What Legacy for the Future?

If the leaders should worry about one thing besides looking after their own interests, it is about what legacy they want to be remembered and maybe thanked for

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

Over the past couple of decades, a certain pattern seems to have set in on the political front: the rot that begins to eat into the ruling regime towards the end of a second mandate. This happened when Labour was nearing the completion of its second term, leading to the victory of the next MSM-led government in 2014 and the near-electoral wipe-out of Labour. Now the MSM is afflicted with the same ill, and there is a clamour among the public to do away with it and to bring back the previous dispensation. Based on their known histories and trajectories, local folklore describes this phenomenon as blanc bonnet-bonnet blanc.

In light of this perception, and to save the country from this burden with its repetitive adverse fallouts on the country and citizens, there is an obvious solution: reduce each electoral term to four years (that is, before the bug sets in), and limit the mandate of the party leader to only two terms. But of course, this will never happen, because it will need a constitutional amendment which the parties will be the first to oppose vigorously. They will prefer to lose and take in the public opprobrium, then wait out in the desert until they present themselves the next time round – rather than to retire and to act as mentors and guides with a succession plan and fresh team(s), for reasons best known to themselves. I concede, however, that, (a) this is easier said than done, and (b) I am not familiar with the internal nitty-gritty of political parties that may ‘militate’ against such eventuality.

Not everyone can be a Nelson Mandela: he decided to serve only one term, stepping down in glory when it was over. He received the love and respect of his people, in fact of the whole world for this second magnanimity – the first one being to forgive his apartheid oppressors and invite them to participate in building a new South Africa. That it hasn’t quite come to be is another matter, and surely, he cannot bear the blame for that. 

In the current atmosphere that begins to smell like the end of yet another political era, the pressures and speculations are similar – dismissal of minister/public officer, call for earlier general elections, more concrete action and outcomes in a number of pending cases, etc. But nothing could be more uncertain.

As a result, there is a widespread feeling of disgust bordering on despair that prevails in the country. One comes across groups of people passionately talking about it, as much as there are others too who prefer to be in denial so as not to spoil their mood or their day as it were.

But it is undeniable that there is anxiety and apprehension about not only the present state of affairs but about the future, and for most citizens it is about the future of the children and the young who are caught in this unhealthy web of machinations against which they are powerless.

If the leaders should worry about one thing besides looking after their own interests, it is about what legacy they want to be remembered and maybe thanked for, as regards the future of the country and the citizens, especially the upcoming generations who pin their hopes on what these leaders have in store for them. Theirs is undoubtedly a genuine concern.

How can they feel confident about their future when they learn that the country’s institutions are infiltrated by the mafia(s), that there is a lack of trust in several institutions, that people in positions of responsibility are not assuming it to the full extent that they should because they give in to interference (in the process compromising their integrity), that there is an unprecedented constitutional crisis at the highest level because of a conflict between the police and the office of the DPP, that cases against drug traffickers who are caught drag on interminably, that other cases fall through because of loopholes in investigative procedures – and so on and so forth. Also, when they are confronted year-in year-out with the Annual Audit Report that reveals the enormity of wastage of taxpayer money that seems unresolvable.

Is it any wonder that those who proceed overseas for their studies do not hesitate to stay back if they get an opportunity? Alas, though, only a relatively few can have such openings, and both post Covid and with the war in Ukraine, countries of destination which are mainly Europe and North America are not as open as before. In fact, several big companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft have been laying off workers by the tens of thousands in recent months, a trend that seems set to continue for an indeterminate period.

There is job contraction in other sectors as well. Thus, our citizens have therefore to fall back on the country’s capacity to provide for their future prospects and expectations of work, decent and affordable housing, education for their children, and amenities that they enjoy in a climate of security. The latter is not guaranteed when social ills such as drugs, control of which appears to be ever elusive, and crimes of all sorts compound an already stressed social situation that add to the woes and worries.

As if these are not enough, citizens have to face being bombarded with details of sordid unfolding dramas in the public sphere on a daily basis. The average layman is left open-mouthed in disbelief accompanied by shock at not only the unpalatable practices that are gratuitously commented upon on social media but also the sheer amounts of monies that are bandied about, ranging from tens and hundreds of millions to billions of rupees. And this when the cost of living keeps going up.

One must not imagine, though, that it is only those at the bottom of the heap who are left trailing. Even those who belong to the so-called middle class and who are assumed to be better off are also engaged in a qualitative struggle to make progress in their lives and to fulfill the legitimate expectations of their families in terms of decent housing and basic and post-basic education for their children.

For this to happen, one does not need salaries approaching millions per month, but they must be enough to allow one to provide for daily needs beyond mere subsistence levels, to make provision for the future (old age contingencies in particular) through secure savings schemes with solid regulatory oversight, and to ensure that children can be supported till they become autonomous. That is what a civilized society is all about, and that is what governments in such societies are expected by their citizens to work towards.

Both the public and the private sectors use the language of millions and billions with regard to plans and projects that are being proposed, and what the people would like to see is how these humongous sums of money will improve the quality of life in the country, overall as well as at the individual level. Especially where Private Public Partnerships are concerned, greater transparency is required so as to demonstrate clearly that the corporate-politics tacit nexus model is indeed benefiting the people, and genuinely taking them and the country forward towards a future of hope and optimism. What other way is there?

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 7 April 2023

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