Of Artificial Intelligence & Mauritius Nationality

Government’s plan to attract high net worth individuals from abroad should first target qualified Mauritians whose skills and talents are recognized in foreign countries

Government’s plan to attract high net worth individuals from abroad should first target qualified Mauritians whose skills and talents are recognized in foreign countries and who have been given great opportunities to develop their potential, thus enriching the host countries.

A few examples that come to mind are the dynamic young man skilled in Aeronautics and Technology who was told by a former Prime Minister to faire ses preuves by devoting two years of his life to work without pay for the pretty name of Air Mauritius. The young man headed to Dubai where he quickly climbed up the professional ladder to reach top position at Dubai airport. A professional experience which he replicated in Australia. But he was not good enough for Mauritius. Ramesh Caussy, living in France, observed on a visit here some time back that ‘Maurice n’a pas compris l’importance de la révolution numérique’.

Another young man, a bright former RCPL pupil, highly qualified in Artificial Intelligence (AI) had to pack up and leave for better opportunities in the West to develop his talents because Mauritius has not yet realized the promising opportunities of AI which only a handful of countries are fast developing. Is the ruling class genuinely interested in promoting a class of local professionals in key sectors? Or are top authorities afflicted with the male ego competition syndrome which makes them afraid of being outsmarted by brighter compatriots? This is a most stupid mindset that hampers progress in Third World countries. Successful young local professionals serve as role models for others to look up to and emulate.


“Some areas in the country are rife with unsupervised youngsters developing anti-social behaviour, delinquency, burglary, petty thefts, unemployment and drug addiction. A supervision of regular schooling and a follow-up of drop-outs to ensure they are properly guided to acquire skills and learn various trades can be set up by educational authorities with the cooperation of parents. There is nothing patronizing in asking people to act responsibly. Let us not burden ourselves with the foolishness of political correctness which muzzles opinions and ideas in advanced countries for fear of having unflattering labels stuck on the forehead…”


Current laws pertaining to guarantee investors’ long-term interests are clear enough to attract foreign direct investment. What is then the relevance of distributing Mauritian nationality to $1million investors? This is a most bizarre idea which has suddenly dawned upon decision-makers, and that too for a sum which is peanuts to seasoned crooks of all hues from rogue countries eager to launder ill-gotten wealth by setting up business in different places. There is already a breed of local goondas who have had no qualms about accumulating wealth through illicit drug trade for decades and who strut around to make you believe they are hard-working, deserving regular guys. So as not appear as singing their own praises, the government adopts a communication strategy consisting in sending either a prominent PMO adviser or an expert on MBC-TV to win public approval on this particular sensitive issue of national identity. If serious business-minded investors find good reasons to invest over here and trust business laws, there is no reason to assume they will absolutely hanker after a Mauritian passport.

The country is not the private property of a few decision-makers who feel entitled to re-define national identity as they please. If anything, despite the arguments put forward by government’s envoys on television to make the public swallow the pill, we’d rather be wary about the specific interests of dubious lobbies scheming to give lands and passport to undesirable individuals and pocket hefty personal commissions in the process. Something fishy is going on, and this is no exaggeration knowing the breed of politicians and the motivation of those hovering around them for decades.

In the light of proxy wars in hot spots morphing into direct confrontation between age-old enemies, we should be all the more cautious in handling applications for big investments from the right country and the right people if ever major businesses need to relocate to safer places. Wrong choices may cause irreversible long-term social damage. However, it is unlikely that innovative sectors in high-tech will find the right skills and work culture over here to expand successfully. Or have we missed the point?

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The lower middle-class

Tax exemption for lower middle-class income bracket lengthily explained by a PMO adviser on television is a smart communication strategy and is a relief to those who earn Rs 23000 or so; it may look like a measure to avoid impoverishment. The key factors that fleece the middle income category are not being addressed: education and health. We mean expenses amounting to around Rs 4000 in private tuition per child on Science and Maths, and lesser for Business and Arts on the one hand, and sums drained in seeking health care in private medical establishments on the other hand.

What are the measures to foster demographic growth in average income earners? Maternity leave for women can be adjusted to suit the needs of young mothers, longer leave without pay, the possibility of resuming work translated into work laws which guarantee job security, the possibility of part-time work for young mothers. Affordable day-care centre costs are non-existent in some areas, and three half-days per week for a three-year old cost Rs 7000 a month on the coast in the North. The several factors which hamper demographic growth in the middle-class are not receiving proper attention: longer studies, employment, job security and so on. Can they afford an employee paid minimum wage of Rs 9000 to help with home and babies? Telework in some sectors is not so widespread. Well-off educated couples should also be encouraged to have more than two children to curb declining population growth. There should be a continuous pool of brains and educated class of people to uphold social stability and ensure valued cultural norms which have been the foundations of progress.

Social aid should be coupled with a sense of responsibility. The first Ministry of Social Integration set up by the former government took proper measures to alleviate poverty by providing decent housing units with playgrounds for children to the most needy. Social security aid has been given to help mothers on a monthly basis. The current government is carrying on with the job of supplying the most underprivileged with decent housing.

The beneficiaries of state-funded housing and monthly family allowances should also be sensitized on responsible parenting. It means there should be no abuse of public funds to start families as young as 17 years old and have four to six children who cannot be cared for properly. Monthly allowances do not cover all costs of raising children. Young mothers and sometimes, single mothers who strain the pension of their elderly parents are a common occurrence. Precarious jobs coupled with single-parent household are not conducive to proper upbringing of children.

Adults are free to have the number of children they wish as long as they have the means to care for them and not drop children at the door of other people’s homes, which various social aid handouts boil down to in the long run. So 17-year-old girls should better be guided to acquire job skills first than live off their parents’ income or expect state financial aid.

Some areas in the country are rife with unsupervised youngsters developing anti-social behaviour, delinquency, burglary, petty thefts, unemployment and drug addiction. A supervision of regular schooling and a follow-up of drop-outs to ensure they are properly guided to acquire skills and learn various trades can be set up by educational authorities with the cooperation of parents. There is nothing patronizing in asking people to act responsibly. Let us not burden ourselves with the foolishness of political correctness which muzzles opinions and ideas in advanced countries for fear of having unflattering labels stuck on the forehead.

The announcement of an oncoming locally built satellite to be launched from Japan is good news in itself. Better not encourage brain drain from the country by giving the right incentives to those who choose innovative and promising branches of knowledge.

 


* Published in print edition on 22 June 2018

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