Rewinding History

Readers’ Response/Opinion

Or delaying tactics in lieu of implementation strategy

In a normal and healthy situation, language planning starts with research and education which involve inter alia seminars, forums, debates, etc. This is followed by decision making. The next step is practical and technical work by experts and appropriate professionals who look into the nitty-gritty and this should prepare, monitor and accompany implementation.

But what do we do in the Great Republic of Mauritius? The body politic has decided that Mauritian Creole (MC) will be introduced as an ancestral/optional language in primary classes and instead of appointing a high-powered committee to look into the nitty-gritty and plan implementation, the ministry in charge decides to organise a forum.

Is there a hidden agenda to sidetrack interest from relevant issues and send people on a wild goose chase?

About 45 years ago rigorous scientific work on MC started. Since August 1967 to date there have been regular forums, conferences, workshops, etc., on MC and language planning. MC has become the dominant language medium on stage; the literary corpus in MC is quite impressive; MC is used as medium in PREVOKBEK classes. MC is now the first language of 80% of the population and is the second language of the remaining 20%. There are several descriptions of the phonology and syntax (grammar) of MC; pedagogical material for teacher training and learner literacy have already been produced; readers for lower and upper primary are all but ready, etc., etc.

Why does the minister want to put the clock back, to rewind history? Is it to allow the ultra-conservatives to stop the march of history, pour confusion in the minds of people and generate chaos to delay implementation?

The Way Forward

What we need is a clear implementation programme for MC. Let me repeat what I said before: the resource persons for this task are not found in the civil service or in parastatal organisations. They are found elsewhere and the minister, instead of making a fool of himself by trying to reinvent the wheel, would be well-advised to seek the assistance and know-how of these Mauritians who have during several decades produced material which today are invaluable to start the ball rolling.

  1. Special teacher training programmes are needed to prepare teachers for the task of teaching kids to read and write their mother tongue MC.
  1. Readers must be printed to promote mother tongue reading and writing. Several texts are ready.
  1. Literacy in MC should be taught in such a way that a bridge is built to lead to a genuine bilingualism involving MC and English, another Creole language. A list of about 3,000 words has already been identified to support grammar-translation pedagogy.
  1. A bilingual dictionary (MC/English; English/MC) for primary school children must be prepared and printed. That can be quickly done as there are people like Vinesh Hookoomsing and Arnaud Carpooran with the necessary expertise.
  1. Grafi Armoni provides the fundamental orthographic base. Some minor amendments could be considered. Moreover a team of lexicographers could be made responsible for the ongoing work on word boundaries.
  1. Most of the works mentioned above need not precede the introduction of MC in primary schools but could be seen as ongoing contributions to the learning process.

Case by Case

As the case of MC is different from that of Bhojpuri, it would be wrong to delay its introduction because Bhojpuri is not ready. Let us treat them on a case by case basis. MC is ready. Let it enter the classroom in January 2011.

Dev Virahsawmy

* * *

Productivity and Inflation  

The press has recently published interesting articles and interviews on the economy with emphasis on the value of the rupee in particular. Most articles have discussed the Euro crisis and its effect on Mauritius. 

Some have outlined the underlying problems. In his views on the Mauritian economy over the past years, Pierre Dinan (l’express, April 1, 2010) has, among others, identified low productivity of factors of production, notably capital, labour, management and utilization of technologies (i.e. total factor productivity). The very technical paper “Competitiveness not an option anymore” (Mauritius Times, M. Kanhaya, May 28, 2010) has determined that high inflationary rate and low relative productivity at international level as the principal problems affecting the Mauritian economy. 

Others have suggested solutions. For instance, they have spoken of the need to depreciate the rupee and others, of the reduction of the Repo rate (l’express, interview Eric Ng Ping Cheun, May 26, 2010). Some have even suggested leaving the weak performing production units to their fate. 

The recent position of the Bank of Mauritius, to neither reduce the cost of money nor depreciate the rupee, must be given an interpretation. 

