Letter to Uncle Sam
It’s the festive season; but the mood is not that festive. Not here. We presume not at all in DC or in the blue and red States. Here, it looks like folks are this time showing signs of utmost care. The usual end of year spending spree is yet to be seen. Not for the same reasons as there.
Here, it’s all a question of spending on highly essential things and as far as possible put some money back in the savings account to meet the difficult months ahead. Prices are rising even for basic life necessities. This time not so much because of the Green Dollar.
The problem about prices and pricing habits here is connected to the lack of competition on the market and the concentration of trading activities among a few big players. For instance, we have no WalMart. Uncle, please see if you can have a word or two with them and convince WM that Mauritius is a good place to do business. Within the political circles here, they always whisper that diamond cuts diamond. What if we apply this reasoning to trade and bring WM to our shores?
To understand our predicament, let’s compare notes.
Labour costs presumably are much higher in the US, UK or Australia, compared to Mauritius. So are internal transport costs; and may be electricity and water, as well. As we go on and on, the different layers of cost can’t be higher here than they actually are in the three countries mentioned above.
This being so, can you now tell us, Uncle, why do we pay our kg of chicken or meat at more or less (rarely less) the same price one would pay in the US, UK or Australia? If you talk about fresh chicken or meat, better stop it, Uncle. Almost unaffordable! Now, if the chicken or beef or goat or sheep is “grown” locally, the pricing policy still tallies with US, UK and Australian standards.
I don’t know if you have things like the CPU, ACIM, ICP, Competition Commission, ICAC or Ministry of Consumer Protection in the US. Uncle, if they don’t exist, and if you go as per our experience, please don’t create them.
The other two things adversely affecting pricing relate to lobbyists, individual or institutional lobbying and second, money politics. On this count, the US and Mauritius are twin brothers or twin sisters, as you wish. The modus operandi is the same. The end results are the same. The winners are always the same. The losers are always the same. Only one category come and go – they are lawmakers-cum-decision makers. We leave it to your judgment as to how they fare in this world.
Let us quote one example and you will understand how bad the situation is. In one case, there has been an official in-depth enquiry by ICAC on one item. A report was produced. It contained damning and serialised facts on how transactions and business dealings are made to escape scrutiny by the eyes, but can’t escape any forensic investigation. The defaulter is still at large and is making even more money these days.
But you know what? We are used to “pez néné boire de l’huile”. It’s the Creole way to say we are ready to accept the unacceptable.
What about you, Uncle? Contrary to what is going on here, I am told you fought hard during the past week to come to the rescue of US consumers (that is folks within the middle class and below), without at all “picking into the pockets” of George’s friends who can still have some advance payments from their banks (against the 800 billion dollars of tax bonanza) to meet expenses rendered necessary not to celebrate Xmas or New Year but your generosity towards them.
And so despite advice tendered, you finally have concluded and signed a “mari deal” (this is how they call bipartisan agreement here) with the Reps and because of this folks from the middle class and below will have more money in their pockets. Not that the new fiscal regime will allow millions of Americans to become rich but to stay poor with the possibility to act as a rich. For an additional two years or less, at least as long as the “mari deal” is lawful. It’s good you had Christ and Christmas in mind as you were adamant not to allow your folks there to spend this festive season while having in mind that this January life won’t be easy sans the bipartisan deal.
After the festive season, a bipartisan House Committee will release its report on what caused the economic catastrophe and who the main culprits were – whether they were people, institutions or markets freed from regulations and supervision.
Already, a group of Reps has released some comments to the effect that everything in connection with the economic downturn has to do with government and government policies. The usual Rep’s mantra — Government is the problem not part of the solution.
Now we will wait and see how you respond to the report, and in case Reps have a dissent report, things might not be easy.
In the end, you should rest assured Uncle. Folks here — and because they trust you — are not going to trouble you with unnecessary embarrassing questions. Not at this time.
Your whole strategy (the one put in place after the mid term results) will come under scrutiny when the time hits the next White House race. By then we will know how good or bad it was. Should it be confirmed that you got everything wrong around your strategy (post mid term test), then we won’t need any rocket scientist to tell us that it would be too late to save the House from political vandalism!
Here they have a very nice way to depict a failed strategy in their usual Creole – “après la mort la tisane!”
In any case, folks here join me to wish you and the family a very merry Xmas week-end.
* Published in print edition on 23 December 2010