The MedPoint affair: a controversial purchase

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep Admirab

In the court case brought by Mr Rajesh Jeetah, the former Labour Party Minister of Tertiary Education (and earlier Health minister), against Minister Mentor, Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ), the former claims that SAJ had in a press conference said that « Jeetah, moi mo au courant, qui ti recevoir Malhotra dès le depart dans so biro. zot ti pé diskiter et ti pé alle fer ene deal direk ca. Pas ti pu passe par tender ».

Mr Jeetah did receive Dr Malhotra in his office but allegedly told him that it was his ministry’s policy not to accept unsolicited submissions. The meeting was very cordial; they had some biscuits, topped up by some tea and Dr Malhotra was even accompanied to the door by the ex-Minister and the ex-Senior Chief Executive. But prior to that meeting Mr Jeetah admitted to having received two emails on the subject from Dr Krishan Malhotra.

Dr Krishan Malhotra, son-in-law of SAJ, made the trip to Mauritius for the current trial. He was present in court but was not heard. That’s the first episode, we are just giving you an idea of the scene and the actors involved in this saga. Watch out for the forthcoming episodes as they unravel!

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Home solar project for poor households in Trèfles, Rose-Hill

The Home Solar Project, which was launched last May in Allée Jacques, Cascavelle, aims at installing solar photovoltaic systems on rooftops of 10,000 poor households at the rate of 2000 installations annually. The latest installation by the Central Electricity Board (CEB) subsidiary, CEB Green Energy, was at Trèfles Rose-Hill.

It is a social project to help poor households from the Social Register produce their own electricity without having to spend a penny. It seems that the random draw to determine the beneficiaries is loaded in favour of party agents or those close to a political party. There are reasons to believe that the selection process is not transparent.

The authorities should not forget that the project is being financed from taxpayers’ money and that they should spare no effort to ensure that there is no political interference or any doubts about the allocation process not being transparent and fair. Send in ICAC – if need be!

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Doing Business Indicators: Not applicable for local business

The Economist magazine recently did highlight the fact that out that the World Bank rates countries in the Doing Business report by asking thousands of lawyers, accountants and others the time it takes for a small firm to get registered, obtain a building permit, pay taxes and so on. “Their answers, it is true, do not always fit well with what firms themselves say about their own experience.”

This is exactly what our SME entrepreneurs and exporters have been saying: the Doing Business report does not seem to match the actual experience of local entrepreneurs. It takes more than eight months for obtaining the Permission in Principle (PIP) to import; the procedures/paperwork are daunting. A mere refund for small businesses participating in the trade fairs takes months. An SME e-platform to provide more visibility to SME products and an export financing facility for SME are taking their own time.

The Doing Business indicators seem to privilege foreign firms while our local firms struggle for survival burdened by bundles of red tape, poor access to finance and unfair import competition.

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The health system fails the PLWHIVs

It is revolting! Our health system is not living up to its commitment towards People living with HIV (PLWHIVs). Social workers accompanying the PLWHIVs are revolted by the high level of casualties recorded since the beginning of the year among the 30 patients affected by opportunistic infections or complications related to their state of health.

Having almost two deaths per month is unacceptable. With the treatments currently available, a patient with HIV/AIDS should not be dying of the complications associated with his illness. They are not being given the necessary care and treatment when they attend hospital because of complications. The authorities must come forward with concrete solutions so that there is real patient care and effective HIV services can be delivered to PLWHIVs. This is a challenge to our healthcare system which has to upgrade itself to realise its first strategic priority of the WHO Country Cooperation Strategic Agenda, namely to strengthen the control and prevention of new HIV infection and to provide a continuum of comprehensive care to all PLWHIVs.

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Combined Cycle Gas Turbine at Fort George Power Station

Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly. Our daring Ivan le Teribble seems to have succeeded in his coup, sending nervous jitters among our Independent Power Producers.

You would surely recall that we had alerted you to the fact that MMM-MSM Koz-Koze were over and the Chihuahua has thus been emboldened for a more frontal attack against the Great Dane; that the tergiversations of the Central Procurement Board (CPB) were mere fudging, waiting for orders from above.

