A land tribunal with a sitting judge: They had promised

Political Caricatures

By Lepep

As in the case of the pledge for a reliable 24/7 water supply, it seems that the Alliance Lepep had promised in its election manifesto to implement the recommendations of the Justice and Truth Commission, particularly the creation of a Land Tribunal with a sitting judge. Government has never been serious about fulfilling this promise either. Now they are hiding behind the interministerial committee set up to study the recommendations of the Justice and Truth commission’s report. The committee has met only once since it was set up in October. Now under pressure from the hunger strikers, it met last week.

The Minister of Local Communities has indicated that all members of the interministerial committee are currently examining the recommendations of the Justice and Truth Commission, and that they will come out with their own recommendations in the coming days. As for the setting up of the land Tribunal, she thinks it may take some three to six months to get it going to the satisfaction of the victims.

But Clency Harmon is not giving up, he is even more determined in his fight. His health is beginning to deteriorate after more than ten days of going without food. We wonder what kind of a game the Attorney General had been playing in this matter?

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 Budget proposals for a thriving fishing industry

Mauritius Offshore Fishermen Cooperative Federation submitted its proposals to the Ministry of Finance for the next budget. They comprise the installation of a cold room in the port to store their chilled fish, an ice-making machine to be installed in the port area which will supply blocks of ice to semi-industrial fishing boats for off-lagoon fishing, and a laptop and software to detect flaws in the engine of semi-industrial boats. When the fishing boats break down, it’s very difficult to identify the faults. And a boat which cannot go out to sea has a serious impact on fishermen’s income. With the help of a computer and its software, technicians will not waste time detecting engine failures before making repairs.

The fishermen want facilities for the setting up of outlets across the country which will allow them to supply the population with fish at more affordable prices. At the same time, if this request is approved, the fishermen want the authorities to give them a refrigerated truck for the delivery of fish.

The Director of Mouvement pour l’Autosuffisance Alimentaire (MAA) reiterates his call to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for decent shelters to be built on St Brandon Island. This will allow fishermen to resume their production of salted fish. He recalled that a few years ago the authorities had destroyed their makeshift shelters.

Together with these small but important steps, efforts should continue towards establishing modern hatcheries and acquisition of outer reef/off-lagoon fishing vessels, as well the establishment of a fishing fleet which will make the fishing industry more modern and productive, thereby maximising the possibilities of increasing its contribution to the fourth pillar – the Ocean economy.

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The Ministry of Tourism fails in rallying NGOs for a clean-up campaign

On last Sunday the Ministry of Tourism organized a clean-up activity of the beach and lagoon at Trou d’Eau Douce. The clean-up aimed at ridding the lagoon of plastic waste which poses a serious threat to the marine ecosystem. This clean-up campaign also benefitted from the support of the Ministries of Housing and Lands, Fisheries, Environment, and Regional Administrations, the Flacq District Council, elements of the Special Mobile Force, hotel establishments in the region and volunteers.

The Minister of Tourism, Anil Gayan, who met the press before the event, lamented the fact that Mauritians who go to the sea do not care about the environment. “They leave their garbage, including plastic bags and bottles on the beaches, and are unaware of the harmful consequences of their actions on the marine environment,” he said. He explained that besides the fact that the filth and garbage affect the environment, plastics that go to sea are harmful to dolphins and other marine creatures. The minister calls for a change of mentality.

Anil Gayan was very critical of 15 non-governmental organizations that were invited to participate in the operation but declined the ministry’s invitation. “If Government is government and government decides!” Anil Gayan should not be surprised if he is not getting the collaboration of NGOs. Moreover NGOs, well aware that the political parties are gearing up for forthcoming elections, do not want to get involved in such well-programmed shows which seek to provide more visibility to those in power. This one-off gimmick will not solve the problem of pollution. Cleaning is good but not dirtying is better. We need bolder policies on pollution by plastic. This government lacks commitment and firmness to end plastic pollution. Why should one expect the committed NGOs to support a government which does not have the guts to make the polluters pay!

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 Civil servants on Statutory Boards

Of late our institutions have been suffering from an ethics and governance deficit. They seem to have repudiated transparency and accountability with a nonchalant shrug. This is the worst case of effete leadership shown by our institutions. Many of those at the helm of statutory boards bend too easily with the wind, which explains why a good number of our institutions have lost their sheen and respectability. This, the Mo Ibrahim index on governance will not be telling us.

It is time that our institutions are given greater autonomy and freedom to work independently. One way to go about this is remove public officials from their boards. Two of our institutions, the State Bank of Mauritius and the National Empowerment Foundation were in the news recently because of their poor performance. Both of them have top civil servants, from the top ministries like MOFED or/and the PMO, on their boards. One wonders whether the contribution of these civil servants has added value to these institutions. Does their conscience allow them to be there only for the allowances and to do the bidding of their political masters? We should follow the example of New Zealand where Ministers are not allowed to appoint public servants to statutory boards. We need immediate reforms to restore accountability and credibility to our institutions.

