What is all this fuss about electoral reform?

Titbits

This is how the younger generation is reacting to all the attention that the proposals for an electoral reform are receiving from all quarters. They are aware that the question of eliminating the compulsory declaration of community made by a prospective candidate is an urgency given the constitutional case put up by Resistans ek Alternativ before the Supreme Court. But our youngsters are doubtful about the sincerity of our politicians to find a solution to the whole issue. They believe that most of our politicians have ulterior motives and are trying to mobilise their partisans along their sectarian interests.

The younger generation refuses to tag along and they do not believe that there will be an iota of change for the good of the country even if the electoral reform is undertaken in its best possible manner. They see it all as a ploy, given that the general elections are not too far, with the present government trying to hold on to power and the opposition parties trying to throw them out. They cannot understand why these political parties propose electoral reforms at the end of their mandates when they are unpopular and are no longer credible. ‘Is it not done deliberately to divert people’s attention from the never-ending scandals, the nepotism and profiteering, the social ills and the increase in insecurity all around?’ they ask.

These youngsters think there are other priorities that the Government, the opposition, the media and the general public should equally be concerned about. These are the youngsters who do not have the means and desire to migrate to greener pastures abroad. They have presently few choices and few job opportunities. Youth unemployment rate, which is proving to be much more difficult to tackle, has picked up again reaching 27.5% in the second quarter of 2018, and many of the youngsters are among the 10,000 graduates currently unemployed or underemployed and their future looks bleak. Several of these same youngsters are being employed on contract basis such as the Youth Employment Programme and National Skills Development Programme with poor working conditions and they feel that they are being exploited. These schemes are mere palliatives. They cannot think of building a future career on the basis of these short-term skill formations and placements. They need something more concrete, more permanent, and for the long term.

The present national concern for an electoral reform, they are convinced, is misplaced and a waste of time as it will not achieve much because identity politics will continue to polarise our society. They feel that we should be more bothered about the vision that we are crafting and its prospects which can make a sizeable difference to the younger generation. They would like to see hopeful signs as precursors of the small steps being taken to meet the aspirations of our youth. What are these small steps that will make a difference to our younger generation thus ensuring that they are not left in limbo, that they are not deprived of the opportunity to acquire skills in their formative years, and that they need not suffer needlessly for lack of a visionary leadership?

These small steps, among others, are a concerted national effort to realise growth above the 4% threshold, a drive towards more meritocracy in both the public and private sectors, genuine attempts at reducing the widening income gaps and eliminating absolute poverty, a redirecting of FDI towards productive sectors and bold and enterprising reforms that will chart out a new model of development propelling the economy to a new plateau of growth and opportunities.

Of what use are all these debates on electoral reform when our own younger generation finds that it is all a sham and a ridiculous show that they refuse to condone and be part of. They have seen it before. Lepep Admirab, who votes for change every five years, finds that nothing really changes. Paradoxically, for a country that will be require greater inputs from its youngsters in view of its aging population, we seem to be offering young Mauritians more reasons to migrate to places where the future looks less bleak and uncertain.

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GBCs and the Balance of Payments

It is expected, from the newly released National Accounts estimates, that the Current Account (CA) deficit of the Balance of Payments is likely to improve marginally in 2018 to less than 6% of GDP. A closely related measure of the external deficit, namely the deficit in net exports of goods and services, is also forecast to decrease slightly from 13% of GDP in 2017 to 12.5% in 2018.

 

Balance of Payments
(% of GDP)
2015 2016 2017 2018
Current Account -5.0 -4.2 -6.5 -5.7
Net exports of Goods & Services -10.0 -9.3 -13.0 -12.5
Current Account
(excl. GBCs)
-10.1 -9.0 -11.4 -11.5

 

But without the net inflows of Global Business Companies (GBCs), the CA deficit will remain around 11.5% of GDP, or around Rs 55 billion in 2018. In 2017, net GBC inflows to the Current Account amounted to Rs 22 billion, and with a further Rs 69 billon to the Capital Account, GBCs ensured a balance of payments surplus of Rs 28 billion. Net GBC inflows generate sizeable balance of payments surpluses for Mauritius, despite relatively large current account deficits.