Reducing the cost of money yields an increase in the demand for money. But, in the absence of incremental economic activity and at constant level of gross domestic output and income, an increase in the supply of money causes price to rise and generate inflation. In turn, depreciating the rupee means higher cost for the same input at a constant level of output. The resulting reduced productivity activates inflationary effect. 

Maintaining the cost of money and value of the rupee at their current level ensures a constant supply of money. Total factor productivity and price would remain constant. Inflation would be avoided. Acting within the monetary economy, the BOM is actually forcing solutions on the real economy expecting it to deal with inflation through improved productivity. On this course, producers in Mauritius are expected to achieve better performance in the future and reduce the risk of closures. 

Productivity and Inflation

The underpinnings of productivity are well documented and the measures are regularly published by the Central Statistical Office (CSO), Mauritius. Inflation measure, through CPI, is also well established. Less talked about is the impact of poor productivity on inflation although it is the source of economic ills. One explanation is that productivity is regarded solely as the affair of an enterprise in its standalone capacity. This is an approach that must change at least because higher productivity at a national level is a way to raise national income and improve the standard of living. 

In the real economy, at a constant level of aggregate demand and receding productivity, a larger quantity of money is required to produce a constant level of aggregate supply. It involves higher costs and causes rising price, and inflation. The association of low productivity and inflation has innumerable consequences on the competitiveness of a country to trade at the global level. Obviously, with expanding demand at a constant scale, an enterprise operates at an optimal capacity level, improves its returns to scale and brings per unit cost, and therefore price, down. Many enterprises in Mauritius are however constrained by their inability to find domestic and foreign markets to expand the demand for their goods and services. It seems that the specialized government institutions concerned with industrial products and services need to improve their own productivity in that domain through higher effectiveness. 

Countries open to the global economy have to factor in relative productivity with respect to their trading partners and rivals. Higher relative productivity attributes stronger comparative advantage to a nation. Productivity is thus a key government policy target and cannot be left freewheeling. The Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) in Singapore (Govmonitor, February 2, 2010) has recommended that Singapore should target higher productivity growth of 2% to 3% each year through increased manpower capabilities and economic restructuring. If this is achieved, Gross Domestic Income (GDI) would grow by 3% to 5% per year over the next decade. 

Clearly, productivity originates from the real economy and calls for policy direction from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to steer the country, through technical institutions, to its national economic objectives. 

Competent Institution 

Productivity improvement drive is conducted by institutions that deal with industrial processes, including physical and human capital following the endogenous growth model, as instruments for economic progress. 

I note that the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) of Ireland and the National Productivity Council (NPC) of India follow a similar structure. The members of NCC of Ireland are appointed by the Ministry of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Besides, the Ireland’s agency for policy advice, in the areas of enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation, provides the research and secretariat function. The NPC in India is under the chairmanship of the Union Minister for Commerce and Industry. 

Comparatively in Mauritius, the National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (NPCC), set up in 1999 within the Ministry of Education, is the competent institution for policing productivity. Possibly, this follows the guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on National Productivity Organizations within their productivity and management development programme (Joseph Propopenko; Productivity promotions organizations: evolution and experience; 1999). 

The time is ripe for changes.  

Sheriff Adam  

* * *

Chronique de Jean-Baptiste Placca

 L’Afrique qui compte… 

Les « mundialistes » débarquent en Afrique du Sud par dizaines de milliers, à la cadence du compte à rebours. La ferveur populaire gagne jusque dans les plus petits hameaux de la nation arc-en-ciel. Jusqu’au 11 juillet, l’Afrique du Sud sera le centre du monde. Car, que l’on aime ou pas le football, cet événement reste un des plus médiatisés de la planète.

Du point de vue de l’organisation, rien à redire, sinon un immense respect à Danny Jordan, le chef d’orchestre, pour l’efficacité de son leadership. Les stades furent fins prêts, les structures hôtelières aussi, dont le niveau est largement au-dessus de la moyenne, ce pays comptant parmi les plus belles destinations touristiques au monde. On en oublierait presque les commentaires insidieux qui ont régulièrement mis en doute la capacité de ce pays, et plus généralement de l’Afrique à accueillir une telle manifestation.