We can take an incremental approach starting by: (a) putting in place a transparent nomination process of board directors. The key element of such a process should include developing clear selection criteria, professionalizing the nomination process and enhancing public scrutiny of the results; (b) establishing a framework for performance management. Government needs to develop a framework for communicating government’s expectations to each institution and to the public. The core of the process in most countries is the establishment of a performance agreement; (c) reviewing performance and holding institutions accountable, and (d) establishing performance incentives and targets.

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Writing off Rs 437 million on leases for State Lands

 In the Audit Report for the financial year ended 30 June 2017, our attention was drawn on the amount of Rs 436.8 million that the Ministry of housing and Lands intended to write off due to no vehicular access to State lands leased at Les Salines and Balaclava. And for the financial year 2017-18, following the Attorney General’s Office advice, Rs 188 million were excluded from arrears for one promoter at Les Salines. For another promoter at Les Salines, the rental due had decreased by Rs 40 million upon signature, in October 2017, of a lease agreement with new terms and conditions.

“The reason invoked is that these lands did not have access to the road network does not hold water because Article 21 of the State Land Lease stipulates that the lessee must undertake the road infrastructure works at his own expense,” advanced David Sauvage and Catherine Remillah, who want confirmation from the Ministry whether the group New Mauritius Hotels Ltd is one of the beneficiaries.

ReA is convinced that we are witnessing a grabbing of public money and the destruction of precious scarce resources and irreparable damage to our ecosystem. That says a lot about the connivance of successive governments with the economic oligarchy, to the detriment of the population, they added, recalling that the Environment Court must decide on a Stop Order request claimed by ReA with respect to the destruction of ESA Wetland # 76 to make room for the construction of the NMH’s hotel at Les Salines of Riviere-Noire.

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Operation coupe-ruban

 At each of its operations of “coupe-ruban”, the PM keeps asserting that the country has become a “chantier” and is experiencing a new phase of development and transformation – a process afoot since these past four years. But the figures tell a different story. Actually public investment as a percentage of GDP is lower in 2018, despite expenditures on Metro Express, than it was in 2014. Total public investment in that year was higher at 19.7% compared to 18.7% in 2018. So there is not much that differentiates the present regime from the previous one. This “coupe-ruban” phenomenon was also a recurring feature under the previous regime with the MBC-TV not far behind to sing the praise and extol the virtues of the government of the day. What has changed then?

The main challenges facing the country have not been tackled and crucial reforms have been avoided. The dialogue about “chantier” is a shrewd way of trying to show that the economy is constantly on the move but you cannot fool all the people all the time, they are bound to catch up with you and demand more of durable and high-quality growth, structural reforms to build resilience in growth and jobs, more measures to address income inequality, and raise skills and productive potential across the workforce. They want to see much more than the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

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While the captains blame each other, SBM sinks!

 As the value of the shares of SBM Holdings continues to plunge on the stock exchange, the different protagonists in the SBM Tower saga are blaming each other for credit loss expenses of Rs 3.6 billion for the FY ending 31 December 2018. The Chairman of the SBM holdings Ltd has blamed the top management of the bank and is considering criminal proceedings against those responsible for the bad loans that have affected the profits of the bank which fell by Rs 1.2 billion.

The Chairman of the SBM holdings Ltd has lately been saying that SBM Holdings Ltd is a separate entity from the State Bank. But readers will recall that the Chairman of SBM holdings Ltd has always been at the forefront of the Bank detailing out its new strategies and its latest expansion in Kenya. One would recall his very apt comments wherein he acknowledged that the State Bank has left some feathers in the BAI case and that the SBM group’s new strategy was to get out of the “concentration risk”. Now that the risk strategies have failed, he tries to absolve himself of any responsibility.

When the going is good, the Chairman enjoys the limelight and the praises that go with it, but when situation turns awry, “Pas moi, li sa”. Need we say more, Mr Kee Cheong?

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Gambling Regulatory Authority: Biased  

The off-course bookmakers are not yet out of the woods. They had obtained a favorable judicial review by the Supreme Court last week after an decision by the Gambling Regulatory Authority forcing them to return to the Champ de Mars. They are back to square one as the GRA has appealed against the judgement.On March 6, the GRA and the bookmakers had a contractual agreement in front of Eddy Balancy, then acting chief judge, and in which the bookmakers agreed to pay Rs 500,000 as a license fee off-course,” advanced Sailesh Kumar Dusoye, director of Stevebook Limited and spokesman for the group.However, to the astonishment of off-course bookmakers, the GRA remained inflexible, despite the agreement before the judge. Jean-Claude Foo Kune also expressed his great bitterness towards the GRA, which he considers “biased in the treatment accorded to other betting operators whose fees of operation are however inferior to ours.” He stressed that each bookmaker off-course had to pay a license of Rs 3,5 M, while it was only Rs 350,000 before 2015.According to Jean-Claude Foo Kune, the state’s decision in 2008 to move them out of the Champ de Mars was aimed at putting an end to illegal bets across the country. What are the motivations of the authorities today, he wonders, given about 50 outlets dealing with sports betting have since come into being. The off-course bookmakers also mentioned a possible amendment of the GRA Act leading to the abolition of off-course betting licenses.

* Published in print edition on 12 April 2019

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