By TD Fuego
The MT carried, in its edition of 11 Feb 11, an interview with Nita Deerpalsing on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of her party. Speaking on such an important milestone occasion, it was only right that she should talk with unbridled pride of the founding fathers and the odds against which they must have struggled to form their party. It was also proper that she should speak of the philosophy of the LP and its achievements of which, even its opponents agree, there are many.But, to get where it is today, the LP also has stood on “the shoulders of giants” of other formations. Among them, we can think of the inimitable Sookdeo Bisssoondoyal (IFB), the charismatic Gaetan Duval (PMSD) and the enigmatic Razack Mohamed (CAM). It is Ms D’s prerogative not to mention any of these but, thankfully, History has its own records to remind us that Mauritius Inc owes as much to these men as the LP.
But what I cannot gloss over so easily is her nasty qualification of the MMM-MSM alliance as a toxic combination. What I would have liked to know is what she thinks of the present LP-MSM alliance. Has the act of joining up with the LP cleansed the MSM contingent of its supposed toxicity?
Beginning with the mantra “in the name of our great leader” that de rigueur prefixes everything LP stalwarts have to say these days, Ms D turns to the economy and tries to make a case for the astounding success of recent LP administrations in reducing poverty using the narrowest, flimsiest of threads. The income of poor households, to be precise. Figures at hand from the CSO, she proceeds to demonstrate how the income of 10 percent of the poorest households increased in the period 1996-2001 (LP) and decreased in the period 2001-2006 (MMM-MSM). Wow!
What the dear lady omits to tell us is what was happening with the CPI, the measure of people’s purchasing during those same years. Even an “O-Level” economics student will tell us that changes in the level of income are meaningless unless we know what has been happening to prices of goods and services in the same period. If my pay has risen by Rs 100 and prices by Rs 150, then what have I gained?
Having given us these not-so ground-shaking figures, she then turns to her former colleague and Finance Minister (FM), Rama Sithanen. Given her past views on Mr Sithanen, I can well believe that she always thought that the former FM was a “total misfit” with the ideology of the LP. And, what is this famous ideology, pray? It is “human dignity and the well-being of the many, not the few.”
Well, we all know by now the terrible havoc our erstwhile FM wreaked on the disposable income and, consequently the purchasing power and living standards of the working/middle classes of this country. All this against an unprecedented enrichment of the richest elements through a myriad of IRS projects and tax cuts of the order of 50 percent. I need hardly mention the privatization of profits and the nationalization of losses inherent in his Stimulus Package.
Given this background, the question that still puzzles many of us lesser beings is why, then, did the LP not sack the man and replace him with someone more in tune with the ideology of LP. Instead, it allowed him a free hand (because li meme meyer?!) to do everything that is supposedly alien to LP philosophy and work for the well-being of the few, not the many. Five years of misery — and the ripples continue even today — for the poor and she tries to make us believe that her government is the indefatigable champion of the poor.
However, credit where it is due. When it comes to the Infinity saga, she leaves us in no doubt as to what she now thinks of the owner and ex-special adviser to the PM. However, in so doing, she scores a wonderful hat-trick! All her talk about the demise of the ECO is not going to hide the fact that it was an LP-led government, and not the MMM-MSM, that bypassed all the rules of the Stimulus Package in November 2010 and handed over a whopping Rs 90m of taxpayers money to Infinity — a firm that its own bankers found to be so toxic that they wasted no time recalling all their exposure to it. Funded by Stimulus Package, i.e. the taxpayer’s, money, of course.
But, the LP does not seem to believe in half measures. Oh, no! Barely 4 months after the gift of Rs 90m, it went along and bought Infinity House in 2010 (irony of ironies, on April Fools Day!) for the incredible sum of Rs 340m, which some experts value at Rs 320m only. In view of the excess of office space presently available at Ebène, this venture may yet turn to be a white elephant. Of course, it is possible that the government will find an eventual buyer at a good resale price or find profitable tenancy. But, perhaps someone should remind it that the good people voted for it to run the country; and that it is not the business of government to dabble in property speculation or act as landlord of office blocks.
We are not all fools
Towards the end of the interview, Ms D mentions that “we (the LP)*1 genuinely believed in the Jean Suzanne story.” That the LP should believe in any fantastic Alice in Wonderland story is the LP’s affair. It hardly gives it the right to be so generous with our hard-earned cash, and play the role of Sugar Daddy and Father Christmas rolled into one. We are a supposed to be a modern Republic, after all, not the crazy kingdom of the Queen of Hearts.
Limitation of space stops me from delving too deeply into the controversial Medpoint deal which, according Health Minister Hanoomanjee, was struck in all transparency and legality. In any case, much has already been said on the matter in the press and elsewhere. So, I will just content myself by noting that Ms D empathizes with the view “that not everything that is legal is necessarily moral.” Did I hear someone say, moralité pas rempli vente?!*2 And, oh la, she talks about toxic combinations.
Like you say, we are not all fools in the country, Ms D! So, please stop trying to treat us foolishly.
- My insert
- Morality does not fill the stomach
* Published in print edition on 25 February 2011