Of Abusive Privileges and Public Transport

It would have been informative for the sake of transparency to explain the criteria for selecting VIPs and the special attention they benefit from in Mauritius

Doing away with privileges for VIPs has been a topic of debate in the Indian media. It means that for decades politicians have generously extended the benefits and advantages of political power to undeserving people with no deep political commitment, relatives, businessmen and cronies. It would have been informative for the sake of transparency to explain the criteria for selecting VIPs and the special attention they benefit from in Mauritius.

Instead, the focus over here is on the absence of a Constitutional Court to settle issues related to the spirit of the Constitution. Whether political leaders have given any serious thought to it is an open question.

The ongoing presidency scam – which is just another example of the art of faner some of those hoisted to high-ranking positions are well-versed in – hits the headlines.

Amateur figures selected on questionable ethnic and gender basis and presented as big breaking news, in a bid to impress the public get caught like moths hovering around bright lights, and end up being a disappointment in the eyes of the public.

Ethnic politics is a dangerous game in which political parties compete with one another to the detriment of meritocracy. By now, it should be obvious to any observer that the wrong reasons for selecting candidates to represent, run a country or a business for that matter inevitably entails disastrous consequences. Which government has been wading knee-deep in minority ethnic politics and has promoted sectarian interests to secure political power is no secret to the public. Not to mention the pervasive negative consequences perceptible across the social spectrum in terms of relations and power. Equally obvious to the public is which government has fully played the ethnic card giving over-representation and undeserving promotion to some people in Parliament.

When will the dirty ethnic game stop and meritocracy prevail? As regards gender, the same meritocracy rule should apply instead of cosmetic solutions to please women or embark the public on another erroneous ideological romanticism. Women as well as men should be deserving, committed and efficient to claim political representation.

In France, former president Sarkozy opened the way to what is called ‘diversity’ in political representation. First lauded by the media and the public because of the novelty, it became quite clear in the course of his term of office that the ministers of migrant stock were below the standard of the prestigious ENA special school. This is where the French political class generally draws from in terms of general knowledge, personality, efficiency and charisma, however much the leftist media try to enhance their image.

The current Macron government had to get rid of some ‘minority’ nominees in important commissions under the pressure of intellectual figures and writers. Macron draws harsh criticisms for his questionable choice of advisors and appointees of North African and African descent not because of their origin but simply because they are not fit for the jobs. Far-leftist party Unsubmissive France, France Insoumise, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon has taken the ‘diversity’ bid to higher grounds by gathering a random motley crowd of minority candidates under its wings.

Much below the standard of the traditional French politicians, the newcomers take advantage of their presence in the Assembly and media coverage to settle scores with colonial history, spit venom in dealing with their own identity crisis and make a laughing stock of themselves and their parties by making speeches full of false historical facts and misinterpretations.

The short-term benefit of ethnic-based appointees is the satisfaction of being represented that is felt by their group, which is only an emotional response cut off from reality.

The long-term damage befalls the general public. This includes the financial benefits and the trappings of power former political appointees will, undeservedly, fully enjoy for the rest of their life – a colonial legacy which should be reviewed.

It is high time to assess the irrational and counter-productive policy of ethnic politics and put an end to it.

*  *  *

National only television MBC has a funny habit of having the news presenter introduce a topic commented by another reporter and suddenly cut off the reporter’s sentence in the middle of nowhere. Who is the genius who presides over news bulletins and selects what the public should hear or not? Two days ago, a report on OCDE was abruptly cut off after the mention of the organization’s talks on ‘cybercrime’, as if the word itself was taboo or rather an evil that should not bring its perpetrators in broad daylight but protect them in the darkness from where they can go on with illegal activities away from the public gaze.

In March, while presenting a specific group as it often does, MBC-TV allowed one of the fellows who was staring angrily at the screen to address a warning against intellectuals who are ‘parasites’ according to him, and cut off soon. In the first place, MBC should have high standards and not let cultural associations of specific groups with poor intellectual level use the national public medium to make wild observations and utter threats. Who is that fellow to decide that intellectuals are parasites? What academic qualifications has he heaped up in the course of his life, what knowledge of history has he gathered to feel entitled to comment on other people’s writings and dismiss them as ‘parasites’ on television?

If MBC policy is to toe the line at the behest of political will to give ‘visibility’ to various groups for the sake of ‘pleasing’ some people, it will reap the same counter-productive results as those arbitrarily selected in state representation.

MBC-TV’s management had better conduct an inquiry into biased and unethical practices any of its producers may be involved in and spare the public the so-called press conferences held by a few cultural groups of low intellectual level.

*  *  *

Some time back, the lack of response to the government decision to extend the metro network across the country, announced by the PM himself, left one wondering whether the public shrugged off the grand statement as a far-off unrealistic plan or as a vote-winning pre-electoral gimmick. Notwithstanding the apparent indifference, it was a highly relevant issue which, if implemented in the future, may change the life of citizens for the better.

The time-consuming bus rides on largely poorly-maintained narrow roads thousands of passengers put up with on a daily basis, especially during peak hours cannot be ignored. Modern new buses introduced lately in the bus fleet are a positive sign of novelty despite the continuous drone that strains one’s ears all along the way, not to mention the dirt on the floor. According to a conductor, lack of proper maintenance and the poor standards of most roads are the main factor of gradual deterioration of new buses.

How much earlier a significant overhaul of public transport could have been initiated ten or fifteen years ago depended on financial means available and political will. Definitely, dilly-dallying on key issues cannot last forever. There is a time for well-planned action.

There has hardly been any debate on whether a light metro network is technically feasible overland or underground in a space-saving strategy. Lots of folks over here travel enough around to draw relevant comparisons with countries where a modern system has brought more efficiency and comfort. Frequent travels abroad should have been eye-openers for ministers and MPs to consider reforms back in their own country. Rather, a habit of sticking to the past and let the population slog back and forth to their workplaces and reach their homes at the end of the day drained out of their energy – especially during the hot summer season – has been the rule that hampers change.

Needless to repeat for the umpteenth time that authorities are cut off from ground reality of how outdated systems impact the lives of people on a daily basis for years, since they themselves are spared such woes thanks to the comfort guaranteed by public funds and which they take full advantage of for themselves and their relatives.

In the last budget presentation an incentive to encourage importation of cars, and automatically their purchase by consumers was mentioned. Car importation lobbies certainly have their way up to obtain a favourable hearing from policy makers. There was glaring omission of reference to high road taxes demanded from citizens for poor quality of roads which have undergone scarce improvement despite demographic overgrowth for the past 120 years, and the stress caused by reckless driving and irresponsible disrespect for traffic rules. Purchase of cars fill state coffers in forms of taxes except for beneficiaries of duty-free privileges, and drain huge sums of money out of the country. The ecological factor does not seem to be a priority, either.

Random overtaking right and left by motorcycle drivers and erratic speeding of cars with useless impolite horn-blaring attitude are nerve-racking, if anything. A high toll of road accidents taking lives of mostly young people in an ageing population should be a subject of deep concern.

Loss of employment in bus companies in case of an extensive metro system being established cannot be an obstacle to the necessity for change in the long run. The country is still lagging behind in the domain of modern infrastructure. A more comfortable practical space-saving light metro system is a key element in modernizing public transport for the general interest of the population.

* Published in print edition on 7 September 2018

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