The Lepep Government Program 2015

By S. Callikan

To the government spin and communication team, that five-year-old document may almost look like an unwelcome reminder, a ghost-book of outdated memories that should be allowed to discretely fade away

There is probably some truth to Sir Anerood Jugnauth’s contention that the 38% of the electorate that swept him and his political allies to power were not really bothered by or voting upon the measures contained in the Lepep electoral manifesto. The LP-MMM alliance in 2014 and others in history may have similarly drawn up such lengthy catalogues rather than a more focused Party or Alliance key strategy and policy orientations document.

But in January 2015, it was a formidably-experienced sitting PM, who had the opportunity to translate the Lepep manifesto into a declaration of government policy and priorities for the mandate. It was, as is the custom, read out at Parliament’s first sitting on 27th January 2015 by Kailash Purryag, the then President of the Republic and one should naturally attach far more credence to its contents.

While SAJ could jocularly scoff at the notion that his government’s actions should be bound by the catalogue of promises wrapped in the manifesto rhetoric of 2014, population and observers could expect more solemnity in the Government undertakings read out to the National Assembly’s first sitting titled: ‘Government Programme 2015 – 2019 – Achieving Meaningful Change’.

One can note that this title per se recognises that the Lepep government would have reached the end of its natural mandate in 2019 without the need to use legal and procedural artifices to drag out incumbency onto 2020. Be that as it may, and even if the Lepep Government has been shaken by an unending series of internal upheavals (two PMs, several successive Ministers of Finance, loss of a major alliance partner and on-boardism of “transfuges”, two senior ministerial resignations from the National Assembly, numerous changes in ministerial portfolios, etc) it is clearly in that final year when its achievements and actions can be measured up against the boldly-worded pledges and undertakings of 2015.

To the government spin and communication team, that five-year-old document may almost look like an unwelcome reminder, a ghost-book of outdated memories that should be allowed to discretely fade away under the umbrella of “modernity” and “activism”. Take for instance the Executive Introduction paragraph 8 which does not hesitate to churn out what should be common-place and self-evident, into a flowery statement of voluntarism:

  1. Government is committed to conducting business on the principles of discipline, transparency, accountability and exemplary governance.

Why not re-state the minimum we should all expect? But, no doubt emboldened by their own sense of importance and, perhaps carried away by a pervasive atmosphere of triumphant euphoria in their ranks, the authors of the document detail the seven individual components of such a solemn pledge of “exemplary governance”.

  1. This implies:

 Responsible and judicious use of public funds and a crusade to weed out wastage;

 An open and transparent bidding and procurement process to combat fraud and corruption;

 A transparent and merit-based recruitment and appointment policy to ensure meritocracy;

 An in-depth reform of our public sector institutions to inject productivity, efficiency and quality service;

 A zero tolerance policy against crime and violence;

 Freeing our society from the shackles of widespread corruption, favoritism, nepotism, mafias and political interference; and

 Guaranteeing access to information and broadening of the democratic space.

Observers generally and readers of Mauritius Times in particular are astute enough to make their own assessment of the Government’s ratings over 5 years against these 7 sisters singled out, independently of Moody’s, Fitch or Mo Ibrahim. Of course there are also more pledges inside the program, like the now notorious 10,000 housing units to be built over 5 years, the creation of 15,000 jobs annually, the training of medical staff for overseas employment, the replacement of speed cameras and fines by a more a “more socially equitable” system, the full resources and funds to be made available to the NDU, under the PM’s Office, to meet all population welfare needs, ensuring that “SMEs become the backbone of the economy in the years to come” and a variety of similar purposeful intents.

In view of the record heights attained by our Honourable flying pigeons and their advisors or retinue, or the millions willingly spent on dead-duck mega-projects, or in the light of the latest Audit Director’s latest Report, the paragraph below reads like a tombstone entry:

  1. As regards public finance and fiscal policy, Government will not tolerate wasteful, unnecessary and excessive expenditure. The Finance and Audit Act will be reviewed to strengthen public financial management, accountability, transparency and fiscal discipline.

The proliferation of gambling houses and activities in all villages and suburbs may give the subjective impression that this was the result of Government wilful planning of a new economic pillar, but further perusal re-assures us retrospectively that no such social pandemic would be tolerated.

  1. Government will be merciless in combating the growing illicit gambling activities in order to minimise harm to society.

 As even the private sector now worries and frets publicly over a mammoth public debt, dismal FDI outside property and real estate schemes or over economic and investment perspectives generally or sectorally, we will spare readers of more voluntary and bold intents expressed in the 2015-2019 Government program regarding manufacturing, agriculture, offshore financials or the fabled blue economy..

The time for a much heralded “new socio-economic miracle”, for promising new practices in good governance, for flowery new intents about “reshaping our destiny”, embodied in that cardinal 2015-2019 Program, is reaching its natural end when it can no longer avoid the test of realities, practices and achievements. From isolated but recurring incidents around the countryside, the jurors, the real Lepep, it seems are getting impatient.

The unending series of new scandals and the recent exasperations with excuses or blame-game at flagrant neglect or incompetence at water, drains or flood management after 4.5 years in office indicate that emotions are running high. This is a caution not to overly rely on ratings, planned high-profile events or the saturation coverage of government outings to gauge popular feelings.

* Published in print edition on 19 April 2019

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