By L.E. Pep
At the cost of millions to the taxpayer, Rs 5.4 million to be exact, municipal councillors, including mayors, carried out 56 foreign trips from November 2015 to May 2018. These foreign visits were mainly for attending conferences. All the mayors of our five towns have been travelling, ranging from 3 to 12 trips over the period, to Reunion, Madagascar, Botswana, Tunisia, Canada, Germany…
This seems to be one of the perks of the office for serving the citizens of the country, but many of the citizens are not too happy to see their money being wasted on foreign travel. They would like to be informed about the concrete benefits of such attendances at conferences. In what way will these visits help our councillors to plan ahead and find solutions to our problems? Are we getting value for money or are we merely financing the foreign holidays of our councillors? The citizens have a right to know. That’s the basics of good governance.
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The PM in search of his roots: a wise move
The visit of the Prime Minister and his wife to prayagraj (formerly Allahabad), in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, their participation in Prayagraj Ardh Kumbh Mela, his immersion in the sacred river, Ganges, along with other personalities, including Narendra Modi and his search for his roots in Uttar Pradesh have been organized grandiosely and purposely with, it would seem, other motives in mind. These together with being accompanied by an army of people from the socio-cultural organisations, with our friend Dayal in the lead, are indeed calculated moves that are expected to bear fruit at the right time.
With the political cauldron heating up as we approach the hustings, the images of the PM, sentimental and respectful of traditions will be packaged further into a personality cult by the subservient MBC and a meticulously designed media campaign to win over the “jati” electorate. One recalls how our former dear PM decreeing a public holiday on Mahashivaratri with such statement as… “When my people surmount such difficulties during Grand Bassin, I cannot remain insensitive.”
There will be some attempts to limit the damage of a backlash (as experienced in 1995) with the visit of the President of Mozambique and the celebration of the 184th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. But perhaps the MSM is more than willing to pay this political price for it may be willing to settle for a post-election coalition with itself in the lead as the main representative of the majority community. The other alternative is to campaign along the traditional lines and ending up being badly decimated and soundly defeated in the forthcoming elections.
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ICAC: Active now after “cachiette figir”
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) seems to have come out of its slumber. It has been brought back to life by the resurgence of some pent-up feelings that is now driving it to cross swords with the former Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance.
ICAC is of the view that some 30 suspicious recruitments were made at the beginning of the tenure of the Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance. It has already heard several witnesses whose names were on the list of applicants; it is being alleged that those who were recruited did not go through the established procedures. The former Good Governance minister however maintains there has not been any irregularity and that everything was done with the consent of the PMO.
There is something really weird happening in this matter. An investigation that is being carried out two years after the event reeks of persecution. If the recruitments of the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance are being pinned down for being improper and being just “jobs for the boys,” what about the recruitments of advisers, press attachés and other cronies in different ministries and public enterprises? In what way were these any different?
According to press reports, we learn that at least as regards the recruitments at the Ministry of Financial services, there was a call for candidates to work in the newly created ministry and it was published in the newspapers. The press reports suggest that these were approved by the Prime Minister’s office at that time.
ICAC is already a disappointment for many of our citizens, and its latest sortie after its embarrassing “Cachiette Figir” incident in London, is another gaffe that could have been avoided if, for its own good, it had remained in hibernation.
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Deterioration of our health system continues
After a series of equipment breakdown, we now have the problem of non-availability of essential medicines in pharmacies as well as in hospitals. This has been going on for some months now; several medicines are out of stock on the local market. It’s been six months since the Ministry was alerted, and it would appear that the matter has not been attended to with due diligence.
What’s even more serious is that some of the essential medicines are unavailable in all the hospitals of the island. There is a lack of the most basic drugs and this affects more of those patients whose drugs have no substitutes. What will they take for their treatment?
The Ministry of Health has tried to clear itself of any allegations of mismanagement by referring to some administrative issues pertaining to a new set of rules on the renewal of patents. Many of those who had earlier raised the lid on the shortcomings of the ministry’s management of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and cautioned that the situation was becoming more alarming day by day are not convinced of these explanations.
