CCTV, Loto and The Great Con
— TD Fuego
I read with a lot of satisfaction (l’express, 09-Aug-10) that the authorities are in the process of installing CCTV surveillance systems in the Port Louis and Grand Bay areas. In all, there will be 271 cameras in Port Louis and 69 in the North. There are also plans afoot to equip Curepipe and Rose-Hill with this technology at a later date. According to a police spokesman, the authorities are pretty sure that, once in operation, these measures will reduce the crime rate by as much as 75 percent in those areas. Their assumption is based on the experience gained in Flic-en-Flac. It would appear that, since CCTV cameras were installed in that seaside resort, there has been a dramatic decline in criminality.To the law-abiding citizen of the land, this is indeed wonderful news. We know that the mere sight of a uniformed policeman is enough to deter miscreants from their antisocial behaviour. This is also true of CCTV cameras. But, in order to be really effective, these need to be maintained and kept in good working order. We can only hope we will never again witness the recent example of GRNW prison break, where the escape of some three dozen detainees could not be captured on film due to the non-operational CCTV.But for now, we can only salute the initiative of the authorities. We know that the prime motivation for this action has been the safeguard and protection of the tourism industry because the number of attacks on tourists, though not alarming, has been increasing gradually over time. Fortunately for the rest of us, CCTV does not discriminate between foreigners and locals. Mauritians will also feel safer due to their presence. This is, in the word of the wise and grey old men, a genuine win-win situation.
We have recently heard a lot of talk about transparency, particularly as regards the APRM which, according to the authorities, gives a glowing report on the state of affairs in Mauritius. But, transparency is not a theoretical construct for academic discussion only in national and international forums. It affects every one of us, in everything we do and, indeed, in everything we come across in our daily lives.
For instance, these days, the population is spending a lot of cash doing the government’s weekly Loto, which cost Rs 20 a line. Everybody hopes that they will hit the minimum jackpot of Rs 5m. In addition, Lototech seems to launch a new scratch card almost on a monthly basis. Everything is done to make more and more money for Loto, whilst encouraging people to gamble away their hard earned money. Even youngsters are seen buying scratch cards, which cost Rs 50 a go.
But, whatever the rights and wrongs of government-sponsored (national) gambling, the authorities get the lion’s share of the takings, which run into millions which it can use for the benefit of us all. But, what bothers some people is the opacity that surrounds the whole affair.
1. Before the launch of Loto, the advertisement informed us that 58 percent of Gross Income will be paid into a Special Fund and will be invested in national projects in the field of Culture, Education, Health and Sports.
Most people felt this was a good way of raising extra funds to promote good health, encourage cultural activity, enhance educational programmes and promote sports in the country. Old men and women who had never gambled in their lives started doing the Loto, in the belief that a whole Rs 11.60 of every Rs 20 gambled would be ploughed into these highly commendable projects.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to La Faya, Loto’s first scratch card, the 58 percent of Goss Income had mysteriously metamorphosed into 58 percent of Net Income. So far, no one has thought that the public is owed an explanation.
2. We are now informed that the 58 percent (of whichever income it happens to be) gets paid into the Consolidated fund; there is no mention of the much-vaunted Special fund. Once again, no one deems it necessary to explain to the paying public.
If, as proposed, the money was held in a Special fund, the public could find out on which of the (proposed) projects the money was being spent. But, as long as it is paid into the Consolidated fund, there is no such transparency – for once there, only Parliament can dispose of it in any way it pleases.
The question is how long the authorities will continue to make an ass of the entire population in this blatant manner. If changes are deemed necessary to any proposal, then it has to be better than the original idea; and the least that the public should be able to expect is a plausible explanation from those in charge.
Instead, we have been treated with a sort of disdainful silence by the previous Ministry of Finance, which kept us all ignorant of facts that affected our lives; the new Ministry is yet to take some action to rectify the harm done. This sort of behaviour does not only apply to Loto. If that continues for much longer, we can forget all talk of transparent, democratic government and go for banana peel Republicanism instead!