The present government has yet to reach mid-term, but if one were to assess its balance sheet so far, would one be wrong to say that it has accumulated more liabilities than assets? On the surface of it, unfortunately this looks to be the case. It started off on a right note by its relatively successful handling of the menace posed by Covid-19. However, this has lately been marred by allegations levelled by a daily about the calculated decision to postpone the lockdown last March so as to allow the PM’s family to fly back safely to the country. This has been strongly denied by the latter’s wife. To add to this comes another dark spot: the revelations about the questionable procurement of medical supplies and drugs from sources other than established suppliers, such as hardware businesses and others involved in the travel and tourism sector, etc.
Moreover, several of its actions have gone contrary to what it had proposed in its government programme. Meritocracy has not always occupied the front stage. Friends and relatives of politicians have been favoured to an extent that has shocked the population. Several members of the government and the administration have shown in their public dealings that they have not measured up effectively to the level that is expected of individuals who occupy such key and strategic positions. The country is thus having to bear the consequential burdens of the mismanagement blunders at Air Mauritius and State Bank of Mauritius, with the former almost grounded. Yet another issue which has added to the negative public perception of the government has been the corruption scandal linked to the St Louis power plant redevelopment project with funding from the African Development Bank. To add insult to injury as it were, this has come in the wake of the European Commission’s decision to place Mauritius on the list of high-risk jurisdictions, causing a severe blow to the country’s reputation and to the integrity of its Global Business sector, which was already feeling the tremors coming in the wake of the mishandling of the DTA issue with India.
This accumulation of mishaps has inevitably had the effect of neutralising the attempts of government to defend itself. Being on the defensive automatically renders any party even more vulnerable, so that government has made itself an easy target of criticisms from all and sundry, as is evident on a daily basis in part of the local media. Given the time it still theoretically has on its side before the end of its mandate, the question arises whether it can set right all that it has been doing wrong? The possibility that it could partly redeem itself cannot be fully ruled out, given the pressure under which it has come of its own doing or wrongdoing. The problem however is: it keeps adding to its shortcomings almost regularly.
In politics, people remember the negative aspects more than the positive ones – its own campaign during the last two electoral bouts are proof of this if any were needed. One great moral principle in ethics is: when your adversary is down, don’t kick him anymore. But in a political environment notorious for transgressions of morality, the opposition forces are baying for blood and are prepared to engage in mortal combat. Politics is no longer grounded in respect of the opponent, which was premised on treating it as adversary rather than enemy. The least that can be said is that the government is faced with a steep uphill climb if it wants to regain the pre-pandemic image that it started with. The sooner it gets over the top the better it will be not only for itself but for the country and its citizens – which is the most important issue at stake. And the time to act has never been more urgently now.
* Published in print edition on 21 July 2020