“More matter, less art!”

There has been much artful and sometimes noisy communication, yet little meat or matter achieved, even if one accepts the official tenet that seeds are being sown for thirty years down the road horizon. Government still has ample time to adjust its aim and focus on essentials for the country rather than on those that seem to matter most to the political class

When the Queen uttered this stern admonition to one of the spies sent to fathom and report on Hamlet, her own son’s state of mind, she was surely not referring to spin-doctoring or opinion management techniques. But the curt expression of annoyance, as with so many Shakespearean bites, sounds peculiarly topical in today’s world, less and less keen on the proverbial artful ability of politicians to discourse lengthily without meat.

When the Lepep alliance took over in December last, many would have felt relief that the LP-MMM twin-team experimental and constitutional imbroglio, however artlessly crafted up in those semi-public lengthy “on-off” negotiations, had been rejected by a large and clear majority of the voting population. With the leadership qualities of SAJ structuring the triangular Lepep alliance, it mattered little who were the candidates, nor that some had been intimate part and parcel of the past, still less what was in the programme manifesto.

The incoming Lepep government could call on experienced hands, it inherited healthy reserves prudentially saved in the national account books, an economy sputtering along at a modestly healthy 3.6-3.8% and benefited from low and tumbling international oil prices. It uncovered enough material to make its point that unsuspected excesses and dysfunctionings of the former regime needed to be corrected. There was therefore little reason not to believe that more ambitious economic development targets could not be achieved by a more suave, dexterous and vigorous approach to the management of the national economy.

Yet, deliverables in 2015 on the economic front are disheartening, little better than 2014 and, in the case of public debt or job creation, rather worse, as the national accounts figures bear out. Statistics Mauritius’ latest forecasts show that net job creation may reach some 5000 in 2015, public debt is on the rise and foreign or local investments have stalled despite government’s numerous announcements of “mega-projects” in the pipeline or already approved.

Investors, local or foreign, are naturally cautious as they assess large investments and are far more so when local financial dramas panning out over the past year have claimed the headlines. Others may have been affected by the unresolved DTAA quango with India, dragging the financial sector and qualified manpower down. Mega-projects hinging on property sales take time to mature, create jobs and rake in the expected financial returns. Some sectors like construction or fishing may hold little promise for qualified young graduates while textile manufacturing still relies heavily on imported labour.

And in many a way, if there is a countrywide feeling of disenchantment, to use a euphemism, the roots are not in some “instant gratification” syndrome that Mauritians would have curiously developed in the past year. It is first and foremost an auto-fuelled crisis: the Lepep candidates did not fail to whip up campaign promises, leaving no stone unturned in heightening expectations of the promised land, that of a quasi-mystical second miracle waiting to happen.

The population’s considered view tends to be far more subjective than official figures: the initial rise in pensions and salary compensations have been swallowed up within months and living conditions have deteriorated. There is a growing feeling that politically-motivated agendas, and a new cohort of administrative and policing excesses, are polluting the atmosphere, overshadowing what would have been legitimate correction of excesses and bolstering institutions. Nominations and recruitments, the MBC regime and the occasional “boutades” of senior ministers have done little to reassure. Add to that an aura of political muddling on some key issues and, it is little wonder, in villages and towns around the countryside, that the early spirit of ebullient enthusiasm has petered out.

In short, there has been much artful and sometimes noisy communication, yet little meat or matter achieved, even if one accepts the official tenet that seeds are being sown for thirty years down the road horizon. Government still has ample time to adjust its aim and focus on essentials for the country rather than on those that seem to matter most to the political class.

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