Economic Security, Society’s Security


In last Friday’s issue of this paper we published an interview of Lord Meghnad Desai who requires no formal introduction to the Mauritian public, and who was Chairman of the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) – a creation of the Bank of Mauritius set up in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic as its economic and social impacts began to be felt. A sum of Rs 80 billion, taken from the foreign reserves of the BOM was put at its disposal to be allocated as bailouts to various sectors of industry upon application from the respective organizations. The MIC is mandated to play an oversight role, to make sure that the moneys disbursed are channelled towards and utilized in the manner in which they were intended to.

We will not go into the details here, but suffice it to say that there has been a lot of criticisms of the MIC from its very inception, and this has been mostly negative: it should be something completely separate from the BOM, government must give details in Parliament about the sums disbursed, the criteria for disbursement and the conditions attached must be in the public domain – and this latter assumed greater pitch given the veil over procurement transactions; drawing from the BOM was an unorthodox and unacceptable practice; the country’s financial situation would be rendered even more precarious than what it already was, and so on and so forth. Further, this step went against the IMF’s recommendation.

Almost with a wave of the hand, Lord Desai dismisses the IMF’s concern. In his interview, as is to be expected, he defends the setting-up of the MIC and the measures it has taken under his chairmanship to bail out organizations, and goes into some detail to explain that all procedures have been followed and that as Chairman he is satisfied that things have been done appropriately and properly.

From an ideological point of view – the need to bail out – he is right in the sense that practically all big economies have adopted the same route. However, he himself admits that he was conducting committee meetings online, away from Mauritius. It is open to question therefore whether he had all the information at his disposal, especially the nitty-gritty. Have these moneys found their way into dividends, for example, or have employees been laid off whereas all were supposed to remain in their jobs?

Sameer Sharma whom we have interviewed in this paper, and who has also penned articles for MT, in an article in l’express takes a position which counters the rosy picture that Lord Desai depicted of the MIC. The article puts forth several arguments of a very technical nature, but the sum total is that things could have been done differently, so as to preserve financial soundness at the same time as meeting the objectives of supporting companies and saving livelihoods. Time will tell, but the debate is definitely not over.

* * *

A related concern, however, is the security of civil society from a law and order point of view. All manner of crimes and misdemeanours have kept on happening irrespective of the pandemic, and a recent incident that has been brought to our attention flags the issue of security directly. A few nights ago a young man was driving back home around 11.30 p.m. along the Floreal road towards Curepipe where he lives. He noticed that a car was trailing him, and when he took a turn in the direction of the Police Station the car went into the other direction.

His father was advised to take him along and make a statement at the Police Station, which was duly done the next morning. There, an officer told him in as many words that the security situation in Mauritius is currently very bad, because there are a lot of unemployed people, especially youth. This is the kind of activity they are involved in to get easy money, and do not hesitate to use all means however violent. He added that he himself was similarly trailed a few weeks ago but the Police were able to track, identify and arrest the culprits.

What was more worrying was his averment that the situation is likely to get worse, and this in light of the fact that sooner or later the government will have to terminate the wage assistance scheme which cannot go on indefinitely. So while on the one the generous packages to big organizations have kept them and their employees ‘afloat’, we are faced with a major concerning issue about those who were on wage assistance and also those usually involved in criminal activities. Not only must all citizens be doubly vigilant as they start to frequent public places such as restaurants, they have to be more careful about their security especially at night. This caution also applies to personnel from the essential and emergency services who have to move about at night. It is hoped that, aware of the risks and dangers that will be on the upswing, the police will gear itself to face the changing situation with the firmness that it deserves.

* Published in print edition on 13 July 2021

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