Une subtile cruauté…

Nous voici donc aux portes des stades ! Toutes les conditions sont réunies pour que la fête soit belle. Mieux, les équipes présentes dans cette phase finale sont d’une qualité qui augure, pour cette première en Afrique, d’un excellent cru.

Voilà donc l’Afrique du Sud qui sauve, une fois encore, l’honneur du continent et rehausse son image. L’on a envie de dire merci au peuple sud-africain. A tout le peuple sud-africain.

Peut-être certains y verront-ils un sacrilège ? Mais à un moment comme celui-ci, l’on se doit aussi d’admettre que si, vingt ans à peine après la fin de l’apartheid, l’Afrique du Sud est en mesure de relever un défi aussi gigantesque, c’est parce que ce pays a été bâti avec intelligence, comme une nation moderne. Et cela, on le doit aux Blancs, y compris aux racistes, qui ne pensaient, certes, pas devoir un jour céder le pouvoir à la majorité noire. Mais ils auraient pu, comme d’autres, ailleurs, se contenter d’exploiter les richesses du pays et rapatrier en Europe leurs profits.

C’est à l’occasion d’événements comme celui-ci que l’on réalise la différence entre l’Afrique que l’on respecte et prend en compte, et celle pour laquelle on n’a que peu de considérations. A cet égard, le traitement réservé par Nicolas Sarkozy à ses hôtes, notamment Goodluck Jonathan du Nigeria et Jacob Zuma d’Afrique du Sud, lors du sommet Afrique-France, la semaine d’avant à Nice, était d’une subtile cruauté. En Afrique, il y a vraiment ceux qui comptent, et puis les autres… 


Jean-Baptiste Placca

* * * 

Crime and socio-economic inequality in Mauritius

The Editorial of Friday June 11 on the relation between crime rise and socio-economic inequality in present-day Mauritius was right on. I would have put it more bluntly, but it is most relevant to point out, as the Editorial does more subtly, that, when all is said and done, sheer repression in the name of law and order is totally insufficient in bringing security and stability to the nation. It is a policy directed at the symptoms of deep social ills and not at their root causes. It is in fact a recipe for disaster because it is sure to backfire, just as the so-called “War on Terror” is creating more “terrorists” because it attacks the outer symptoms and keeps ignoring the underlying causes that are injustice, occupation, war crimes and State terror.

And a special Thank You to Vina Balgobin for her clear, well-documented and forceful examination of the finances of the sugar industry. The contrast she presents between the profits raked in by the bosses and the pittance distributed to the workers, between the dividends paid out to shareholders and their dismissive response (Pena kas) to workers’ pay hike demands (if only to offset the 60.9% inflation recorded between 2000 and 2009) is most telling. Her piece is one of the best socio-political analyses of the economics of the sugar industry I have ever read in the Mauritian media.

I hope she continues to enlighten us by exploring the subject further, and enlarging the scope of her analyses to include other sectors of the national economy. I also hope that her writings will be an inspiration to others in the media to look into the nitty-gritty of the living conditions of workers — instead of diverting attention from these life and death issues by dishing out to the readers just hollow speculation on politics, consumerist and escapist pablum, alienationist propaganda, and cheap sensationalism.

Jooneed Khan

* * *

Lettre ouverte à Jacques D’Unienville 

 Juste dénouement des négociations salariales 

 Cher Jacques

Tu es le digne porteur du flambeau de l’idéologie de papa et de mon parrain.

Tu as le même bon regard franc et sincère de ton papa, de mon papa et de mon parrain.

Avant que mon frère Fernand ne me le fasse ressortir hier soir peu avant les nouvelles de 9:00PM, je ne m’étais pas rendu compte que tu es le fils de Bouboule !!!

Tu es avant tout le très digne fils de ton père qui avait, dès son plus jeune âge, le respect de tous à l’école.

Avec toi à la barre, le dénouement de l’impasse concernant les négociations salariales n’est pas surprenant.

