Politics: what changes?
Beware politicians, even old ladies can think for themselves!
— TP Saran
Management gurus have a catchphrase: the only thing that is permanent in life is change. So, they therefore say, one has to accept that change is inevitable, and for this reason they have whole modules about ‘how to manage change.’ And make much money out of telling you the obvious! And politicians do so by fooling the people.
Because as far as politics is concerned ‘plus ça change plus c’est la même chose!’ In other words, it does not change – the games politicians play remain unchanged, and things that could have happened years ago get stalled and pushed all the time, because the lust for money drives everything. Which is why the situation goes on worsening, and this is worrying for Mauritians as it’s our future and that of our children which is put in jeopardy.
If we care to take a closer look at politics, ministers and ministries, we will find that so far no political party has ever really lived up to its manifesto, and towards the end of the mandate there is a scramble to complete bits and pieces so as to give the impression that promises are being kept. Therefore no one knows what will be achieved by the winning party during their mandate. This is very convenient for the politicians as they can afford to spend the next five years doing everything they can for themselves that has got no or only peripheral relation to the manifesto, and end up doing little in concrete terms to advance fundamentally the cause of the people at large.
Take the case of the daily traffic jam to Port Louis: can anyone deny that for the past two decades at least it has been public knowledge that it could only get worse over the years? Is it conceivable in this day and age that on most days people should take nearly two hours to reach the Capital? And that’s not reckoning with the amount of petrol or diesel which could have been saved!
Over and above the fumes and pollution which raise serious doubts about Maurice Ile Durable, another reality is that people getting to work daily are terribly stressed – and we keep being reminded that stress is one of the risk factors of diabetes and the other horrible diseases to which Mauritians are prey. We must not forget that we almost top the list for the prevalence of diabetes in the world.
Light Rail, bus lane – we have heard so much talk about them, and from millions the estimated cost of construction has gone into billions, but there is still no sign of either. The only visible result of all the loud announcements about these projects is that congestion on the way to Port Louis has become a fact of daily life and accidents, both major and minor, have gone on increasing. And it suffices but for one to take place to have a serpentine back-up all the way to before the Phoenix roundabout! Or, as happened on Wednesday last, it took just two hours of light rain in the morning to ensure that access to the city was literally in a jam. Is that the standard that we can accept for Mauritius? No, definitely we have to stop dreaming about becoming the Singapore of the Indian Ocean!
What about droughts? They are occurring almost yearly now! People are asked to reduce their water consumption during the dry season. In some places people have to get up during the night to collect water (reminds us of vampires!) for their daily use while during the rainy season there is an abundance of water which flows to the sea. What a waste! But does anyone care?
However, just a few months before the elections are due there is a sudden frenzy as each minister tries to show that he has improved the quality of life of the average Mauritian. The best way of being in the limelight is to carry out as many launchings and functions as possible with very strong media coverage. Ministers have a ball cutting ribbons, much to the delight of importers of ribbons. They also take great pleasure in telling old ladies about the achievements of their respective ministries. Some ministers have become experts in this exercise, repeating the same stupid questions and handing out a fruit or some useless trinket to those who give the right answer, pre-primary school style, playing on the emotions of simple-minded citizens made credulous under the effect of crowd psychology.
Bus loads of elderly citizens who are looking for a day out are brought to these functions. The more people the better and the merrier! Free transport is provided to everybody as well as food. As an added bonus they are taken to the seaside on the way. No costs are spared! After all it’s the taxpayer’s money — which in reality is our money as we tend to forget that we are the taxpayers.
In many ministries money earmarked for projects which really contribute to people’s welfare is being diverted towards these bogus functions. A lot of pressure is put on technicians as well as administrators working in the public sector so as to prepare custom-made shows at very short notice and at the expense of other planned activities. The consequence is that technicians and administrators are stressed and very tired and don’t have time to concentrate on issues that really matter. It is forgotten that after all they too are human beings.
Openings for existing services are carried out regularly! The buildings are refurbished and cleaned up only for the occasion. New uniforms are provided for members of staff and no money is spared for refreshments. And instead of optimising available resources, some projects are undertaken that do not take into account existing infrastructure. For example, a very short health track was recently built and inaugurated in a region where there is already a stadium accessible to joggers daily. Why could this not have been negotiated for use for health purposes?
During meetings politicians have always maintained that Mauritians are mature enough to make the right choice when it comes to voting. They would be surprised to learn that they are not very far from the truth nowadays as many Mauritians are not gullible enough to be influenced by the pre-electoral ‘tam-tam.’ So beware politicians, even old ladies can think for themselves!