Where do we go from here? Four leads to watch

Strengthening the new status Quo: The appointment of Pravind Jugnauth as Prime Minister under the circumstances that we know has been made into a politically contentious issue by the opposition. On the trail of events over several months leading up to the actual change in prime ministership, the Government has clearly lost the “propaganda war.” Even among those who are convinced that the succession is constitutionally and legally in order, a considerable number still entertain some doubts about the “legitimacy” of the move involving father and son.

To any independent observer this condition has somewhat marred the accession of Pravind Jugnauth to the post of Prime Minister. Now that the event has actually taken place there will probably be some relief for the supporters of the new “status quo” as public interest in the issue will tend to wane in spite of the best efforts of the Opposition to keep it alive. How the new government sets itself up to the tasks of conducting the affairs of the State in the next few weeks, say until the opening of the new session of Parliament at the end of March, will be determining for the future turn of events and the authority of the new Prime Minister.

The fledgling Opposition United Front

The new Leader of the Opposition is leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to unite the forces of the different opposition parties in Parliament for some form of co-ordination and action on specific issues. Thus the supporters of these parties have been called for a demonstration on this Friday against the accession of Pravind Jugnauth to the highest office in the land. A rather unnoticed aspect of these calls for the opposition parties to work together is the fact that the Leader of the Labour Party – Navin Ramgoolam – has been cautiously kept out of the loop. Such prudence may have been motivated by purely political considerations as the other leaders – Paul Berenger and Xavier Duval – may have considerable inhibitions about being too closely associated with him at this juncture.

More ominously for Navin Ramgoolam, it may be the uncertainties regarding the running legal tangles in which he is still involved which may have driven the decision of the PMSD and MMM leaders. The point is that the decision of the DPP in the matter coming up in court during the week will be a decisive factor in defining the future relations that the leaders of the PMSD and MMM will develop with Navin Ramgoolam as leader of the Labour Party in the coming days. A negative outcome will be considerably debilitating for the latter in as much as his capacity for influencing the future turn of events will be extremely limited.

Under such circumstances the resulting political landscape will probably favour a strengthening of the authority of the newly appointed Prime Minister. If, on the other hand, there is a positive outcome for Navin Ramgoolam, then clearly this will increase the traction that the latter will enjoy within the new opposition united front.

Roshi Bhadain or the elephant in the room

The available information seems to indicate that Roshi Bhadain felt snubbed during the last Cabinet reshuffle although the actual reasons for which he decided to resign from his Cabinet position are yet unclear. He now speaks of a “mafia” which has taken hold of the MSM party and its leader following the exit of SAJ as Prime Minister.

During his press conference Roshi Bhadain has come out with his decision to launch a new party within the coming weeks. There can be no doubt that this decision has been to a large measure dictated by the feeling that there is a palpable space for such a “third force.” Recent opinion polls indicate that there is deep frustration among the electorate about the performance of the erstwhile Alliance Lepep in government as well as with the traditional opposition parties following the 2014 general elections. Indeed if one cares to carefully study the results of those elections, it is striking that the participation rate had already given an inkling of things to come.

Roshi Bhadain will surely also be comforted in his decision by the rising tide of “anti-establishment” fervour in many countries which have been hitherto governed under social democratic and liberal democratic regimes. Interestingly, Roshi Bhadain has managed to forge an “anti-establishment” image even while he was one of the prominent and most activist members of the government. The challenge for him will be to sustain the level of enthusiasm and the favourable dynamics which his resignation has kick-started.

It’s the economy stupid!

The famous quip from President Clinton is now a standard part of economic and political analysis when it comes to forecasting the performance of a regime. How the new “status quo” will fare in the coming year and beyond will therefore be largely determined by the economic growth scenario.

In this column we have taken the view that there are objective conditions – growth in the Tourism and Construction industries, sugar production and sales for the 2016 crop, positive prospects for the Global/Financial sector in 2017 in spite of the “re-negotiation” of the DTAA with India. Under a “no change” scenario, such conditions should contribute to an incremental GDP growth nearer to 4% as compared to the 3.6% of 2016.

Such incremental growth, while welcome, would probably be insufficient to transform the political mood in the country significantly. The onus will therefore be on the government to design the appropriate economic policies based on deep structural reforms to achieve the kind of growth rate which can become a game changer.

Transforming the economic model to achieve the twin objectives of achieving a high-income economy and a fair distribution of income through inclusiveness and proper education and training is a hugely demanding task. The question is whether there will be the political will and vision that can drive such disruptive new strategic options.

Rajiv Servansingh

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