The Year That Was
There is growing clamour for a new ethos and a new class of talented politicians who unwaveringly put the continued well-being of people at the centre of government actions. The people are rearing to make this happen
By Mrinal Roy
As we survey the past twelve months ahead of the festive period, it is patently evident that the past year has been messy on many counts, despite the hype on the array of achievements catalogued by government in the latest edition of GNews. The trademark of the current government is to almost daily tom-tom its actions on State financed national TV. Excessive propaganda is basically a lame gambit to mask the appalling reality of poor governance, scandals, various wrongdoings by government Ministers and botched decisions.
No propaganda is needed when government actions epitomize good governance, managerial efficiency and rigour driven by a competent government Establishment, equity, innovativeness and focus on continuously improving the well-being of people. Such actions automatically rally the multitude.
However, it is more and more evident that years of poor governance, political interference and lack of rigour in upholding basic ethics and standards of propriety have watered down standards of probity and bred licence.
A messy picture
Not surprisingly, this deplorable situation has spawned a series of messy developments in the past year. This includes the decried decisions by the regulatory authorities to grant operating permits to controversial investors such as Alvaro Sobrinho, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais accused of misuse of Angola’s sovereign-wealth fund and others flagged in the Panama and Paradise Papers. Such wanton and irresponsible decisions taint the repute of the financial services sector and put at risk an important pillar of the national economy and a major source of employment for the qualified young.
To crown it all, the Council of Ministers of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) has maintained the adverse rating of Mauritius on measures in place to protect the country against money laundering. An evaluation of the required corrective actions taken by Mauritius will be effected in April 2019 and the related recommendations will be tabled for consideration by the Council of Ministers in September 2019.
In March 2018, the President of the Republic resigned from office in the wake of press revelations that she had used a PEI Platinum credit card put at her disposal by Alvaro Sobrinho’s Planet Earth Institute (PEI) for personal spending. The hearings of the resulting Commission of Inquiry into the alleged violation of the Constitution and any other laws by the former President of the Republic are unfolding into a messy situation. It is obvious that such a public settling of scores is bound to take its toll on the image and standing of Mauritius.
In July 2018, a government minister and the deputy speaker of the National Assembly who were among those named and criticised for their alleged links with drug traffickers in the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking made public in July 2018 have had to step down. They are being investigated by the relevant authorities.
Despite claims to the contrary, government rhetoric is not matched by cogent actions. Five months after the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking was made public in July 2018, its core recommendations to eliminate this scourge from the country are yet to be translated into potent actions by government. Not surprisingly, the Rectors of prominent secondary schools have raised the alarm at the proliferation of harmful synthetic and other drugs in school precincts. In the meantime, the deadly business of drug trafficking continues undeterred, as evidenced by the regular interception and seizure of illicit drugs including hard drugs entering the country.
A new ethos
The fundamental failing of our democracy is the absence of lofty ideals and values, a high standard of ethics and a selfless sense of service to the people among the political class and the political parties. Politics can be a noble calling akin to the selfless and unstinted commitment of the generation of politicians who through their cogent actions and intellect unswervingly fought for the rights of the people and mobilized them to fight for freedom and independence from colonial rule and the oppression of the oligarchy as from 1937.
However, while that generation of politicians who were elected at the first general elections in the country in 1948 certainly represented some of the best intellects and stalwarts of the time, the present generation of politicians is not a representative sample of the wide diversity of intellect and talent present in the country.
The inability of government to identify, address and resolve core issues affecting the people is the root cause of the sense of alienation of the people towards the political class. Despite the billions of Rupees invested in drains and the management of flood water in the country, the recent floods caused by heavy rains yet again wreaked havoc to the properties of mainstream Mauritians in the village of Cottage. Is the government able to first get its priorities right instead of embarking on a wild goose chase of an elusive electoral reform without seeking and obtaining the approval of the people?
When looking at the enduring mess afflicting the sugar cane industry and sugar cane producers, one is tempted to ask whether the Minister of Agriculture or the MCIA have any inkling or control over the questionable goings-on blithely happening under their noses.
The economic fundamentals are deteriorating. The present political class is out of its depths as to how to grapple with the many daunting challenges facing the country and reverse the trend. The country has in priority to address fundamental problems afflicting the people and the economy. The list is long. Is it not also high time to look at such core issues as land reform to improve access to land in a context of continuously escalating land prices or at, for example, the management of pension funds including those of the private sector to ensure transparency, accountability and rigour, in a context of rising number of pensioners?
No to clans and dynasties
The enduring mess in local politics is untenable. Politics cannot be reduced to the parochial interests of clans, omnipotent political has-beens or dynastic politics. It cannot be about holding on to power at all costs. People are fed up with the crippling status quo in the political landscape. The signal from the people is loud and clear. They will have none of this. There is growing clamour for a new ethos and a new class of talented politicians whose collective intellect can chart an innovative pathway towards inclusive prosperity and who unwaveringly put the continued well-being of people at the centre of government actions. The people are rearing to make this happen.
* Published in print edition on 21 December 2018