho bent on winning the forthcoming general elections despite their track record of poor governance, political highhandedness, nepotism, cronyism, of undermining state companies and key institutions through the nomination of political appointees, of short-changing the public interest and patent failure in boosting growth and transform the country into a high income economy during their respective tenure of office at the head of the government.

For too long the people have recycled the same politicians who have monopolized the local political scene for decades, at the time of general elections. They have replaced incumbent leaders and politicians by those they had rejected at the polls in the past. This cannot go on. It makes no sense to replace a bad government by another. Such choices have undermined the prospects of the country. They are not viable options for the future.

General elections return power back to the people who can then again exercise their sovereign right to choose the leader and government they can trust to serve the people, uphold public interest, abide by the highest standards of good governance and ethics and competently manage the affairs of the country. Is it not therefore high time to ask ourselves whether the current crop of political leaders from the main political parties who have monopolized the political scene and been successively in power can, in the light of their track record at the head of the government, honestly meet these basic criteria of good governance and fit the bill bearing in mind the very difficult challenges facing the country?

Thwarted promises

The country is facing many daunting challenges and a bumpy rollercoaster ride ahead. On the external front these challenges relate to Brexit, the deteriorating world growth prospects forecast at 3.2% in 2019 by the IMF in the light of the trade wars triggered by US President Donald Trump against China, Europe and other key trading countries, the risk of rising oil prices resulting from the growing tensions between the US and Iran and the sabre rattling in the gulf region or the dire fallouts of extreme weather conditions and climate change on the country, with July being registered as the hottest month in recorded history.

On the domestic front, the challenges relate to poor governance, a flawed economic model fuelling growing inequality, an overhaul of the Economic Development Board to take back control and ownership of strategic initiatives and policies for the country, deteriorating economic fundamentals, a faltering economy, inclusiveness, the employment of the qualified young, the urgent need of overhauling the education system to world class standards, the social protection and healthcare of senior citizens, etc,. The list is very long.

It is equally evident 51 years after independence that the promises made as a nascent nation to the people in respect of a level playing field and equal opportunities for all, a fair sharing of the fruits of prosperity, reducing inequality, the democratisation of the economy through land and financial reforms to enable a broader entrepreneurship, merit based and transparent procedures of employment in both the public and private sector and inclusive growth, etc., have not been met. Have successive governments reneged on these seminal promises made to the people?

Lopsided development

Instead, the current economic model has failed the country. It has led to a higher concentration of wealth in fewer hands. Despite the generous business facilitation incentives granted to the private sector by the government to invest and develop new pillars of the economy in the services sector such as financial services, Information and Communications technology (ICT), Business Process Outsourcing, healthcare, tertiary education or the ocean economy, etc., these are yet to become robust new engines of growth of the economy and supplant the faltering traditional sectors of the economy. The traditional private sector seem instead to be cherry picking the highly lucrative tax exempt smart city and property development sector and energy production which despite the massive investments made have limited positive fallouts for mainstream Mauritius and the economy at large in terms of, for example, the employment of the qualified young or inclusive growth.

With a declining sugar and manufacturing sector and competitive pressures on tourism, it would be nothing short of economic and social hara-kiri to pander to and encourage such a lopsided development of the economy having little benefit for the multitude.

New approach

This is therefore not the time to entrust the management of the economy and the future of the country to an amateurish and inept government. More than ever before in the chequered history of the country we need a safe pair of hands and a highly qualified and competent team to manage the affairs of the country.

Hard choices have to be made in respect of all the difficult challenges facing the country and innovative strategies have to be couched by a new breed of politicians chosen amongst the brightest and most qualified talents of the country.

The status quo is therefore no longer tenable. As has been the case so often before general elections, the people already know who they are not going to vote for. The country cannot afford another five years of inept governance. We urgently need to reinvent ourselves and usher a new dawn. As a nation, the onus is therefore squarely on all of us including the political parties to offer an alternative choice to the people by encouraging and supporting the emergence of a new team of talented Mauritians having the collective ability, intellect, innovative and managerial acumen to brainstorm a new and ambitious vision of Mauritius for the inclusive benefit of all.

The people imperatively need to change tack. They need to make the right choice and entrust the future of the country to an able and competent government determined to bring about fundamental reforms and a new inclusive policy framework which provides a level playing field and equal opportunities for all as well as unleashes the full potential of the nation for the common good and the benefit of the people.

* Published in print edition on 9 August 2019

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