The Glass Half Full

We should stop fixating on the glass half-empty.

We may not have economic bonanza, but we still have a generous Welfare State, and we have peace and security — very rare commodities in today’s world

14-Dec-2014. This date is forever inscribed in the collective hard-disk of the MRU voter. On that date the electorate in its infinite wisdom chose to reject a potential dictatorship — with built-in immunity if you so please!! — in the making.

Public memory tends to be short-lived as latest events catch its attention. But faced with the prospect of a potentially despotic model probably learnt from rubbing shoulders with some of the dodgiest examples from Africa, people were prepared to take a (uncalculated!) gamble on a group of disparate, mostly political neophytes to take the reins of government. Dire situations dictate brave decisions!

Thus it happened that the Gouverment Lepep was voted in with a massive majority, with promises to clean up the Augean stable. Nettoyaz was the leitmotif coupled with a promise to increase the Old Age Pension (OAP) by almost 50 percent. And the country jubilated! However after two years, the people are entitled to ask to what extent the government (GM) has succeeded in its delivery.

Pensions

As soon as it was installed, GM announced a massive increase in the OAP from Rs 3.5k to 5k; other pensions were also increased. Emphasizing its intention to look after the most vulnerable groups, GM awarded a further increase of Rs 250 the following January to match the COLA awarded to the working population. The beneficiaries jubilated and celebrated the New Year with extra gusto.

As an OAP myself, I am grateful to the GM. Had the other side won, we would have had peanuts whilst they would have enjoyed generous per diems that seem to run into millions and paid in hard currency. Today they feign indignation on all matters concerning GM perks. But when in power, they were quite happy being driven in fast bullet-proof cars violating every highway code as they bolted along, lest they missed the lunch that they only now discover was being provided free. Behold ye, the gall of these “innocent babes”!

Plastic Bags

Everyone agrees that plastic, and plastic bags, have become a bane of our times. Plastic not only blights the landscape around us, but also takes 100k years to disintegrate and dissolve into the soil, rivers, lakes and the oceans. In the process, it will saturate the earth’s surface with poisonous elements and probably render it unfit for food production. Thus it is highly probable that in future all living creatures will have to be fed on alimentation that has been produced in the laboratory!

Against this background and, in spite of the cacophony emanating from various irresponsible quarters, GM has banned the use of plastic bags as from January 2016. So bravo Mr Dayal for your invaluable contribution towards a saner environment.

Hawkers

Twenty-five years ago, on a short holiday break in MRU, I met my late friend Ram for a bit of lunch in Port-Louis. Afterwards, as we were ambling along Royal Street, we came across a few hawkers selling clothes. Knowing something about T-shirts for having once worked in a textile factory, Ram told me they would make for nice gifts for family and friends back what was home then, because they were good quality stuff with minor faults that only an expert textile in quality control would be able to spot.

So I picked up half a dozen and proceeded to pay the young man. But instead of taking the money, he snatched the shirts quite abruptly from me, picked up his cardboard box and ran off along with his friends. It would seem that a look-out had spotted a couple of boys in blue and communicated some kind of secret sign to scarper or face prosecution.

Unfortunately the situation began to change gradually. Over the years the hawkers became bolder and starting breaking the law by selling their stuff under the very nose of the police. They became a constant fixture on the sidewalk, thus completely blocking the path of pedestrians with complete impunity.

So a big thank you to Mr Husnoo for taking head on what had become a strong and vociferous lobby, and clearing our town centres of giving back the sidewalk to its rightful owner — the ordinary, law-abiding, tax-paying public.

Unexplained Wealth

In order to combat black money, the Ministry of Good Governance this year enacted the “Bhadain” law that enables GM to initiate investigations where there is suspicion of illegally acquired wealth. It then becomes incumbent on the owner to prove that the source of his income/assets is legal. Otherwise GM can confiscate these.

Once fully operational, this law will go a long way towards eradicating black money, and money laundering. As an indirect consequence, it should in due course have an positive impact on the twin scourge of our times that is represented by prostitution and drug-running rings. So a big hand for Mr Bhadain for his onslaught on the awful smell emanating from the Augean Stables.

Deposit Protection Scheme

It is surprising how many people in MRU, including some bankers, do not appreciate that they would lose all their money in case their bank failed. They believe that their money is safe when deposited in a licensed bank. Unfortunately that is not the case, and there is no legal remedy.

