With the forthcoming general elections in view, a number of the elected politicians currently holding office have embarked on a spate of week-long ‘inauguration par ici inauguration par là-bas’ in an attempt to impress how successful has been their track-record.
According to reliable information, many of these so-called inaugurations are nothing but ongoing activities in the different sectors and ministries organising them. Officers are being pushed round the clock to cobble together programmes, adding bits and pieces to produce a make-believe of innovation in what are routine matters that fall within the mandate of the ministry concerned. But there you are, this is Mauritius, and election year. So ministers try all means, direct or indirect, to show themselves as being supermen/women working for their countrymen, and we are given to understand that the MBC-TV is overwhelmed with requests for coverage.
And what coverage! All the relevant, important officers who are actually doing the hard work are relegated to the backburner. Instead, sundry newly-mushroomed ‘experts’ are produced from nowhere to pronounce gravely on matters in which they do not hold primary qualifications – vide ‘The Canteen Saga’ published last week under this column. The pattern is standard, repetitive and boring: a marquee is erected hurriedly, busloads of onlookers from the region are brought at least a couple of hours in advance and as a consequence sweat it out uncomfortably under the hot roof, a group is invited to perform sing’ n’ dance numbers, tired officers cursing under their breath wait in the hot sun (forced to leave more important work at their desk) and hang around with sundry folk until front-line organisers(poor them!) move to the entrance to welcome the Big Man (so he deludes himself into believing he is), who is met as he alights from his car by his députés-l’endroit and a posse of small-fry.
They are then marched to the dais, where flashy smiles are caught for eternity (so they think) by designated camera persons. Then officially begins the function. In glorious terms, the chief guest is introduced in such a way as to make it clear that before him nothing, but absolutely nothing had happened in that sector, before the microphone is passed on in turn to the députés-l’endroit for their patently electoralist speeches, which have nothing to do with the activity at hand. In other words, their contribution to the day’s function is purely cosmetic.
The same is mostly true for the chief guest too, because again here in the case of some particular ones, there is useless and needless repetition, on the assumption that the lepep admirab here assembled have got short memories besides being morons. As the chief guest takes the mike, a sigh goes up from amidst the ranks, ‘here he goes again! Haven’t we heard it all before!’ just as in the movie Three Idiots: his attendant, standing at the back of the hall, starts repeating before Dean Virus speaks what he has heard the Dean say over and over again in all his speeches.
The chief guest then invites the audience to clap hands for him and his leader, whose vision he has duly informed the lepep about for the umpteenth time. But what about the vision of the chief guest himself? Tut tut, such silly questions are not asked. He is only making his case for a ticket, and he is hoping that the leader will be suitably infatuated.
Has anyone asked how much of energy and resources are wasted in such futile displays? How much all this costs? And what better use could have been made of the moneys thus dilapidated?
But it seems that the voices of reason have no place. All that matters is to create an impression. And so, from one general election to the next, it’s all about impressions. No wonder the real work that needs to be done gets pushed back more and more. Remember the bus-lane, the monorail? One guy sat long enough to push exactly three items of a personal agenda, which did not include relieving traffic congestion on the national route into the capital, and then left the hot handle to another incumbent. No wonder, further, that we are always lagging behind. And it will always be too late to catch up.
Mere words again: a lack of good people
Some corporate leaders – the true ones, not our local bastardized ‘senior chief’ versions – who know when to leave and move on (again, unlike our local pre-cited versions), were being interviewed. They were retiring, either because their time had come or prematurely, to launch their own enterprises, ‘Retiring to Reboot’ as the title of the featured article put it.
The key point here is that you must be a person of a certain ability, and possessing smart ideas in order to venture into something new or carry forward creatively from where you left. If not, you will want to hang on to office, and manipulate your way into it if need be. This phenomenon is only too well-known in Mauritius, a land rather full of Michelin-man types: overblown, empty shells, big enough to be an obstacle.
Too often has one heard about the team spirit, team building, leadership skills and such clichés. All this will only remain as mere words if you do not have the right people around, and the right people are good people. Because if you have the right people, no time is lost in back-biting, cheating, corrupting the credulous – who, mind you, may be situated at any level, even the highest ones.
As one of these retired leaders, who has since built up his world-class company, put it, failure is often due to a lack of good people. ‘Be it building a team, aligning it to a common purpose and retaining it, choosing the right people is the biggest challenge. Everything else follows.’
In our country, alas, everything else is simply not following. Because we have got some very bad people about. And the country is paying dearly for that.