It seems that the CPB has finally given its approval for the CEB to award the contract under some determined conditions to one of the bidders. The only snag is that no provision has been made in the budget for this project; if the latter goes ahead it will mean around Rs 6 billion will have to be added to the Public Debt figures which would then stand at 65.4% of GDP as at September 2018.

The country is a “chantier”, but there is a cost – a bulging public debt.

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The Public Sector: Emperors and their fiefs

The work of the Caunhye Commission, with the hearing of several public officials, reveals a darker side of a Public Sector that lacks leadership, professionalism and accountability. A PS who has been given a different posting continues to meddle in its previous assignment, even continuing to request access to the VIP facilities at the airport for Alvaro Sobrinho and his entourage. That’s very serious, especially when we are being given titbits of how the State House was being run – note the unbelievable familiarity of some of the government officials at State House with those of Planet Earth Institute. It is scandalous, and it shows a deteriorating civil service.

The Public Sector is peopled with little emperors reigning supreme, unchallenged and unaccountable, over their submissive fiefs. And this is not surprising, given that the head of the Public Sector is too busy, with so many assignments and board memberships on his plate which would apparently fetch him a monthly jackpot of half a million rupees, to take them to task. On the basis of basic corporate governance principles, it is impossible for a Director to be efficient and effective by serving on so many boards of parastatals and other government institutions.

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The slaughtering of trees at Anse La Raie

The construction of a by-pass road at Anse La Raie involving the felling of some 155 trees is being hotly contested. Everyone has his own reasons to express disagreement with the project – ecological, economic and political ones. Some care the least about the ecological aspects, they are more bothered about how they will be affected economically or otherwise by the project and are looking into the possibility of some kind of compensation.

For others, the political opportunists, this is a gold mine for building some contacts with some militant organizations. They try to convince voters that they are part of the avant-gardist thinkers especially the environmental groups at the forefront of the barricades and tree-hugging protest movements. As for the latter, some of their arguments are quite valid. Roads and roads are being built everywhere but they are leading to nowhere. Their region does not need this by-pass; it does not fit well with the environment and it will spoil the unique features and beauty of the area. They go beyond the felling of trees to demand a more vigorous effort at replanting of endemic trees to recreate the forest area of yesteryears.

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Air Mauritius: Losses of Rs 700 million for the first semester

If my memory serves me right, some time back Air Mauritius recorded profits. There was jubilation, with the usual hyperboles that the company had reviewed its model of operation and had brought in such and such reputed experts to reengineer and redesign the whole structure of the airline company, which appeared to have been plagued by some viruses under the previous directorship and government.

Now battered by strong headwinds, it easily buckles under and starts to gasp for air, serving us with the same hyperboles and remedies. “La compagnie s’est engagé à revoir son modèle économique eu égard au contexte et aux défis actuels…” Well-chosen words to con us once more, it would seem.

Usually under such conditions and with such losses, the whole board should be offering their resignation. Here in Mauritius, they are likely to remain glued to the director’s seat – refer to the earlier hedging saga. We have to be more forceful; what is required is a “un coup de balai”…

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Commemoration of Guy Rozemont’s birthday: Political opportunism and identity politics

The 103rd birthday anniversary of Guy Rozemont was celebrated in the present quite acrimonious context of a passionate and intense debate on the need or not of a census along ethnic lines. This commemoration provided some of the participants an excellent forum to recast the struggles of the great freedom fighter to embrace their more partisan interpretation.

For the political party that was present it was important to show that Guy Rozemont was a prominent member of a party of equals by placing him on the same pedestal as other historical leaders, and thus try to win over the community that considers itself marginalized under the different political regimes not only in terms of economic opportunities but also identity and status.

As for the social groups present, it was contextual to highlight the African origin of Guy Rozemont and emphasize his ethnicity, centering around assertions of identity rather than on his broader politics of struggle and liberation for all. At the same time it was an appeal to communal identity, building it around a shared experience of exploitation and resentment.

Unfortunately, we were denied the intervention of the leader of another important opposition party whose well-researched and detailed historical lectures are always a delight for his followers; it would have surely focussed on the “militantisme“ of Guy Rozemont (and shed some light on his demand for an independent Mauritius while the other historical leaders were negotiating for a particular type of association with the colonial power). He would have surely ended on the note that he is the only legitimate heir to such “militantisme”!!!

* Published in print edition on 23 November 2018

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