Water Round The Clock

Maunthrooa’s indictment of years of MSM-ML lacklustre management was damning even as he raised hopes that maybe such a state of affairs would belong to the past

By Jan Arden

One of the marquee campaign pledges of the 2014 general elections was the promise of water availability on a continuous round-the-clock basis, aptly summed up and hammered home as “delo 24/7”. Not in some vague distant future, not simply a wish or a driving objective but something concrete to be achieved nationwide within 1 or 2 years, through the major dams that had recently been erected (Midlands, Bagatelle), promised new distribution infrastructure and a general overhaul of management structures and practices.

Five years later the battle cry of 2014 already sounded hollow and 24/7 water remained a pipe dream.

Several spontaneous manifestations of increasing frustration by citizens beleaguered over the past year by either chronic water shortages or those consecutive to repeated floodings and clogged filtering stations, aggravated by an administration (CWA) seen as largely non-responsive and a repressive attitude of law enforcement towards their sometimes prolonged duress have finally prodded the higher authorities to some earnest action. By despatchingPMO Senior Advisor Prakash Maunthrooa as General Manager, the necessity of a knowledgeable administrator and communicator at the helm of the ailing behemoth, prior to future general elections, was acknowledged. At a time when many public institutions are toiling under the weight of incompetence, graft, and political appointments, he seems to have the necessary authority to cut through bureaucratic sloth where necessary to get things moving and keep frustrations off the streets.

Maunthrooa’s also is the unenviable task to walk back the 24/7 promise or at least redefine its meaning, which he has done with some effect on air-waves this Tuesday, announcing funding resources and working under the purview of a new high-level inter-ministerial committee. Without damning his predecessors, either ministerial or at the CWA,Prakash Maunthrooa had nonetheless to recognise the multiple fronts on which action had been tepid at best: hundreds of kilometres of pipes that were still defective and required planned replacement, poor sub-contractors and the supervision of works, non-revenue water (water losses) still at the 55-60% levels of ten years ago, poor management of customer complaints and organisation of emergency water tankers, inadequate planning of new water sources, surface or underground.

The indictment of years of MSM-ML lacklustre management was damning even as he raised hopes that maybe such a state of affairs at that key public sector body would belong to the past. He may benefit from a grace period but end-of-year water shortages followed by heavy summer rainfalls and floods are recurrent and already round the corner. They will provide an early test whether catch-up intentions proclaimed after 8 years of administration by the regime measure up against realities.


Tourism: Caution Needed

It would be most short-sighted for industry operators to claim that shortfall in entry-level personnel should be addressed by imported labour

Many Mauritians might have been shocked by some statements emanating from the tourism sector complaining of Mauritian personnel shortages and lobbying for migrant labour. The sector has diverse levels of operators ranging from informal sector villa complexes, through boutique, three-star and five-star flagship hotels and brands but we have to wonder if that is the wish of those companies struggling to retain trained employees or those majors who have had years of high profitability and dividend payments to their shareholders prior to the momentary glitch caused by the pandemic.

Several of those industry majors have applied for and benefited from the Central Bank reserves through the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) to tide over their financial or cash-flow shortfalls and their operations or profits have recovered today to pre-Covid levels. In either case, this lobbying for loosening the ties on expatriatemigrant labour (mostly from South-East Asian countries and Madagascar) is disturbing and should call for a thorough review by the authorities and operators of the reasons for the sector’s overall inability to retain trained Mauritian personnel.

There are understandable reasons why a young man/woman with a basic hospitality training and a minimum of two years in a local hotel, may wish to embark for other shores or, more probably, on cruise vessels for contractual work that is better paid and offers overseas travel and training opportunities. It is an increasingly attractive outlet for those hundreds of our youth who have neither the wish nor the enabling personal circumstances for tertiary education or are frustrated with our local horizons, environment, or work culture.

Others may have transport problems to work at beach hotels and its often anti-social hours or demands. Still others, silent spectators of the wastes and prices charged to residents for a soft or a bottle of wine or even the room rate while they know the financial and perks packages offered to foreign expatriates at various management levels and are aware of the dividends and profitability of their employer, can feel aggrieved by basic salaries that do not reflect their input, welcoming attitudes and love of the industry despite those odds.

We are blessed with sun and beach but for decades thousands of dedicated Mauritian personnel in the low-paying jobs (from gardening and security of the immaculate outdoors, through house-working and cleaning to cooking and smiling attentive service) have had an immense contribution to the cachet and special place we have earned in the hearts of the travelling Francophone community. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 7 October 2022

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