If the Ministry, with the support of Ministry of Finance, had implemented the recommendations of the European commission report of 2015 — “Consultancy for the Evaluation of the Public Procurement and Distribution Management of Drugs and Medical Supplies: Developing a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework” –, we would not have been in such a fix today. Instead we would have strengthened our existing medicine and medical supplies systems, the structures for the warehouses and stockrooms for pharmaceuticals and improved the organisational management for the purchase and distribution of essential medicines and medical supplies in line with good practices worldwide.
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Lalit: We have a wheeler-dealer government
Lalit believes that the setting up of the Economic Development Board, announced so pompously in the budget, to carry out the planning, the thinking and the implementation of the long-term vision of the government was just a show. It was a ploy to hand over these important functions to the representatives of the private sector who are more likely to be implementing strategies and policies which would go to benefit their own conglomerates and groups rather than the national interest. For example, in whose interest is government subsidising a dying sugar sector? Shouldn’t it have used these scarce resources a long time back to diversify into a solid agro-industrial base and a thriving fishing industry?
Lalit was among the first political parties to oppose the policies of the conversion of our agricultural and sugarcane lands into luxury villas for foreigners. “It is a government working in the interests of the private sector”, it argues. Besides, the airport road project on Omnicane lands financed totally from public funds, there is the construction by government of the Pettite-Riviere Noire road at the cost of Rs 700 million for a private sector project at Les Salines. For Lalit, the MedPoint affair is a petty offense as compared to the deals concocted between the private sector and this “wheeler-dealer” government which considers state property as the party’s.
The private sector is least bothered about production and development, it is having it too good and in most of the recent opinion polls the PM comes out as a favourite of the private sector and of Business Mauritius. (You do recall Business Mauritius’s lofty statements of “a visionary, path breaking budget” after every budget speech of the PM).
A reflection of the “affairisme” of this government, says Lalit, is the recent revelations of the commission of inquiry on the Gurib Fakim-Sorbrinho affair which is an eye-opener of the nepotism and corruption that have been undermining our institutions, to the extent of not even sparing one of our prime institutions, the Presidency.
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REA denounces another project at Les Salines
Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) continues its drive to save wetlands in Mauritius. ReA has submitted a letter and a report undertaken by a South African expert, to the Ministry of the Environment contesting the hotel project at Les Salines in Riviere-Noire by Stella Di Mare Mauritius Ltd. The project on the Les Salines site, which consists of the construction of a 5-star hotel with 233 rooms is “yet another ecocide,” according to ReA, which argues that “if the state continuously fails to protect these highly sensitive areas, what will happen to 200 other wetlands around the country? If the authorities do not take timely actions, there may be some serious consequences.” Kugan Parapen warns us, without mincing his words, that we are putting at risk the country’s natural treasures, especially the wetlands, in our zeal to realise still higher growth and more development at any cost.
On the occasion of the World Wetlands Day, the eco-socialist party is inviting the public for a meeting at Les Salines, Riviere-Noire. It will be an opportunity for the population to discover this part of the island and also learn more about the importance of wetlands, essential for the capture of rainwater, among others. Kugan Parapen is convinced that the floods that the country has recently experienced, especially at Cottage and Tamarin, are not fortuitous. He adds: “Moreover, it has only been about ten years since we are having such catastrophes, all this is due to human action and bad planning. There is the problem with the country’s urbanization policy.”
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Chemotherapy at Candos: The caring helps to face the ordeal
Patients doing chemotherapy are facing an ordeal at Candos hospital. They have been provided with a makeshift room, previously the nurses’ quarters, which they are having to share with patients of the ENT hospital who has been transferred to this ward while awaiting the renovation of the Vacoas Health Centre. “A patient, her hand under a drip, a scarf on the head and her eyes fixed on the bottle that contains a precious liquid to help to treat her cancer, is halfway through her treatment. On a chair for four hours now, she has no choice but to be patient.” Moreover, there is the nausea they have to endure because of the unpleasant odour as in the very crammed ward adult diapers are being changed.
The personnel have to make do with what they have and they are doing a wonderful job in such conditions. Their care and human touch matters and it does make a difference to the treatment as it helps the patients to bear the burden of their hardship. The disconnect between the lived experiences of our senior citizens and the listless government is worrying. The population are paying a huge bill for this. Instead of the populist policies that end up in wasteful expenditures, they should have been devoting more resources and playing a leading role in implementing integrated services for the care, support and protection of the elderly.
* Published in print edition on 1 February 2019