By TD Fuego II
Far be it for a minnow like me to look for any panga with a leviathan like Percy Mistry (PM) but, as a warm-blooded Mauritian, I just could not keep mum after reading his arrogant outpourings in the Mauritius Times (22-Jul-11). This interview turned out to be a gallery of bombastic, boringly repetitious, patronizing prose.
PM accuses us of being too Eurocentric and exhorts us to make economic linkages with, among other places, Africa and China. Some things are easier said than done. I so wish he would tell us how to go about competing with countries whose labour costs are lower than ours, and their trade barriers higher than the walls of Line Barracks. He denigrates the fact that we encourage our exports through depreciation of the MUR and, in almost the same breath, tells us that China has accumulated reserves of USD 3.2 trillion by manipulating its exchange rate (read depreciating to boost exports). No doubt, others do the same. So, what is good enough for the gander… who are we to change the rules unilaterally?
To PM’s mind, the unceremonious sending off of the bright boy from the LSE (aren’t they all?) was the worse thing to happen to us, and may a plague of locusts descend upon our land. But, was not this same man responsible for the things PM decries? Devaluation of the MUR by a massive of 30+ percent in 2006, unnecessary, misused and abused Stimulus Packages, turbo-charging IRS schemes were all sins committed by the very same man he would like back at the helm of our finances. Thank you, but no thank you, sir! For all I care, TINA-wallahs can stay away forever; the collateral damage of their bookish IMF-inspired policies is too much for the people to bear.
Of course, it is always easy to criticize, but harder to suggest solutions. PM’s panacea for all our ills seems to boil down to bending over backwards (and forwards perhaps) to entice super-rich foreigners to our shores. But, who does he think is buying up all the properties in the IRS which, I concur with him, is a very bad idea? After 40+ years of independence and becoming a Republic for 10+ years, we do not want to return to the days when we had to kowtow to the wealthy Europeans, or anyone else for that matter. We don’t spend Rs.10bn of our money to educate our children so that they end up being gardeners and waiters to the world’s playboys (and girls)!
Sorry to disappoint, PM, but we have seen enough academic doomsayers like you in the past, and have still come out on top. And, n’en deplaise your good self, we will do so again! Meanwhile, you are very welcome to join the relics of Benedict, Meade and Titmuss, all ironically from the LSE — the alma mater of your protégé. We have also seen off the disdainful “overcrowded barracoon” tab given to us by Naipaul, another Nobel Prize winner like the learned professor Titmuss.
To conclude, something struck me as very intriguing while reading the interview. Instead of ignoring the great PM and leaving him to pontificate from his ivory tower in Oxford, why are these (stupid) heads of states not queuing up at his front door, begging him to give them his oh-so-ready solutions to all the economic woes besetting them amidst the present world crises? I am sure he could save their bacon (or idli as the case may be) and earn himself a serious fortune, and possibly a prestigious international prize. If only they permitted him to put his genius at their disposal?!
* Published in print edition on 5 August 2011