A coup de millions et de milliards…

There is an air of apprehension that is beginning to creep in over the country. The sooner these high-profile matters are resolved, and pressing national issues start being focused upon, the better it will be for everyone

It will be left to the courts to establish the culpability or otherwise, and pronounce the sentences against all the high profile people in the cases involving the BAI group of companies, as also against those charged with criminal irregularities in other matters such as a cooperative society in Vacoas, the officers and others allegedly using public office for gratification and so on.

Bombarded with the details of these unfolding dramas in the public sphere on a daily basis for the past several weeks, the average layman is left open-mouthed in disbelief accompanied by shock at the sheer amounts of monies that are bandied about, ranging from tens and hundreds of millions to billions of rupees. On top of that he reads about overseas private property allegedly bought with local clients’ money in several countries, from houses and apartments to palaces which match, or perhaps even exceed in luxury local possessions which include seaside villas and flats in high-end localities.

When previous ministers of finance said that the rising tide will lift all the boats, they could perhaps not anticipate, in their wild optimism, that it was the yachts that would have priority, why that some yachts would even take off to other shores? And that not all boats would float to the same level. Worse, that some boats would get stuck and not be touched by the tide at all!

An ex-Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, New Zealander Donald McKinnon remarked that ‘you cannot prosper by beggaring your neighbours.’ Here, it seems that some people have followed the exact opposite dictum – of accumulating wealth by means fair or foul at the expense of a large chunk of citizens. Otherwise why would the country be still needing a Marshall plan for poverty eradication, or now special bail-out packages using taxpayers’ money?

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.

While the cleaning up à la karcher has been generally accepted as necessary by the populace, six months down the line from the general election in December last, there is a feeling that things are moving rather more slowly in terms of creating the opportunities that had been announced to take the country forward to the next level of development. And with the municipal elections in the offing, how long more will we remain in electoral or near-electoral mode? We do have to start not only raising hopes, but go beyond electoral hype to give a real vision of the concrete outcomes meant to benefit all citizens, with a realistic timeline too.

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 public-private partnerships (PPPs) are concerned, greater transparency is required so as to demonstrate clearly that corporate-politics nexus is a thing of the past.

Like it or not, there is an air of apprehension that is beginning to creep in over the country. The sooner these high-profile matters are resolved, and pressing national issues start being focused upon, the better it will be for everyone. And we can all go back to deal at levels of moneys that are more accessible to more citizens than is presently the case, so that they look forward with greater confidence towards the brighter future that has been promised.

* Published in print edition on 29 May  2015

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