President Kailash Purryag: Dignified exit

Under the title ‘The Presidency: Respect the Constitution’ on 23 January 2015 this column wrote:

‘We salute the stand taken by Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth on the matter of the continuation in office of President Kailash Purryag. It will be recalled that, at press briefings and on other occasions, Sir Anerood has stated in no uncertain terns that a) he has good relations with President Kailash Purryag, b) he has no reason to ask him to leave office, and c) he leaves any such decision to the discretion of the President. He also underlined that, according to the Constitution, President Kailash Purryag’s term lasts until 2017.

Great credit must be given to Sir Anerood Jugnauth for being so forthright and direct, and for showing respect to the Constitution. These are the hallmarks of a true statesman, and in so doing he has shown a degree of maturity which is, sadly, lacking in his other political partners. But then, that’s what this country needs a genuine patriarch for, and in displaying these sterling qualities the Prime Minister is refurbishing the image of the country which had unfortunately been rather tarnished of late.

When answering questions on the issue of the Presidency, Sir Anerood referred to how he had been humiliated as President, and the pressures – in public — that were being put to oust him from office. He said in as many words that he knew what such suffering meant, and he wouldn’t wish to inflict this on any sitting President. Once again, one cannot but salute his magnanimity.

Given that Kailash Purryag was nominated during a Labour mandate, if he wanted to Sir Anerood could have taken revenge and push for his ousting. The fact that he has decided against any such act not only shows his political sagacity, but also indicates his profound respect for the Constitution, deserving once again to be commended.’

In commenting on the resignation of President Kailash Purryag, Sir Anerood reiterated that he entertained good relations with the latter, and that he had great respect for him. In that article, we had also humbly requested that, in line with section 30 of the Constitution, President Kailash Purryag complete his mandate, since there was no gross misconduct for which he had to answer. However, we bow to his choice to resign, which too is constitutionally valid, after ably upholding with dignity the office of the President of the Republic of Mauritius.

However, there is also a major and more important issue before the country, given the numerous convergent views on the duration of Prime Ministerial and Presidential mandates that were expressed during the pre-electoral period. Keeping these widely held views in mind, we had also suggested that ‘now that he has an overall majority in Parliament, perhaps Sir Anerood could initiate the debate on two matters that will require an amendment of the Constitution: 1) limiting the mandates of the Prime Minister and President, to two terms and one term respectively, and 2) making the mandates of the government and the President coincide: in that case any sitting President will be forewarned that his term expires along with that of the government, and thus exit honourably.’

We pray that this will be the parting legacy of Sir Anerood Jugnauth to the future generations of Mauritians, as he has indicted that this is his last term.

* * *

From crony to crooked capitalism

It is not as if what we are witnessing on the national scene for several weeks now is new. ‘Boom and bust’ episodes in markets have occurred in the past, and the financial crisis of 2008 was the most recent example of such a situation. Despite the numerous and very detailed post-crisis analyses of the crisis, the conclusion is that no one – expert or institution – was able to foresee let alone prevent what happened. Customers, players and regulators in the system were so interlocked that none could take an objective look in time to realise what was happening and to prevent catastrophe.

The BAI saga which continues to make headlines has allegedly been the result of misgovernance, misreporting and excessive related parties lending, among other factors. Someone has said that ‘the government is the only known vessel that leaks from the top’. Given this local crisis, and similar others that have occurred elsewhere, perhaps one must extend this phenomenon of ‘leaking from the top’ to corporates and other institutions as well. However, it is never too late to learn lessons and prepare for the future, knowing full well that the risk of default is ever present, because at the end of the day it is some mischievous plotter that exploits the loopholes in the system.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, while experts gave their highly technical opinions couched in language that would be familiar to only other experts, those whose job was to put it all across to the public at large had to use simpler language without distorting facts and in presenting the core messages. One pithy conclusion came forth: the crisis was the result of greed.

What is crucial to grasp, though, is how greed works its way through and uses people, and systems and structures across a number of bodies to pervert them for personal gain at the expense of the people. ‘Monopoly’ and ‘concentration’ of power and resources are two notions that recur, to the point of even acting as ruling doctrines for those involved in perpetrating such transactions which, surprisingly, occur within existing legal frameworks.

There are a number of tendencies and factors that have been identified since as being responsible for these massive dysfunctions. Even a name was tagged, the ‘Slim syndrome,’ after the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, who according to an article with the title ‘Behind the crony curtain’ in the American magazine Newsweek of August 2010, was at 60 billion USD worth then and was considered to be the richest man in the world and a ‘titan’ in Mexico.

Economists argued that Slim’s success came at the cost of Mexico’s growth because of the ‘concentration of business wealth and power among just a few.’ Mexican President Felipe Calderon said at that time that ‘monopolies are forcing a 40 percent premium on Mexicans for everyday goods and services.’ The ‘backroom privilege of big-time industrialists’ known as ‘crony capitalism’ had morphed into something worse, ‘crooked capitalism’ that threatened in particular developing and emerging markets.

Some excerpts will provide interesting insights for attention of the layman and for consideration by the relevant authorities. They will no doubt ring a familiar local bell which, for all we know, may have been ringing for a couple of decades but somehow is louder now:

‘Monopolies, grafts, and massive infusions of state spending are resulting in low competition and unsustainable gains, and the heavier hand of government is carrying these problems into the future.’

‘Slim rose by snapping up state assets on the cheap.’

‘Crony capitalism involved an incestuous relationship between industrialists, politicians, and banks.’

‘Family-run firms… had grown into far-flung global enterprises, often fuelled by sweetheart loans from well-rewarded friends in government and banks that were part of the family empire. The debts run up under this system were massive, often unaccountable and untraceable, and the whole system came crashing down…’

‘…increased consolidation… squashes rivals… restricts innovation, entry, competition… because these corporations are often very rich and very powerfully connected.’

There are no virgins in this political-corporate game.


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