A Warped Mindset

Right now we may as well be honest in our self-view, face reality squarely and take stock of the insane development of a warped mindset that is spreading in different strata of society. Soon we will have to say bye-bye to the reputation of Mauritians as being a hard-working people. It just looks as if quite a number of people want to make it without providing painstaking, steady efforts to deserve their earnings.

What is meant by ‘make it’ is largely about amassing as much money as possible, which is not an issue in itself. The issue is the insane desire of getting money by any means, by hook or by crook, which whets the predator appetite of the greedy and devious to deceive and swindle others without any qualms.

Unbridled capitalism liberates wild desires for disproportiante profits. One example is the construction business, a sector that unscrupulously spoliates and squeezes the juice out of people. From the biggest to the smallest company, be they bosses, masons, painters, joiners, and carpenters, many of the manual workers do not have proper apprenticeship and the right training to provide quality work, and their bosses are experts at cheating on the price and quantity of building materials. The motto is: do as little as possible for the highest amount of money one can extort from others.

Gardeners have adopted a division of labour which is a strange and unique phenomenon in the world. One fellow’s work is only to mow the lawn, and the lawn mower he holds in his hands makes him too great to bend down and pick up the grass; so someone else has to do it. Similarly, other fellows only cut trees and trim hedges. The one who holds a pickaxe and digs the soil to make a flowerbed is apparently at the lowest rung of the hierarchy. And this in a society where our forefathers were labourers! The rule is: work quickly, claim crazy wages and run away. Add electricians and plumbers to the list and figure out what capital in terms of taxes the MRA is missing out yearly.

Logically, liberalism should be extended for the benefit of all social categories. The law should make it possible for people to hire any worker from any foreign country. We should have the choice to employ people who best fit our requirements and expectations and not be obliged to recruit only locals. Why should it be the privilege of big companies and multinationals to move employees and capital freely around the world and hire anyone they want?

Lawyers claim hefty sums from clients, Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000, which is close to the norm in Europe. And over here you have to pay a solicitor and have access to a lawyer, which is not the case elsewhere. Not hard to guess what percentage of the population can afford such fees, nor what illegal and criminal alternative others resort to for settling scores. How teachers become dynamic once they leave school premises and head home to give private tuition with much more enthusiasm needs no introduction. Sight unseen elsewhere, even university professors give private tuition. How doctors who are paid from public funds give private appointments to patients for better treatment and prescriptions of medicine which they are supposed to do straightaway in hospitals has become common practice.

It looks as if everyone had their own interpretation of high-income ambition brandished in the aftermath of the 2010 election, and anticipated the ways and means to achieve it. A small political party suggests instilling the entrepreneurial spirit in the population; it will not have much pain to do it since most people are prone to make a business of everything!

If anything, the grand objective of a long-term high-income policy did not fall on deaf ears, least on those who are in a position to vote laws for their personal benefit in Parliament. The recent salary hike is totally insane and outrageous. The President’s salary highly exceeds that of his Indian counterpart who is presiding over a country of more than one billion inhabitants. A Vice President in such a small country as Mauritius is totally unnecessary, it is a huge waste of money. The Prime Minister earns what the French PM earned a few years ago and as much as PMs of bigger and richer countries. Ministers’ salary hike is equally disproportionate considering all the perks and allowances they benefit from on a daily basis. Besides there are too many ministers, which means that there is a huge waste of money on people who are not fully employed.

Given the size of the country and the scale of responsibility, all this salary raise is totally unjustified and unreasonable. And we are only talking about official salaries! It all amounts to a big scramble for the biggest share of the national cake to the extent of spoliating public funds.

We cannot help thinking of what Sri Aurobindo warns us about in his writings: the danger of adopting the iron gods of the West. No wonder the same mindset prevails across the social spectrum – squeeze as much as possible from fellowmen.

Time and money are spent on fact-finding committees and foreign experts who preside over ‘commissions’ of all kinds, to inquire into major malfunctions of overstaffed departments that fail to deliver.

The inability to implement laws and regulations and the failure to make people abide by the rule of law should prompt us to question the quality of governance. If there is a perception that the complex business of governance is redefined by policy makers as keeping themselves, family and friends happy, there should be an alternative. The most logical one though, totally unorthodox and politically incorrect, is to outsource governance! And forget the concept of sovereignty because what is sovereign today is corporate business.

Amid the high-income follies of all and sundry, we’d better have our share of liberalism and invite bidders to manage our internal affairs. Forget the West with the imperialist mindset, cross out authoritarian China and dithering India. There are other efficient models that we may find attractive…

* Published in print edition on 21 June 2013

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