By Satya Mewa
Whatever we do for the country should address the priority of our national priorities: that of reducing our ever-increasing external debt. There are only two ways to achieve this: (I) increase income, and (ii) decrease expenditure. It is very possible, and the State should set the example, as there are numerous opportunities to do so. First stop privatising revenue-generating institutions such as the telecoms, airport terminal, cargo handling, CNT, water sector, vehicle fitness centre, and what not.
Appoint qualified and experienced personnel, even if they are not of the same political hue. Give them ‘main libre’ though not ‘carte blanche’. Let them be accountable publicly for their achievements (or failures). No uneducated Chairmen please, but people of true patriotic values. Let these institutions generate profits for the State’s coffers, and not for foreign companies. We brag about having world-class universities dishing out professionals, and on the other side pretend not to be good enough to run our own institutions, needing strategic partners. We produce professionals who are over-qualified but unfit for the world of work; we shine by undertaking grossly insufficient research with the consequence that we do not reap the head advantage that innovation should have given to our productive sectors. How can we do so, when we are proud to plant commercial consumer centres in highly productive land, instead of production units? Are we happy to be a net food-importing country? If that is not the desired condition, we should have been doing something big to change the situation to our advantage.
The national MID consultations opened a new way of governing, more in line with democratic principles of government by the people and for the people. It was unfortunately limited to what could fit under the 5 Es. Even an important E such as Electoral reform was missed out, together with Culture (including national heritage, performing arts), Health, Sports. It is sad that this issue seems to have become the chasse gardée of the main political parties. Does ‘le peuple admirable’ not have the intelligence, opportunity and right to say anything?
Reform could include conditions like fixing prime ministership to a maximum of two terms, Members of Parliament to a maximum of three terms, no cross-overs, no alliances (let everybody who believes in himself or herself as a Leader lead their party in all the constituencies). No President with executive power unless a chance is given to all, and the people to choose him/her through a proper electoral process where executive powers are vested in the position. Similarly, any Member of Parliament should be somebody who goes on the coaltar hearing the heartthrob of ‘le peuple admirable or malheureux’ and qualify for standing as a candidate by means of an established selection process, and not from a family or ti copain party list. And let all this take place with some dignity please, as the world is watching.
Let us do away with the office of the Vice-President, reduce the number of ministries, public bodies and advisors, reduce the number and capacity of government vehicles to save on costly imported fuel, and replace by more economic hybrid or electric vehicles, make the latter mandatory for duty-free cars of public servants, stop renting private buildings but construct public buildings (whatever happened to the project of moving the ministries to Highlands?), regionalise government offices and ministries to reduce travelling time and saving travelling time for carrying out more productive work. We mean real decentralisation in e.g. Mapou, Rose Belle, Quartier Militaire and Rivière Noire in a space over 50 – 100 arpents with all the ministries represented, the health centres, police, CABs, passport and immigration offices, courts of law, etc., and car parks, taxi stands, bus (and train) stations. Speaking of trains why limit ourselves to a light rail? Passengers will travel mostly during peak hours. To increase the viability of the system it should be a heavier railway to cater for goods also during off-peak time, travelling all the way from Cap Malheureux to Mahebourg, passing through all the industrial zones with export and import activities and the harbour and airport.
And stop this fight about declaring community to stand as a candidate for election. It has been a valuable tool for providing equilibrium. But on the other hand even if “community” will not be mentioned, any party, even the fighters for the cause, would ensure that they are well represented by all the ethnic groups, sub-groups and other lobbies, open and secret societies. Would any party dare to miss one of these? To be fair, why not take different scenarios proposed by the expert groups, and go for a referendum for the people to choose from the different (numbered) alternatives? Add some other burning issues such as abortion and capital punishment. Why not include CPE as well, as an issue?
What about technocrat Ministers like in Singapore? Of course, it may be difficult to define criteria for selection, as the most efficient Minister for Agriculture has been (just do a survey to confirm what everybody says) a Lecturer in Electronics. What about “Ethics for Politicians”? And a school for them, as Baroness Usha Prashar had mentioned? It is increasingly being considered that over interference by politicians has been the cause of inefficiencies in the public, parastatal and State-owned companies, directly or indirectly by the political appointees at the head or entry level or through pure protectionism. There is a subtle difference between intervening to protect and help fairness, and interfering to control beyond rules of honesty. But before you say oof, the politicians will appoint their cronies as technocrat Ministers. Back to the drawing board. (We believe that most Ministers do deliver, it is the poor ones who are not eliminated for one reason or other, and it is they who ruin the image of any government, and discourage the professionals). We should also aim at a more democratic party system away from the ‘moi ki decider’ of the leaders. This latter attitude is dictatorship and not democratic. A move towards majority rule and basing decisions on genuine capabilities in taking decisions of the sort will go in the right direction.
The list is long, and we have no choice than to explore all the avenues. We should make 2012 a start on a powerful MID path for ourselves, but also set an example to the world.
We have read with pleasure the idea of an east – west road. We hope this will be designed along MID principles: plan for three lanes plus emergency plus cycle-MID lanes, with 10 additional metres width for trees. Plan future flyovers instead of round-abouts, and even clover-leaf ‘échangeurs’. Earmark it even if we cannot afford it in the start (allow for the lamps, drains, bridges to be extended). And automatic speed cameras which cannot be interfered with till the automatic issue of the fine for contraventions has been issued . Plus of course bus-stops, and provide sufficient lay-bys to stop for those picking up the phone while on the driving wheel (why not?).
Let us all put our hands, hearts and minds to MID. Let us question every action, every step to be along lines of sustainable lifestyles and MID. It is no longer a question of Maurice Ile Durable but concerning a greater dimension: we have only one planet, the earth, and we all owe it to her to protect her.
* Published in print edition on 24 Feburary 2012