India to the rescue, again

 In the decade of the 1960s, before the Green Revolution brought about by Norman Borlaug, India – rather, then Prime Minister Nehru — used to be derided for going around the world with a begging bowl seeking funds and assistance to make up for its shortfall of grains and avert famine conditions.

It would be tempting to make a similar comparison for Mauritius, with Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announcing that he was going to seek financial assistance from India to meet the unpaid sums to those who invested in the alluring Super Gold Cash Back scheme of BAI. Such a comparison would not be totally unjustified. The difference, though, is that whereas India’s plight at the time could be ascribed to mainly natural causes, in our case the situation is totally manmade, the result of a complex mess-up at the highest level of the country by the Alliance Lepep which had promised to bring about a radical renewal in the country – as well as the presumed role of the preceding government which had allowed the BAI plaie to fester into what it had finally become prior to its felling by the Lepep government.

Prime Minister under obligation to find a solution

Before we go on to consider India’s role in our country’s development, we cannot refrain from expressing our amazement at the way that an entire Cabinet, led by a five-time Prime Minister and made up of a majority of qualified and highly experienced people — including ex-Minister of Finance Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo who was hailed by the Alliance Lepep as the one who engineered the first “economic miracle” and would ensure a repeat of the “miracle”, that is a second one of similar scope –, could have been led by the nose by a neophyte in politics, namely Roshi Bhadain. This is their own admission, that they were misled by the latter. Did he mesmerize them by some magic? Were they over-confident in his knowledge and skills to unravel and make the BAI empire tumble? In retrospect, this does indeed seem to be the case. If only they had had the wisdom to pay heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s admonition, to the effect that you do not have the moral right to start something that you cannot stop.

The Prime Minister is in a tight corner and under pressure to resolve this issue, and has perhaps had no alternative in order to end the hunger strike by the victims of the scheme and avert a major social crisis. He has to perforce find a solution, and promptly. However, what is shameful for the country is that we are by no means poor, since we are ranked at middle income level. But worse is that there has been visible dilapidation of taxpayer funds in expenditures which were totally uncalled for, such as the sums paid to sundry protégés hoisted to the top of various public bodies – on the basis, as Minister Anil Gayan ‘bombshelled’ in an interview to the daily l’express, that one cannot apply the criterion of meritocracy everywhere? –, spends on high security car and other material to the tune of nearly 200 million in all, and the list could go on.

 India will surely help

 The point is that, all this information is in the public domain. Doesn’t it all add up to weaken the Prime Minister’s case vis-a-vis the Indian government, and make for a harder bargain? As it is, the Indian government has already advanced substantial funding for the Metro Express project, and although India is the fastest growing economy in the world, yet it still has its own internal priorities to deal with, among others poverty alleviation. From this angle alone, we would need to have some shame in asking for more! But then, as pointed out, the PM does not seem to have any other option if he has been advised to take this rather uncomfortable step.

And he will surely not be disappointed, for India has never refused to help the ‘little India beyond the seas’, as Indira Gandhi called it. There is no need to mention here the long list of projects that India has been successfully involved in locally, to the benefit of all Mauritians. All countries have their lot of scams and scandals, so perhaps governments as a consequence do not pry too much into another country’s internal affairs (the ones mentioned above, for example) when considering appeals for help.

And let us not be plus royaliste que le roi about strings attached! The President of the most powerful nation on earth, the USA, has just signed a 110-billion dollar arms deal in Saudi Arabia. And the nexuses of the military-industrial complex have been exposed very largely by investigative journalists in the West many times over.

And let us also have less hypocrisy about Agalega and the Metro Express from the Opposition. They have been in power several times before, and they have done nothing to improve public transport and decent access to and from Agalega for the people there. A proper jetty and an adequate air runway there would make a huge difference to the quality of life on the island, and end the isolation of the people.

What is certain is that Pravind Jugnauth will not come away empty-handed from his trip to India. What is more important is in what direction he will take the country when he returns.

It is often said of leaders that ils sont mal entourés. No, they themselves choose their inner circle, and have therefore to assume full responsibility for the actions and consequences thereof of the latter.

If he chooses well, going beyond political partisanship and focusing truly on the larger national interest, there is no reason why he should not bring about a turnaround in the remaining two years of his mandate. For that, a change of mindset is required. So said.

TP Saran

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