Thus, the balance of payments is heavily dependent on GBC transactions, representing external financing of a total of Rs 91 billion or 20% of GDP in 2017. GBCs as a source of external financing may not be sustainable in view of the new and evolving global framework governing offshore financial centres. The measures taken locally to comply with (1) the OECD/G20 BEPS framework, (2) the EU Code of Conduct approach to tax havens, (3) the FATF anti-money laundering standards, and (4) the elimination of capital gains exemption under the India-Mauritius tax treaty as from April 2019, are bound to impact adversely the future growth of the financial services sector.

In view of our heavy reliance on GBCs for external financing, any reversal of volatile capital inflows could potentially trigger an economic and financial crisis. India is currently facing currency pressures, and is threatened by contagion from a looming emerging markets crisis that has already hit Argentina and Turkey and, to a lesser extent, South Africa and Indonesia.

Two scenarios have been worked out in the Financial Sector Blueprint: (a) the Base case scenario which is based on the assumption of a business as usual international financial centre and a moderate loss of cross-border investment from India, and (b) the Pessimistic scenario which is based on a 80% non-perpetual investment into India declining by two-thirds over the period of 7 years, and the possibility of Africa accounting for 46% of cross-border investment by 2030.

These two scenarios can be the basis for the EDB to carry out further work on the likely impact on our Balance of Payments. It will also have to start addressing the savings-investment imbalance, and revive the domestic savings rate in order to finance the country’s growing investment needs on a sustainable basis.

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Inculcating Values through Education

The lives of the majority of young people worldwide are marred by frustration. Stressed, over-worked and undervalued – these are the characteristics that stick to young people, who have neither the time nor the energy to demand a better future because they are always on-call. They are experiencing the abolition of the life/work division in a way that tends towards total work. “We’re working all the time: whether it’s being buzzed on your phone, always on the computer, always looking at advertisements.”

Growing up in societies that make individualism the highest virtue and solidarity a quaint artefact, the youth are best understood as the jittery, tired children of globalisation. The values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to shortcuts to become wealthy and successful. For e.g. during the subprime mortgage crisis they were told “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.” On their own two legs for the first time, they’re wobbly. Who would expect otherwise? 

Mauritius’ moral compass has been completely obliterated. Some social scientists have revealed the appearance of essential flaws in the national character, prompting a far-reaching debate about social decay and the decline of decorum and morality in the country. Incensed by the media that exerts a disproportionate and undeserved influence on the shaping the national narrative, our reactions veer from silence to indifference to hysteria. Then we go back to sleep and wake up again to react to the latest incident of outrage.

One of the main reasons for this state of affairs – the stress, the violence, the substance abuse – is that our an old-fashioned education system does not prepare our youth for life’s challenges; their ideals are often battered by ground realities, and this increases their frustration and stress levels. Indeed, a balanced development of mind and body in harmony with the spirit is the key to the enrichment of human personality and an outcome of value-based education, which must in the ultimate analysis help humanity to transcend to a higher level of consciousness. Our children must from their infancy be taught the values and traditions for their all-round development.

But we should remain confident about the future because they are many NGOs, which have taken the task of trying their best to leave this world a slightly better place than how they found it. They are making a difference to the lives of children. They are setting up value-based education centres all over the island for the blossoming of children, inculcating values and traditions for their all-round development, nurturing children to get back in touch with our value system and develop into better human beings.

These centres will be run by committed volunteers who are trained as teachers or coordinators. They provide a family atmosphere to children. In a loving atmosphere and in playful manner, they share the wealth of experience from their lives along with outlined sessions – development of character and personality, inculcation of good values, yoga for healthy body and mind, practical uses of home remedies, games, creative expression for a sharp mind and free spirit and appreciation of diverse cultures and traditions.

We are living on borrowed time and borrowed dimes. We still have all the potential for achieving a better society, but only if we get back to work on our country. We have waited far too long for a genuine education system — not one that that churns super rats for a rat race instead of nurturing excellence and creativity, that enhances our ability to perceive things better, increases awareness and nourishes inbuilt virtues. We hope that Government will at the very least support these NGOs – those front-line troops tackling social ills and bridging the gap between formal education and family and society’s based values-education.


* Published in print edition on 5 October 2018

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