If anyone were to ask the man in the street whether there should be more/less MPs in Parliament, I think we all have a fair idea what the answer is likely to be
For last seven years at least, the country has been at a standstill. A large chunk of the previous Parliament was wasted on the doomed LP-MMM 40+40 = 80 win-win negotiations, with Parliament held in limbo for many months. Unfortunately even following the massive win by Lepep in the Dec-2014 general elections, we are still stuck in the doldrums and not making much headway. It’s the economy stupid!
Against this background of MPs’ low productivity — same pay, less tangible work — if anyone were to ask the man in the street whether there should be more/less MPs in Parliament, I think we all have a fair idea what the answer is likely to be. Most would probably say REDUCE because, with 1 MP representing a mere 18k population (POP) or as little as 5k households, we just have too many of them anyway.
Yet we have a plethora of recommendations on electoral reform: Sachs, Carcasonne, Collendavelloo, Berenger, Sithanen, etc (only missing is Uncle Tom Cobley!) seriously recommending the opposite. To a man, they all propose not the same numbers, not a decrease in numbers, but a 42.9% increase from 70 to 100 MPs, which will result in a representation ratio of 1/13k or 1/3.5k households. As far as I know none of them has suggested holding a Referendum to get the people’s endorsement. But maybe the politicians are afraid of the outcome?
Meanwhile in the world’s 5th largest economy, the exact opposite is happening. In 2011 David Cameron’s coalition government enacted The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act whose sole objective is to reduce the number of MPs from the present 650 to 600 — a decrease of 7.7% — by 2018. Surely there must be lessons for our “Reformers” here.
Now Pop MPs Representation MPs Salary PCI MPs Salary/PCI
UK 65m 650 1/100k $ 100k $ 44k 2.3 .
MRU 1.3m 70 1/18k $ 48k $ 11k 4.4 * .
After Proposed Reform
UK 65m 600 1/108k $ 100k $ 44k 2.3 .
MRU 1.3m 100 1/13k $ 48k $ 11k 4.4 .
* Note: UK representation ratio is 1/100k
MRU representation ratio is 5.5/100k
Presently the UK has a total POP of 65m represented at Westminster by 650 MPs which gives us a ratio of 1/100k. On the other hand Mauritius has a POP of 1.3m and the number of MPs in Parliament is 70 which means that we have a ludicrously low ratio of 1/18k. If we extrapolate these figures into any kind of common sense, then compared to the UK we are over-represented by a ratio of 4.5/100k.
For a 4xWeekly sitting of Parliament, a UK MP is paid USD 100k per annum (pa), which is the equivalent to 2.3 units of UK per capita income (PCI) of USD 44k. On the other hand for a 1xWeekly sitting only, a Mauritian MP earns USD 48k pa which is equivalent to 4.4 times the Mauritian PCI of USD 11k. All of it unilaterally voted for by the self-same MPs of course, whilst the rest of have to content ourselves with whatever crumbs the GM and their buddies at MEF decide to throw at us.
Unfortunately the disparity does not end with MPs at Parliament House. It flows all the way down the salary pyramid. Whilst a factory worker may earn R6-7k per month, the CEOs of some parastatals (even the disastrous managed loss-making ones — think hedging?!) get paid in R100ks and some of their counterparts in the private sector can take home R1m+. Consequently the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Unsurprisingly, as a consequence we have a widening Gini coefficient. And we talk incessantly about eradicating poverty! As the fiery champion tennis man John McEnroe would ask, “Are you serious?”
But back in Dodo-Land whenever it comes to the gravy train, the political crowd is right up front there. They make up the rules; and Heaven forbid that anyone would deign to ask the opinion of the poor beleaguered taxpayer whose money they will be spending. Instead of thinking up ways to reduce expenditure, our political masters continue to come up with whizzes to increase it instead. Like having 30 additional MPs earning a minimum of USD 48k pa for one day’s sitting per week. That is if they bother to turn up at all because, apart from Ministers, they all have their lucrative jobs/business to attend to!
The adoption of any of the proposed formulas will result in an increase in MPs’ salary bill by a massive 45% from USD 3.3m to USD 4.8m pa. Added to the additional amounts that are paid to Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries and all MPs’ travel, per diems and other perks, the figure would probably come to USD 10m or more. No one seems to worry whether our creaking economy can support the strain, never mind if we really need 100 MPs! And worst of all, no one explains how an additional 30 MPs will enhance the productivity of an underperforming House.
In his Aug-2016 budget, the Finance minister announced the merging of several parastatals. One can only presume that this courageous decision was taken in order to achieve efficiency and save costs. To my mind there is no Godly reason why the same cannot be done with several GM ministries; we really have far too many of them! Thus instead of delegating to their senior officials, ministers have the luxury of time to get involved personally in the minutiae of religious festivals and kindred events.
In any event Civil Service Minister Alain Wong seems perfectly at ease handling a second portfolio. And no one appears to be missing Raj Dayal’s swashbuckling, spectacular televised jaunts aboard the police helicopter as he flies in to the rescue of the Environment!
And does anyone believe that our Honourables deliver the goods?
From their own public admission, many committees do not convene as often as the MPs themselves have set down, if at all. Every year we have the dubious pleasure of receiving an Audit Report of all GM departments which no other Corporation except MRU Inc can afford to ignore. Taxpayers’ money is wasted by the billions and no questions are asked. Nobody is held to account and worse, no remedial action seems to follow. If anyone ever wants to find a prime example of a badly managed entity in greater need of good governance and competence, then they need look no further than GM House in Port-Louis. Regular as clockwork, the people are let down every year with not so much as a “sorry” from our Honourable members!
Some recent examples of gross incompetence are: (1) the new R1bn Port-Louis Ring Road crumbling, (2) the new R4bn Terre Rouge-Verdun highway splitting up, (3) the new R11bn SSR Airport terminal rusting and leaking, (4) the socio-economic fall-out and the public costs of the BAI debacle, (5) the Apollo/Omega Ark farce, and (6) the abandoned Heritage City project costing R150m. To cap it all there is overshooting of scheduled time and “planned” expenditure on almost every project.
Laws passed by our elected members mean you and I can be dismissed at short notice if found to be incompetent. But once voted in, MPs have security of tenure for at least 5 glorious years no matter the level of competence. If a minister is found to be wanting, the worse that can happen to him is to be put in charge of another ministry — and there are 25 to choose from!
If the UK can manage a large complex society of 65m with a reduced ratio of 1/108k, I wonder what is so special about tiny Mauritius that we need an increased ratio of 7.7/100k to manage a simple island economy whose GDP is a fraction of the revenue of many UK corporates? It certainly cannot be in the name of efficiency or productivity which the politicians are always exhorting the rest of us to achieve by working even harder for the same pittance.
By now all of us are familiar with the conservationist motto “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.” All our politicians have been following the last 2 rules since time began. For years we have had people being resurrected from bygone days — some way past their sell-by dates — peddling make-believe Miracles only to end up like the proverbial damp squib on bonfire night.
The population is rightly fed up with the same old dreary formula of Re-use and Recycle. It’s high time the country went totally ecological and applied first principles and started to Reduce. Instead of making lame excuses to increase their numbers, we should seriously envisage setting up a Committee (manned by non-politicians) with the sole term of reference being “To Reduce the Number of MPs”.
Either that or we continue to throw good money after bad!