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MAURITIUS TIMES

This Week’s Highlights

Issue: Friday 22 July  2016

•    EDITORIAL

A Twist in The Electoral System

 

In the course of a recent visit to Rodrigues, the Prime Minister had discussions with the Chief commissioner, Serge Clair, of the OPR party, about the impact on the electoral outcome of the proportional representation (PR) in place in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act. It came out that the adjustments recommended by the PR system had the effect of trimming down a comfortable majority the OPR had won the last elections with into a single vote majority for his party. The PM expressed the view that the PR system can seriously undermine an electoral outcome and should therefore not be a linchpin of the country’s electoral system.

On the PM’s return from Rodrigues, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Paul Bérenger, raised a question in the matter. The PM confirmed that in his opinion the PR system should not be allowed to overtake First Past the Post (FPTP) results in our elections, as it was borne out in the case of Rodrigues. Mr Bérenger was obviously not happy and expressed his own view that the government was not living up to its electoral promises during the 2014 campaign.

•          INTERVIEW

Interview : Catherine Boudet, Sociologue

‘Maurice est une société qui ne respecte pas les plus faibles’

* ‘Nous n’avons encore jamais eu un vrai projet de réforme électorale qui se base sur autre chose que les desiderata des élites’

* ‘L’ascenseur social le plus rapide dans ce pays, ce n’est pas le travail honnête, mais la corruption et le favoritisme’

Catherine Boudet, sociologue, passe en revue le fond des problèmes qui minent la société mauricienne. On tourne en rond depuis l’époque coloniale. L’élite ne veut jamais lâcher prise. Personne ne se méprend sur la corruption dans toutes ses formes mais personne ne veut changer le système en place. A qui la faute ? Aux politiques ? A la population ?

 

Extraits:

« Nous aurons bientôt des villes champignons où 75% de la population seront non-mauriciennes, et qui vont allègrement s’approvisionner sur le réseau CEB et le réseau CWA alors que la population souffre déjà des coupures d’eau et que nous faisons face à des menaces de black-out en électricité. Les projets de smart cities qui ont déposé des EIA sont déjà en train de faire des demandes officielles auprès de la CWA et du CEB… »

« Maurice est une société qui non seulement ne respecte pas les plus faibles, mais pire, qui a du mépris pour les plus faibles. A l’époque, coloniale on exploitait et on maltraitait les esclaves et les coolies et de nos jours, on maltraite les pauvres, les femmes, les enfants, les handicapés, les personnes âgées... En résumé, on maltraite ceux qui sont plus faibles que soi, tous ceux sur qui on peut défouler ses frustrations ou tous ceux qui se mettent en travers de ses ambitions personnelles… »

* * *

•   OPINION & COMMENTS

A People’s Budget

The budget exercise must above all provide a positive policy response to the people’s expectations and help put in place a new economic model geared to boost growth, significantly reduce unemployment, improve the standard of living and quality of life of people, assure inclusive prosperity and narrow inequalities

 

By Mrinal Roy

There is as every year a build up and high expectations in anticipation of the budget speech. In essence the government budget scheduled on 29 July will present the government proposed revenues and spending for the 2016-17 financial year. It will also map out the matrix of budgetary policies through the allocation of funds and the leverage of fiscal and other tools to address the diverse problems crippling economic performance in the country.

The country faces tough challenges in a difficult international context marked by a lacklustre growth outlook in most advanced economies which are also our main markets and the adverse fallout of the Brexit vote. This is not the time to spell out new visions for the future but to establish an honest reality check on the fundamental ills afflicting our country and addressing them innovatively head on. This is therefore the time for cogent and coherent policies and targeted actions. Hopefully, the urgent economic imperatives and priorities of the country will supersede petty politicking which has bogged down the country for too long.

Excerpts:

Reviewing the country’s economic model also means cutting the dead wood and not investing scarce resources in uncompetitive and persistently loss making activities such as the production of refined sugar in the country. The survival of the sugar cane planting community means ensuring above all as per the long outstanding 2007 Government-MSPA commitment, that 35% shareholding into the diverse ventures of the sugar cane cluster using their by-products as feedstock are forthwith allocated to the sugar cane planters and employees of the sugar industry...”

High skilled foreign professionals and technical staff would have to be recruited as required to manage and facilitate the smooth transition of the ICT or the financial services sectors, etc., towards a higher value addition mode of operation. A new high skilled based economic model will therefore require looking beyond the local private sector for the required expertise, economic actors and partners from abroad...”