In order to bring us into line with more advanced places like the European Union where depositors receive a maximum compensation of Euro 100k in case of bank failure, the Ministry of Good Governance is in the process of bringing in law to facilitate the establishment of a Deposit Insurance Scheme. Once it becomes operational, all MRU savers can sleep a little easier in the knowledge that some, if not all, their money will be paid back to them should their bank go belly up. Another well-deserved thank you Mr B.

Chagos Archipelago

Many moons ago when I was at primary school, we learnt that MRU territory included several dependencies. Today the literature shelves are full of accounts of how our territorial integrity was dismantled by our British masters prior to Independence. By keeping the Chagos Archipelago (CA) as a British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), the UK was able to arrange a defence deal to its advantage with the USA and lease Diego Garcia against zero payment to the latter. Ever since then there has been talk of some strong arm-twisting on SSR by the UK FCO and PM Harold Wilson.

Since 1968, GMs of all hues have tried to negotiate for the return of CA to MRU, religiously mentioning it every year at the UN General Assembly. But all our efforts have landed on deaf ears. Court cases entered by the Chagos Refugee Group have all ended in failures. In passing it is worthwhile noting that the British have always tacitly accepted our legitimate claim to CA, promising its return when no longer needed for “defence purposes”, meaning when no longer needed by the USA. Promise of jam tomorrow whilst thwarting all perceived sign of MRU success! Even the normally impartial Law Lords rulings give the impression of bias in their rulings.

Perhaps fed up with these shenanigans, SAJ the veteran of these old games has vowed to resolve the impasse during this, probably his last mandate. He has threatened to take the matter all the way to the UN. Some very strong words have been used, causing panic in the Anglo-American camp. This is one battle in which the entire nation is with Rambo SAJ.

Education

GM has boldly taken the bull by the horns and gone for an overhaul of the education system.

All manner of experts (all 1.2m of us) have voiced their opinion on the matter. Indeed some wailing sirens have already written off the venture even before it has started. You do, you are dammed; you don’t, you are equally damned!

Most people agree that the old system has served us well including my generation, but it has done its time. So change was not only needed, but also necessary. After years of dithering, here we have a GM who has taken this bold decision. The proof of the pudding being in the eating, we need to give the new system a chance. And instead of wailing and moaning from the sidelines, it would be more constructive if all of us joined in and contributed to its future success.

It’s the economy, stupid

Yes I am afraid it is always, first and foremost, about the economy. Unfortunately the first budget delivered by “miracle”-man was not quite the success that it was hyped up to be. Some people cruelly dubbed his “No-tax Budget” a No-budget Budget. But then again, I remember from my childhood even Zimbo lasted through one good film only — the next was total rubbish. It is presumptuous to believe that we can produce the same old magic years after our initial success. In a fast-changing world, today’s best practice — and practitioner — slides into obsolescence 30 years later, if not before!

The second Lepep budget was more in tune with current times. But we will have to be patient and wait some time to see the full results. In mitigation, it must be remembered that the world economy has been in the doldrums for almost a decade now. Low interest regimes, massive amounts of Quantity Easing, fiscal and other incentives have done little to boost it up. And for countries like MRU with a tiny internal market unable to mop up shortfalls in exports including tourism, Brexit could not have come at a worse time to affect our UK market in particular, and our European markets in general.

Peace

Despite the difficult environment, GM has generally delivered, and it would be a churlish soul who would deny this. Indeed this GM has delivered more in two years than the previous regime did in five. Much time was wasted on coz-cozer about who would occupy which post in the Second Republic. Even in passing there was never any mention of how this would serve the best interest of the ordinary people of this country.

Unfortunately human psychology is so constructed that we tend to only see the glass half empty. Though not brilliant (where else in the world is it right now?), we are ticking along with a stable economic output rate, and a comprehensive social welfare system that makes up for the shortfall through the free provisions of essential services, and much more besides. Despite the Cassandras wailing “woe, woe, thrice woe!” especially in the media, we have a manageable unemployment ratio with a well-equipped young labour force ready for the upturn.

So we should stop fixating on the glass half-empty. We may not have economic bonanza, but we still have a generous Welfare State, and we have peace and security — very rare commodities in today’s world. As the festive season approaches, we should thank our lucky stars, join in the Christmas spirit and pray for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men.

I for one am grateful for my half-full glass, and cheerfully raise it to the most important person — the Reader — and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017.

TD Fuego

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