One striking feature of countries which have drifted into misrule is that all of them have a weak institutional structure. We are lucky in Mauritius that we have had a few respected public institutions, such as an independent Judiciary, an independent Director of Public Prosecutions, an independent Director of Audit, etc. It is one thing to have any number of institutions in a country but which hardly perform the role for which they have been designed. It is quite another thing when institutions efficiently carry out their duties without fear or favour.
It is not that under-performing countries in the rule-of-law context do not have a plethora of similar institutions that we see in the well reputed jurisdictions. They have them all. But having or not having efficiently functioning institutions can make the difference between a country which achieves and one which does not, between one where people feel good about their country and another that demotivates or drives them out in droves. Countries like Singapore have derived a lot more strength from the efficient operation of their institutions than we have done. This has contributed to the country’s ascent from a colonial backwater towards finding a place among the top rankers of the world according to several indices of good performance.
The latest Henley Global Citizens Report, done in partnership with New World Wealth, to rank the world’s wealthiest cities ranks Singapore in the fifth place; it is home to 249,800 millionaires making it the second richest city in Asia after Tokyo. Singapore’s political stability, low crime rate, and high standard of living have contributed to its appeal internationally, and this is due in a large measure to its institutions, both in the public and private sectors, which have consistently aimed to do their very best in the course of fulfilling their respective mandates. They have lent to the country an image of a reliable place in which to live and a hassle-free place to do business.
The working of public and private institutions in different countries shows that it is possible to bring improvements to the outlook of a country other than by the political establishment alone. Some of them produce their result by acting through the deterrence factor. Others define the platform which is most conducive to overall progress by implementing their agenda forcefully. For this to happen, the fundamental quest should be that of competence and qualification of those in charge.
It cannot be said of Mauritius that we have been benefiting from this kind of drive, commitment and efficiency from all our institutions. In some cases, one is at odds to understand their inconsistent attitudes, throwing into doubt the supreme principle they are supposed to stand for. Some executives who take decisions contrary to the wishes of parties in power or of their financiers are most likely to pay a price for their boldness. Such an environment does not bring about the assertiveness of office holders we see in places which perform.
We will soon be completing the second leg of the current government’s mandate, and it has been marked by many an upheaval which has tarnished the image of the country. Amongst them one that stands out is the perception of some of our key institutions being weak because of irregularities that that have surfaced emanating from even the apex of the country. Greater transparency may be only part of the answer but it would be both a deterrent and a comfort to the population to know that reports on such marquee events as the failures leading to the Wakashio beaching, the St-Louis corruption affair, the dialysis failures at Souillac hospital or the notorious Kistnen murder saga, will not remain confined to some drawer. Or the series of events leading to the quasi-demise of the Mauritius Turf Club and the closure of a leading stable like the Gujadhur one and which all seemed to favour a new player in the best books of higher quarters. Or the worrying fact that over the double MSM mandate not a single of the several high-profile drug cases, other than the Gro Derek affair, arrested in 2012, has been taken to court yet.
Either we believe that we do have the legal and institutional framework that may need updating, and it is a matter for those institutions and agencies to deliver results in the wider public interest. Or there are unexplainable complexities and factors that are acting as a cloud over their operations and keeping the country from harnessing its energies and reach for higher destinations.
There is an urgency to tackle these worrying negative portrayals and to reverse the trend so that confidence and trust can be restored in the country at all levels. That ought to be the underlying thrust of all actions that will be undertaken to set the country on a proper course, and we hope that this would be sooner rather than later.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 13 January 2023
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