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War on Drugs

Despite arrests and sentences, drug trafficking continues to thrive unabated and unchecked. Why haven’t successive governments been able to do what it takes to root out this evil from a small country like Mauritius?

-- Mrinal Roy

The war against drug traffickers and the drugs evil afflicting the country concerns all of us. It has to remain a top priority for the government, the police and anti-drug forces, the judiciary, the social workers and citizens.

There cannot be half measures to deal with this scourge. The will cannot be half-hearted. There must be no quarter towards those who thrive on the deadly business of peddling harmful and lethal drugs in the country by nurturing addiction and dependence among the young. The war to wipe out and eradicate the scourge of drug trafficking from the country has to be relentless, well planned out and ruthless if it is to be won. To this end, it is crucial that the momentum of tracking and nabbing the drug traffickers is resolutely maintained until drug traffic is eliminated from the country.

 

The present highly publicized hauls of drugs should not, as has been so often the case in the past, peter off in a smoke screen, despite the government’s proclaimed intent to hound and apprehend drug traffickers. Already information is transpiring from the ongoing investigations that other similar consignments of drugs using the same modus operandi destined to the same alleged drug trafficker have entered the country undetected. This begs legitimate questions about our border control measures.

It is therefore important that the recent success in intercepting the entry of consignments of diverse drugs in the country does not remain, as has been the case so often in the past, just a flash in the pan. Each spectacular haul of drugs and crack down on drug traffickers by government and the authorities seem to force drug traffickers, as part of a well orchestrated stratagem, to ride out the storm by going underground. Their deadly trade just remains temporarily in a dormant mode. The hauls of drugs being intercepted are already getting smaller.

Nabbing kingpins

The war on drug trafficking will only be won if the crackdown builds from the current capture of small fry to the arrests of the kingpins of this deadly traffic. Preliminary investigations have already hinted at a nexus linking drug trafficking with the racing world. Money laundering must also be stamped out.

The recent haul of 135 kgs of heroin at the port worth Rs 2 billion illicitly imported in the country, is evidence of the scale of undeterred drug trafficking in the country. The drug kingpins responsible for wreaking havoc in society and destroying the lives of principally the youth and their network of peddlers selling drugs to those caught in the web of addiction are presumably known to the authorities and social workers helping the rehabilitation of addicts. Their illicit activities are also already documented in police files. This has been the case for decades.

Despite arrests and sentences, drug trafficking continues to thrive unabated and unchecked. Why haven’t successive governments been able to do what it takes to root out this evil from a small country like Mauritius? Despite all the rhetoric and the loud declarations of intent, the deadly trade seems to have expanded and developed a regional foot print. Reports show that drugs have infiltrated our schools and the campus endangering our young.

Paradise Island is contaminated by all sorts of harmful drugs. It is no longer time for empty talk but for bold and robust actions to eradicate this scourge from the country through a cogent and covert plan targeting the drug barons and their network armed with an arsenal of strict laws and penal sanctions which act, as in Singapore, as a real and effective deterrent to drug trafficking in the country. The strict laws must signal to drug traffickers and peddlers that they do so at their own risk and peril. Ii is no longer time for empty claims. The onus is now on government and the authorities to finally deliver on putting an end to drug trafficking in the country.

* * *

What’s in it for mainstream Mauritius?

At a time when the median salary in the country is estimated at Rs 12,800, a handful of local promoters are blithely selling luxury villas under government supported schemes built on their land assets at some Euro 1 million each. Such double standards are untenable. It is a recipe for revolt

The stark reality of statistics should be an eye opener for those blind to the adverse fall-outs of misguided government policies on mainstream Mauritius. Last week the Bank of Mauritius reported that Gross direct investment flows (excluding the global business sector) in Mauritius have been estimated at Rs 13.648 billion in 2016 compared to Rs 9.677 billion in 2015.

This is hardly a reason for self congratulatory chest thumping as nearly three quarters of the direct investments amounting to Rs 9,931 billion in 2016 were ‘channelled to the ‘Real estate activities’ sector, of which investments into the IRS/RES/IHS projects accounted for Rs7.936 billion or 58% of total direct investments.