Le sang du Baron D’Unienville et ton sens de la justice t’ont donné la sagesse et le courage nécessaires pour prévaloir auprès des barons sucriers pour le meilleur avenir de tous et ‘nou tou pa pou tombe lor la paye’. 

Avec l’aide de notre gouvernement et surtout de notre Premier ministre visionnaire, avec l’aide des syndicats, avec la bonne volonté admirable des artisans et laboureurs et avec ta propre vision, pour le bien-être de tous, tu iras et tu conduiras l’industrie cannière toujours plus loin.


Bien sincèrement,
Louis Leclezio

* * *  

Sexual education in schools  

Some associations have asked the Minister of Education to introduce sexual education in schools. They are of opinion that by introducing sexual education in schools this could be a solution to combat social evils in our society.

This is far from the truth because sexual education is a subject which is too hot to handle. Therefore leave off thinking of it for the moment. If will do more harm than good. Never start something you cannot stop.

What the child ought to know is this: He is a human being and as such he has to know the ABC of human values. Human values will be his guidelines throughout his life be it at home, at school or in society.

Everybody is in the know what happened to a 12-year-old school girl residing at Camp Marcelin, Flacq. She was raped and assaulted by four young men near a river side. They pounced upon her like a tiger would pounce upon a deer. Their eyes were red with passion and consequently they raped that innocent girl one by one.

Had the boys had a dose of human values, they would have looked upon her like their sister, to protect her and to bring her back home.

The poor girl had paid the bitter price of playing truant – a stigma she will never forget.

Hurry Dev

 * * *  

The Supreme Elections

Let me start by congratulating you for running The Tree of Knowledge weekly column in the Mauritius Times. True knowledge alone can arouse the divine in Man and make his life successful. Keep up the good work.

The Mauritian atmosphere is still impregnated both with election mode and election mood. Now that the formidable emotional upheaval caused by the electoral bout earlier this month is subsiding, I think this is the appropriate moment to draw the attention of people towards the spiritual aspect of this subject which usually escapes the understanding of the majority. This is unfortunate, for politics and spirituality are actually indissociable.

When we understand that Governance is Service and politicians have to be men and women imbued with divine virtues, we inevitably come to the conclusion that politics are but the observance of God’s Commandments. Spiritual grooming also makes the elector more conscious of his crucial role in selecting the best elements to govern the country.

Most religions and schools of thought speak of the conclusion of the System of Things with the promise of a better world or paradise rewarding those souls who forsake evil and tread the path indicated by God. The majority upholding this concept are convinced that the end is nigh. That is immaterial. When we realize that life is uncertain and we may have to leave the world any moment, we do understand that we should be ever ready to face God and answer for our actions. So, we don’t have to be threatened by some impending Doomsday to change.

Vishwamitra Aashutosh Ganga

* * * 

Courses Malbars et le rôle du Gouverneur Gordon

Je me réfère au texte de votre correspondant KRJ YASH, sous la rubrique ‘Ce qui compte vraiment…’ par rapport aux « Courses Malbars ». Je souhaiterais vous signaler, à ce propos, les commentaires du Professeur Bissoondoyal, dans son livre ‘Les Hindous et leurs Ecritures Sacrées’, à la page 93 : 

« Ce gouverneur — Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon — fit montre de bonté et de justice quand il était à Maurice. Il ne dédaignait pas les immigrants indiens qui par leur sueur firent fructifier le sol mauricien. Il n’est pas sans intérêt de noter que Sir Arthur, qui avait vu qu’à l’occasion de la dernière journée de courses on maltraitait les Indiens, prit la décision de s’absenter de la colonie pendant cette journée pour ne pas encourager les ennemis indiens à humilier leurs compatriotes. Un historien écrivit : ‘L’annonce du départ de son Excellence causa un grand désappointement à la communauté. Jusqu’à ce moment aucun de ses prédécesseurs n’avait cherché à esquiver la fête qui était considérée, et qui l’est jusqu’à nos jours (en 1871) comme la plus populaire. »


N.J. Vikram

* Published in print edition on 17 June 2010

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