How many foreign experts do we need?
The ironic aspect of the current malaise at the Ministry of Finance is some of the very mouthpieces that had blamed successive regimes for bending to the will and whims of the IMF and World Bank, citing the failure of the latter in many countries which they are supposed to have helped and instead impoverished (e.g. Argentina), have now sprung to a spirited defence of Ali Mansoor, a cadre of the World bank. We will here not go into the merits or demerits of the case.
But we cannot fail to be concerned about the plethora of foreign experts that have in recent years been paid heavenly sums of taxpayers’ money to write reports and sector strategies which, like all previous such cost-ineffective theoretical exercises, will finally gather dust. Because they are not implimentable and therefore will not be implemented – or bits and pieces will be lifted out of context and forced down into structures not adapted to absorb them. Hence inefficiency compounded.
Point: will this country choose to continue to be neo-colonialised, or isn’t it time that we paid attention to the many talents that are being sidelined? Now wonder laureates prefer not to return!
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Irregularity in recruitment of Head Planner at municipal and district councils
It is good that there is some debate about new posts in the Civil Service. Let us hope that out of the confrontations that have arisen there is some clear thinking about exactly about people, roles, responsibilities and service improvement in what is perceived to be the shop window of any government anywhere in the world.
We subscribe to the official government line of ‘Equal Opportunities for All.’ The Civil Service, local government bodies and parastatals must lead by example so that the private sector too can follow. It has always been our view that as head of government, the Prime Minister must make it his business to be kept informed about what is happening everywhere, and especially in those places where vital decisions are taken for the country’s future development. He is right to push for a ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ – but unless properly qualified people are put in the right places this dream of his may well remain unfulfilled.
For example, there are 9 posts of Head Planner at the District and Municipal Councils, of which only one post was, until some time back, substantively filled. The structure for the Planning Department is: Planning Inspector to Planner to Head Planner. The qualification required is: Diploma for the Inspector, Degree for the Planner /Head Planner. Head Planner is a promotion post from Planner, with a minimum of four years as Planner.
However, one District Council has allegedly flouted this requirement and appointed a Head Planner from the rank of Inspector – that is, someone with only a Diploma, and no experience of the minimum of four years at Planner level.
We submit that this is totally unacceptable, and request that the newly-appointed Minister of Local Government, Rodrigues and Outer Islands to forthwith order an inquiry into this irregularity and set matters right. We have no doubt that the Prime Minister will concur with our position, as our objective is similar, meritocracy irrespective of any other consideration.
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The Canteen Saga
To start from the very beginning: the rate of overweight as well as obesity among children, adolescents and young people is on the increase in Mauritius. Results from studies carried out shows that the trend is similar to western countries. These figures are worrying as childhood obesity could lead to adult obesity and its complications such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. These results prompted the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to work on a joint legislation with a view to regulate the sale of foods in school canteens.
From the information gathered and the media campaigns carried out by personnel from the Ministry of Health, it would appear that a thorough professional work was carried out before drawing up the list. It has been said that each food was analysed for fat and sugar before being allowed on the list.
The majority of parents have welcomed the legislation because, although it means extra work for them especially the working mothers, at least their siblings are being spared from junk food containing additives such as colouring and from other unhealthy food which harm children.
There has however been a huge outcry from canteen holders, as this means that their income has been drastically reduced since the sale of junk food contributed highly to their profit. Daal puri and farahta being included in the list of foods allowed for sale has taken a communal connotation as it would appear that they are eaten by only one community. Don’t we consider briani, riz frit or rougaille saucisse as our national dishes? Mauritians usually ape other countries by copying their food, way of dressing and culture, so it is high time that we copy good ideas from other countries too. The average English considers the Indian curry as a national dish in the UK and young English adults can cook a curry better than other dishes.
Other communities have demanded that their food be also included such as pizza, panini, pastries or pitta bread. To all intents and purposes pizza, panini are Italian and do not belong to any one ethnic group and have been adopted by all Mauritians. Pitta bread being of Greek as well as middle-eastern origin does not belong to any community either. Isn’t it funny how quickly certain Mauritians adopt foreign food and end up believing that they are the owners of these foods?!
Experts in nutrition have mushroomed overnight and have become consultants in nutrition for different groups. Some of these experts have started giving free nutritional advice on the radio and on television and in the papers. Although nutritionists are professionals who have studied Human Nutrition and Dietetics for at least four years, some of these pseudo-experts have no qualms at all pretending to be experts in a subject which they do not master. People with qualifications as remote to Human Nutrition and Dietetics as pharmacy, nutritional science, food science, food and nutrition and who are normally not qualified to give advice in nutrition are being sought and listened to. The next step for these experts would be to carry out heart surgery!
Mauritius as a new republic is still influenced by its colonial past so much so that just the colour of skin of certain Mauritians is entitling them to give advice in Nutrition.So who gains from this whole saga? Definitely not the children! Should we wait for another 10 years to see the results of the policy makers’ laissez aller attitude and back-pedalling, or should we push for the general house cleaning now before it is too late?