The financial and insurance activities received Rs 2.150 billion whereas the manufacturing sector received a paltry Rs 511 million representing a mere 3.7% of the total direct investments in 2016. In 2014 direct investments had totalled Rs 18.497 billion

The statistics also reveal that the weight of investments in real estate activities was even higher in 2015. These investments amounted to Rs 8.120 billion and represented 83.9% of total direct investments for that year. Investments in IRS/RES/IHS projects amounting to Rs 6.842 billion represented a significant 70.7% of total investments in that year. Manufacturing received a mere Rs 91 million in 2015. Direct investments during the 2011-2016 period have also been propped up by investments in real estate activities. Thus, nearly half (Rs 43.141 billion) of total investments of Rs 88.855 billion during that period went into real estate activities from which some Rs 31 billion (35%) went into the IRS/RES/IHS projects.

The Bank of Mauritius report also shows that in 2016 a third of the total investment inflows originated from France (Rs 4.496 billion) whereas 17.9% (Rs 2.443 billion) and 14% of the total investment came from China and South Africa respectively.

Double standards: Recipe for revolt

How can a model of economic liberalism so heavily skewed towards investments in real estate developments, high end villas in gated and exclusive enclaves and IRS/RES/HIS projects including luxury villas for the very rich with a price tag of some Euro 1 million generate productive activity in the country to boost growth and employment and improve the quality of life of mainstream Mauritius? In what way does the more that Rs 43 billion of investments in real estate activities during the 2011-2016 period including Rs 31 billion invested in IRS/RES/HIS projects meet the aspirational needs of the qualified young? What are the socio-economic benefits for mainstream Mauritius and the common man?

This model of development has deepened inequalities, led to an even higher concentration of wealth in the country and created an even larger divide been the rich and mainstream Mauritius. This excessive economic liberalism is neither inclusive nor sustainable. It has lamentably failed the people. It is already the cause of deep seated angst and revolt and is basically a social powder keg on a short fuse. In Europe, the US and elsewhere in the world, the people are already demonstrating their growing exasperation and anger by jettisoning the established political order at the polls.

Such inept policies have also been extended to the potentially lucrative 2015 smart city project scheme requiring a minimum of 50 arpents of land. The Smart City Scheme is basically ring fenced to only those landowners with large land holdings in prime locations. It allows the construction of high-end luxury villas, apartments, houses, townhouses, apartments and duplexes, up to 75% of which can be sold to non-citizens. Non-citizens acquiring a residential unit above USD 500,000 under the scheme are eligible to a residence permit for himself and his family. These provisions help assure the viability of projects.

The upshot has been that most of the smart city projects are being promoted by sugar groups owning large land assets in appropriate prime real estate development locations. They are also benefitting from billions of rupees of state revenue forfeited as a result of generous exemptions from the payment of a wide range of land related taxes and duties. To crown it all, as a measure to further assist real estate promoters, the 2016/17 budget has also allowed non-citizens, registered with the Board of Investment (BOI) to acquire apartments and business spaces in buildings.

The policy thrust on real estate activities and the sale of pricey luxury villas on prime locations is a one off exercise. It is akin to disposing of the state or family jewels. Once sold, it is gone. However, this policy has hiked real estate values and made it even more inaccessible for the multitude and made it more difficult for young Mauritians to realize such existential needs as buying or building a house.

At a time when the median salary in the country is estimated at Rs 12,800, a handful of local promoters are blithely selling luxury villas under government supported schemes built on their land assets at some Euro 1 million each. Such double standards are untenable. This deplorable situation is divisive, widens inequalities instead of narrowing them and is anything but inclusive despite the private sector’s newly found mantra of inclusiveness. It is a recipe for revolt.

Mrinal Roy

Tags:    Mrinal Roy    Drug Trafficking    Smart City Scheme    Bank of Mauritius    IRS/RES/HIS Projects    Board of Investment