I am not smart. No really, I am probably the unsmartest person you are likely to meet on this Paradise Island.
Whilst everyone around me is using the latest Smartphone for all manner of things and watching satellite programmes on their Smart-TV, I rigidly stick to my familiar, easy-to-use Nokia 110 and the 30 inch JVC. I reason that all I need a cellular phone for is… to make a phone call, and a TV set to watch TV programmes; and not to help me land on Halley’s Comet!
Thus when people start talking about Smart-cities where future, Smart-people will live, work and play with their Smart-wives and Smart-kids, I lose all interest. I reason that, not being very smart, I will be de facto excluded from going beyond the perimeter of these places. But then again, I reason also that surely someone does not need to be exactly that smart to empty the dustbins of the Smart-people, tend their hedges, or sweep their roads. Perhaps there is a need for unsmart people like me in the Smart-cities after all! But where will we find enough Smart-people to fill up those Smart-places, I am left to wonder!
Not being smart also means that I have not really understood all the kafuffle about Dawood Rawat’s BAI. The authorities closed the Company’s operation because it was deemed to have turned toxic, meaning it would not be able to honour all its liabilities. Yet under the deft hand of the authorities, this is exactly what is happening; people who have subscribed to insurance policies with BAI are getting/will get their money in full at maturity—without the bailout of the taxpayer!
Likewise, at the outset of the BAI debacle, we were told that SCBG was a Ponzi. But hardly a week later, the authorities decided to compensate “investors” in full. So not being so smart after all, I shudder to think that investors in Lotus, White Dot, Sunkai and other like “Schemes” (not to say Scams) may soon be clamouring to get their money back. But who will bell the cat in their case? And more precisely who will foot the bill?
As for BAI, it is gratifying to note that GM has not needed to ask the taxpayer to contribute any moneys (not so far anyway), which leads my unsmart mind to think that maybe there was enough funds to meet BAI’s liabilities after all. So why the hurried manner of its closure which may result in adding to an already rigid employment situation which refuses to budge. Furthermore, it could not have done the reputation of our Financial Centre much good. And one does not need to be very smart to realize that no amount of platitudinous pronouncements from Port Louis is going to change the negative perceptions an iota!
There is also talk of something called “Parrainage” that my unsmart mind is unable to grasp. Under this scheme, benevolent Corporates are supposed to become godparents to people living in “pockets” of utter poverty and destitution. But not being that smart, I do not understand why any Corporate would want to spend its shareholders’ good money to help poor people get out of their plight, by providing for all their needs — housing, education, jobs, etc — and all this for life!
On the other hand, what are the emancipated poor supposed to do in return, touch their forelocks as the CEO of their Godfather Corporate deign to pass by their humble habitats? If you ask me, all this smacks of an arrangement that is not unlike the Feudalism of yore.
I am sorry to go on, but there is something else that niggles my unsmart mind; and that is the necessity for a brand new SME Bank. We already have at our disposal 20+ commercial banks, the MPCB (which the banner at HO proclaims to be the most promising Bank of 2014!), the NCB and more particularly the DBM. Now as I understand it, the DBM was set up to help SMEs with finance. So what is it that the new SME Bank will achieve that the DBM has not been able to do in all the years of its existence?
Anyway, I happen to believe Mauritius is already saturated with SMEs, starting with hawkers of which we have a surfeit of. It is about time the authorities started creating jobs instead of passing the buck on to the citizen and urging him to go make pickles, sell doll-puris and clutter the pavements with cheap rubbish from far-eastern countries! For a start, we could start recruiting to fill up public sector vacancies legated by the previous regime’s policy of near-zero recruitment.
In voting for the present government last December, the people had great hopes that things would change for the better for them, and for their children. Instead of fulfilling their aspirations, we have squandered almost a whole year in “nettoyage,” and “inherited” several businesses in the process.
We are thankfully far from a Communist country where government actually owns and runs all major businesses. In democratic societies like ours, the people vote for their Governments to govern; and not to run businesses. Sure government may provide fiscal incentives to attract new business set up, or help rescue established business in crisis, but it should avoid getting bogged down with its day-to-day operational minutiae. That may detract disproportionately from its true vocation of macro-managing the economy.
Of course, I will concede that all of these may have been designed to lead us onto the path of the 2nd Coming. However I am afraid my unsmart mind — stretch it as I might — is quite incapable of grasping the finer points that determine such matters. My friend Keshraj reckons that the Smart-city is just another name for the IRS, the SME a new DBM, and parrainage just another form of CSR. I hope he is wrong because, as much as I respect him, that would be like reinventing the wheel, wouldn’t it?
- Published in print edition on 14 August 2015