* * *

Avoiding the Economic Mediocrity Trap

One single budget is not a magic wand which will solve all our problems, but it does represent an opportunity for sending the right signals to operators and the population at large

 

By Rajiv Servansingh

The general environment in which the Minister of Finance and Economic Development will present his budget at the end of next week is, to say the least, extremely volatile. Surprisingly stock exchanges in most of the capitals of developed countries are booming after having absorbed the initial shock of the unexpected Brexit vote. The general consensus seems to be that we are on the verge of a sustained bull market for shares. All this is happening at a time when the United States’ economy is showing all the signs of a robust pick-up while analysts are expressing serious concerns about the British and continental European economies in the immediate aftermath of Brexit.

Excerpts:

“The tourism sector has done particularly well during the past year with an above 10% rate of growth in arrival. The reasons for this success are twofold, namely, an intelligent and prudent opening of air access and the terrible events taking place in some of our major competing destinations (Tunisia and Turkey, for example). Since both conditions are likely to persist in the coming year, there is good reason to believe that the sector will continue on its growth path...”

“The shift from local market to export orientation in a fiercely competitive global environment requires the establishment of a coherent programme of training, marketing support and financial re-structuring for transitioning firms. In this context, given the size of the country, the opportunities opening up in Africa and the “natural” trend of a shift to a services based economy, the government should seriously consider the setting up of a National Services Export Authority...”

* * *

Why all this tension?

One may say that the struggle for power among major blocs has always been around. But we are increasingly coming across leaders in whose vocabulary the word ‘compromise’ is being replaced by ‘stubbornness’

 

By Anil Gujadhur

On 12th July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands - the same court which dealt with our case regarding Britain’s unilateral decision to install a marine protected area around the Chagos - rendered its award in a dispute the Philippines had lodged in 2012 before it against claims put up by China in what is called the South China Sea. Considering all aspects of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Tribunal concluded that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’”.

It may be recalled that China had on previous occasions claimed having historical exclusive rights to an area it had marked on the map with nine dashes in the disputed waters. This stand on the part of China ruffled up feelings of littoral countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The line of demarcation of China’s territorial claims came near the doorstep of some of the concerned South East Asian countries. It is what had led the Philippines to lodge the matter before the arbitral tribunal in respect of which the award was made.

Excerpts:

“Tensions mounted in the region (South China Sea) not only when China claimed the part of the ocean it had marked with the “nine-dash line”. They heightened up when it undertook the construction of several artificial islands on shoals in the ocean bed, which neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam and Japan, suspected to be military installations in fact. The US is also being drawn into the neighbouring conflict since it has defence agreements with countries (such as Philippines). The mounting tension between the big powers in the zone is disquieting and escalation can hurt an already weakened global economy...”

“Nationalism without a clear alternative economic agenda has increasingly been gaining ground in Europe, the last such example being Britain itself. An attack by China’s military on one of the US warships plying in the South China Sea in the current tense condition has the potential to aggravate an already underperforming global economy. The most egregious example of this lack of stability in global affairs has been coming from groupings like the Islamic State in the Middle East. Not only is the entire Middle East being maintained as a boiling cauldron likely to burst anywhere anytime. There is no leadership capable of reining in the anarchy it has given rise to...”

* * *

Is there a winning formula for peace?

By Dr R, Neerunjun Gopee

 

This applies to individuals as well as countries, of course, for Swami Vivekananda always meant his messages for mankind in general, although he always emphasized the individual. Quite naturally of course because if we have to change mankind we have to begin with man.

The paradigm of modern times has been heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud’s concept of the mind, which is basically that it is a store of repressed urges that cannot wait to get out and take hold of our lives. We are hapless victims of these impulses, and in order to understand ourselves we need to undergo psycho-analysis. This will reveal the devious rages that drive us, and by understanding them – during costly couch sessions – we should be able to reorder our lives.

Excerpts:

“We must therefore go beyond to what controls the mind, the buddhi which can discriminate not only between right and wrong but also, when properly trained, between the real and the unreal, truth and untruth about ourselves and the world in all the ways it manifests itself in the living and non-living dimensions. It is only with this level of understanding and knowledge that we shall be able to tap the ‘strength and succour’ that is within ourselves, change ourselves for the better and impact upon others positively...”

