Where is our country heading for?

By TP Saran

There is an apparent bipolarization of our local politics, but it is far from being the type of bipolarization that is currently being exhibited in the US by the two adversaries vying for the post of President in the forthcoming elections on November 4, namely Republican Mitt Romney and Democratic Barrack Obama.

They have diametrically opposed ideas on every major issue – growth and productivity, outsourcing, taxation regime, healthcare, social welfare, education, foreign policy. These are clearly spelt out in various forums and policy documents prepared by experts belonging to each side, so that the American voters know exactly what they are voting for and what to expect when they go for the one or other candidate. That promises are not kept – an accusation being made against Obama – is another matter: after all, worldwide, practically all regimes are never able to deliver fully, so it’s a question of degree.

However, famous American writer Gore Vidal, who had also had a go at politics (as a Democrat), and who died recently at the age of 87 years, argued that ‘there is only one party in the United States, the Property party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt…But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.’ (bold added)

The way that things have been happening in Mauritius as regards land mis/use: suppression of agricultural land, gradual elimination of small planters through removal/absence of incentives, implantation of expatriate colonies on prime areas without a matching benefit for the whole country and the people at large through lack of a coherent government policy (deliberate?) to regulate the expansion amongst others; the encouragement of dependency on government largesse for certain categories by squeezing the middle class and reversing progress made by the latter at great sacrifice – these are some of the trends that are creating an unacceptable divide in the population.

The evidence is glaring that some people think that by pauperizing one section of the population you make better the fate of the others, but as Donald MacKinnon, ex-Secretary General of the Commonwealth so poignantly observed: ‘You can’t prosper by beggaring others!’ The slogan of inclusive growth is being peddled to exclude others.

But where is the leader who is watching, and who will be capable of seeking the gateways of opportunity for the citizens of this country? For a start, a leader must have a shared vision, and none has been advanced. The ‘vision’ that the ESTP – Economic and Social Transformation Plan – is supposed to come up with is but a charade, laughable if not simply ridiculous by virtue of the very manner in which it has purported to be worked out. 20-plus sectoral visions cannot be magically mutated by a bureaucratic desk exercise, for heaven’s sake.

Moreover, the way that the local political parties have married, divorced, remarried, redivorced, and have constantly been at various stages of wooing each other — so that their dynastic-cum-dinosaurian leaders can stay on and enjoy the spoils of power – leads us to make a comparison with the US situation. Here too, as in the US that Gore Vidal described, we could say that there is One Party with three or four wings (LP, MMM, MSM, PMX/SD, and the smaller fries) with essentially no difference between them. This is clear from the fact that they have continued with practically the same policies as one alliance or party succeeded another in the past two decades. Further, according to Rama Valayden (vide his interview to this paper two weeks ago) they tend to be funded by the same groups and one can therefore well imagine the pressure of vested interests.

By the same token, one can also appreciate that any leader of a country has to perform delicate balancing acts given these interests – but he takes that responsibility knowingly, and as knowingly takes a public commitment to defend the interests of the deserving in a spirit of fairness and equity. It is therefore both his duty and responsibility, as leader of his country and of people, to convey their sense to those who choose to back him – that his mandate is to meet the real national interest, of which those of the lobbyists are one part.

The eccentricities and propensities of the individual leaders may give an impression of difference amongst the parties, but such is not the case because for all of them politics is viewed as business, with noises made about the ‘national interest’. Except for Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, his counterparts have mostly preferred to be in transit in Mauritius, and the tendency has become even more pronounced of late. With the result that many people are asking ‘Who is in charge?’

This is the same query that is a matter of concern in the US at present, though the reasons are different (and let it be clear that we do not pretend to make any comparison between President Obama and any local leader; he is obviously in an altogether different league). One of the ‘confidence men’ in the inner circle of advisers of Obama (ah, these charmed inner circles!) is reported as having observed, ‘We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge.’ On issue after issue, it is said, one could not ‘march in, make the argument and leave him (the President) to make the decision…because he doesn’t know what he is deciding.’ (italics added)

This is serious, and we would like to hope that such is not the case in Mauritius. But who will guarantee this? Who is the adult who is responsibly in charge in Mauritius?

We wish we knew.

* Published in print edition on 7 September 2012

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