The outlandish and, to most observers, unexpected outcome of the December elections in terms of parliamentary seats can induce euphoria on the MSM-PMSD-ML side and has already induced difficult but necessary reassessments in the Labour Party (LP) and MMM camps. This is being said without abstracting from the honourable performances of some individuals and smaller parties to the democratic debate.
The leader of the LP has done a commendable job in introspection, acknowledging the personal factors and responsibilities in the several “errements” that gradually took shape from 2005 and that have earned him and his party a second mammoth ousting from Parliament. The autocritique, from what we read in the press, was probably near exhaustive enough although one could add the singular lack of an autonomous LP political agenda and bilan, as well as a worrying derailment of a party with a long history of core values. It was a prerequisite for a re-engineering that should be thorough and comprehensive.
The MMM is caught up in a similar vortex as its leadership struggles to fathom grassroots disconnect and the failure of militancy to acknowledge the prospect of Berenger as full-time PM for 5 years as a worthwhile political end in itself. As with the LP leader’s closest advisors, the electoral maths certainties were overtaken by ground reality. A calamitous campaign and some arrogant posturings did the rest, when, under our electoral setup, a mere 5-10% shift in electoral allegiances is often sufficient to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! Despite having salvaged enough seats for a vocal parliamentary opposition, the MMM leadership is obviously still reeling and licking its wounds.
Before becoming the reindeer-led benign bearded figure of gift-bearing Father Christmas, Saint Nicolas, for some reason better known as Santa Claus, was a IIIrd century Turkish bishop, reputed for miracles, a protector of children and a saint patron saving navigators from ship-wreck! He appears to have brought early blessings here.
As expected, the new regime has lost no time in announcing the first “quick-win” measure in its twelve pledges for the first three months in office: the increase of pensions, a game-changer promise that contributed in no small way to turn the tide on the 12th of October last. It concerns some 250,000 beneficiaries of pensions who should obviously enjoy the benefit.
The combined measures could well cost some Rs 7 billion to be forked out from government funds and all employers. That the incoming government and Finance Minister felt this “largesse”, in the name of “national appeasement” was a bearable burden, is testimony that they did not inherit an economy stalling on the rocks or one that was in the doldrums. It remains to be seen whether these immediate Santa gifts will have a negative impact on struggling SMEs and whether the largesse will be recouped at the coming 2015 budget through a rise in prices for government and public services, excise duties on tobacco and spirits or other indirect forms of taxation.
For the moment, Santa has come a bit early, generously bestowing his comforts around. At Parliamentary and Cabinet level, a full battery of newcomers and old-timers, many happily surprised, can beam up and enjoy the festive season after tiresome months of campaigning. The pressures and tracasseries of delivering up to the wide catalog of campaign promises will come soon enough.
We observed last week that sharing of the spoils and SAJ’s personal handicraft in the appointment of Cabinet Ministers will be the first clear indication of MSM political intentions in this new triangular power-game. The list was finalised rapidly by SAJ in La Caverne last week: a Cabinet of 24 portfolios (including PM and Minister of Interior and the Attorney General) out of which 3 for the ML of Ivan Collendavelloo, 4 for the PMSD of Xavier Duval and a healthy 17 for the MSM.
One obviously has to await when other appointments (ambassadorships, key para-statal nominees, advisors, PPS, etc) will be made. That should help understand the numbers in perspective. For the moment, all the incomers will be wished well, as they collectively shoulder the future performance and orientations of a government where, with 17 major ministries under its belt, the MSM is assuming the major share of responsibilities of driving delivery on campaign pledges for renewal.
Cleaning up demonstrable criminal or fraudulent acts are part of the renewal picture, although respect for “l’Etat de droit” and the judiciary process are even more important for a numerically strong government. There are sufficiently serious challenges on the national development front for government to focus its energies where it matters the most.
Revving up the economy, driving the sugar and textile sectors upwards, implementing new economic pillars, reinvigorating SMEs, putting in place more resilient good governance procedures, consolidating fraud and corruption controls into a stronger, more independent framework, reducing public wastage, acting effectively on Audit Reports and warding off the systematic upward variations that seem to accompany every public contract, are only some areas of challenges where even modest successes should be welcome.
Upgrading of the services in public health, revamping the education hub, higher and technical included, all these urgently need attention. Regional collaboration, with recent developments in Madagascar, and Africa has to be given more credence. Reconciling energy within Maurice Ile Durable, taking steps to ensure small planters get their fair share in the cane-sugar sector are all tasks that await concerted action.
There is no reason to believe that SAJ will not carry on with the no-nonsense approach and firm decision-taking that have been his hallmark nor that he is unaware of the urgencies to start the ball rolling in all ministries, inculcating a new drive in the early months. The productive sectors have for too long been in a sort of limbo; their horizon should be now be made clearer.
* Published in print edition on 24 December 2014