By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
No need to hobnob around decision makers to guess why Mauritius Telecom went into partnership with France Telecom in the first place. Especially if it is alleged that the CEO of FT did not see the point of such a transaction initially.
MT was not a situation that required a bail-out by a foreign company. How French companies operate in countries where they buy off shares or set up branches is quite plain to any observer: favour French products and import them at a high price, impose their modus operandi to the detriment of workers’ interests, and ultimately behave as if they owned the place.
In France, the source of the distress that led to a number of suicides among FT employees is the so-called more efficient work ethics that CEOs garner in international fora, especially in the U.S., and come back home and pressurize workers, overtax their energy and push them to compete against one another with a view to reaping the highest profits from their work.
MT workers are in a better position to assess the long-term benefit and viability of such a partnership. What progress is achieved if there is no transfer of technology? The same applies to industries which employ a high number of workers in assembly lines but do not contribute to progress. Are Mauritians better at dress-making since the proliferation of textile factories? Certainly not.
Outsourcing part of the services of MT cannot be recommended in a country with few resources, and which badly needs to safeguard local jobs. Internet developed earlier in Mauritius than in Reunion Island where the politicians were blithely enjoying their monthly trip to Paris without giving any thought to the burgeoning Internet revolution. France Telecom was not in the deal either.
A teacher of Algerian origin living in Reunion wrote to the erstwhile President Chirac to point out to the necessity of having Reunion benefit from the underwater SAFE cable, a project which the local dinosaur politicians were not aware of. Surely, Mauritius does not need the expertise of France to develop telecommunications. In almost every sector, France is lagging twenty years behind the UK and the US.
The point is not whether the workers’ protests are aimed at a partner which happens to be a French company, any other foreign company with similar record should be confronted in the same manner. The fact is that for obvious historical and geographical reasons French firms in this part of the world strut around with a neo-colonialist mindset. After Mayotte, they probably regard Mauritius as one of the Dom-Tom islands…
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None of the Above
Behind the masquerade of every-five-year democratic elections and the electoral campaigns preceding them, powerful lobbies pull the strings to promote and safeguard their interests first. The low salary policy has been devised to keep a big number of Mauritians in a state of permanent servitude. In the fields, in the factories, in the hotel industry and in the construction business. Sectors that are amassing huge profits.
Look at Rivière Noire. It is just grotesque! People are walking long distances in the first hours in the morning to get some water while apartheid-minded South Africans in IRS villas higher up are pampered with swimming pools and all.
Political leaders are made to believe that there is no alternative than embrace models that have been experimented in bigger and richer countries. No wonder that the Seychelles people are fed up with the country being sold out to foreigners and a new political party, Parti Rasin, a sort of Janata Party has been set up, to defend the interests of the local people.
Notwithstanding the scarcity of water, the government keeps endorsing all sorts of unreasonable construction projects with swimming pools. In the name of wildcat capitalism, Trou aux Biches hotel has kept sprawling around and is providing bungalows with private swimming pools to tourists. Despite the dwindling number of visitors from the euro zone.
Look at Triolet. The longest village in the country. The Maheswarnath Government School with the same old solitary breadfruit tree standing as a sole décor badly needs some painting. The other schools are in a sorry state as well. Last year’s budget announced the construction of a Rs 30 m sports complex. Nothing has come off the ground yet.
The village is all about work, work and work. High level of diabetes and cholesterol. More money has flown in. But what sort of life do people live? Dead boring. The northern villages are overcrowded. Theatres, art galleries and universities are concentrated in urban areas. Casinos flourish randomly but no politician deems it important to have a public library built. Leisure and entertainment for the young are non-existent. In short, there is no ambition or long-term vision whatsoever for the villages.
Bus shelters are built only in the vicinity of tourist resorts in Trou aux Biches, part of Pointe aux Cannoniers and Grand Bay. Not enough of them, though. Terre Rouge, Arsenal, Solitude, Triolet, Fond du Sac, Grand Gaube do not have a single bus shelter. After all, you are descendants of slaves and coolies. Rain or scorching sun, you may as well put up with the lack of comfort while waiting for the Tata buses to pick you up. Can the National Transport Authority import more comfortable buses and spare the noise pollution?
In India, Anna Hazare suggested that a bottom line should be added to the list of candidates proposed to electors at every election: None of the Above. Which will enable citizens to voice their discontent by refusing all the candidates if none of them has the ambition to cater for the needs of the people.
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Coconut and Peanut Mega Cocktail
It was high time to give some financial help to the financially vulnerable groups of the population. It is quite puzzling that the Minister of Finance allocates Rs 200 only to those who live in public-sponsored housing estates. Others who have made painstaking efforts to build their own houses and who are in the low income category would have welcomed some peanuts trickling down from the seven billion rupee resilience fund the whole country is going to contribute to through hard work to save banks and companies in case of big trouble looming ahead.
No need to rack your brains to guess the lobbies and socio-cultural organizations that hover around the Ministry of Finance. Equally puzzling is the shoe and cosmetics duty-free big news. Maybe that will please our womenfolk. Books and computers, for which Mauritians pay the same price as in Europe, did not inspire the advisors at the ministry. The Rs 1 500 to women with young children should have been given years ago. The few social measures may boost up the low spirits of the have-nots but they are peanuts compared to the tax-free huge profits big companies are going to collect.
* Published in print edition on 11 November 2011