“The paradigm of modern times has been heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud’s concept of the mind, which is basically that it is a store of repressed urges that cannot wait to get out and take hold of our lives. We are hapless victims of these impulses, and in order to understand ourselves we need to undergo psycho-analysis. This will reveal the devious rages that drive us, and by understanding them. The predicament of our present so-called civilization with screaming war-mongers at the helm in several countries is evidence that this method has its limitations...”

* * *

Indentured labour and land in Mauritius

The decision to acquire a plot of land is perhaps the most influential event in the life of the Indian immigrants as well as in the history of the island

By Sada Reddi

A visit to a friend in a village in the south provided a moment to reflect on the social mobility of a number of families descended from Indian immigrants. The immigrant central to this article had come to Mauritius in 1901, worked for two consecutive contracts of five years in the Savanne District, then became a job contractor and small planter and was canvassed by Dhunputh Lallah and the Raffrays in the 1930s.

What is remarkable for this Indian immigrant was that he acquired several plots of land, and was able to bequeath to each of his six children about 3 plots of land with buildings including commercial premises. Today, in only one of the plots of land of not more than 300 toises, there live four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren with their children. Altogether there are 8 families totaling 27 people living on that plot of land.

Excerpts:

“Today creeping consumerism and keeping up with the Joneses, or abandoning agriculture because of labour shortage are some of the factors which can result in further loss of lands. On the other hand, diversifying land use can help many to survive and live a decent life in the future. In Japan an automated factory farm produces 10 thousand heads of lettuce per day. When one travels abroad, one should look around when one visits villages and towns and discover some of the intelligent uses people make of land…”

“Land rights, ownership or land control constitute important dynamics in rural life in India. In a typical Indian village in the nineteenth century, all the villagers were dependent on the produce of the land for food and the majority of the villagers were involved in the cultivation of the land directly or indirectly. Even when they did own the land, they had land rights or for those who did other occupations in the village they could exchange their services for food…”

* * *

Tit-bits

Damn the statistics!


Nobody expects miracles or magicians. The nation has to heal. The entrepreneurs have to regain lost confidence. The population has to start believing again

By U.C.

It has been announced that government has set up a “high-level” committee to look into unemployment... statistics. After the intuitive approach to economic policies, hostile to rather boring and stubborn facts and figures, are the latter now expected to better toe the official line and fit the spin? War on “lies, damn lies and statistics”?

Former Minister Sithanen, in last Monday's issue of l'express, has exemplified this official annoyance with plain simple figures, trends and forecasts, at two levels: more than twenty thousand Mauritians have unexplainably disappeared from the labour force between the last quarter (2015) and the first quarter of 2016. This subterfuge has hidden the loss of twenty thousand jobs in that period, while Ministers could cheer us with unemployment ratios that apparently remained stable or even declining from 7.9 to 7.6% over the same period.

Excerpts:

“Time is running out and this budget could well be determinant to the future of the Lepep narrative or the Minister's political career. But he benefits from unusually favourable circumstances. Nobody expects miracles or magicians. The nation has to heal. The entrepreneurs have to regain lost confidence. The population has to start believing again. Rather than barbed traditional attacks on the purported “heritage” of former Finance portfolio holders, the budget should have the audacity of acknowledging past errors before laying the credible contours of action for the future...”

“Former Minister Sithanen, in last Monday's issue of l'express, has exemplified this official annoyance with plain simple figures, trends and forecasts, at two levels: more than twenty thousand Mauritians have unexplainably disappeared from the labour force between the last quarter (2015) and the first quarter of 2016. This subterfuge has hidden the loss of twenty thousand jobs in that period, while Ministers could cheer us with unemployment ratios that apparently remained stable or even declining from 7.9 to 7.6% over the same period...”

* * *

Early Signs of Social Disruption

 

The loss of lives at an early stage due to synthetic drug abuse in schools is a tragedy at the level of individual families. If carried forward on a big enough scale, it will pose as a serious threat to social stability itself

By Murli Dhar

In the context of the on-going Commission of Inquiry into the drugs situation in Mauritius, it has come out that synthetic drugs have invaded our educational establishments. This is a new phenomenon, it appears, which is not limited to the outskirts of our towns, as it used to be the case in the past. It is very much present in secondary schools whether in urban or rural areas. Secondary schools particularly in the North and the West of the island had apparently been involved in cases of students having taken to synthetic drugs.

Minister of Health Anil Gayan stated before the Commission that, according to statistics available in his ministry, the problem was not widespread or very consequential. He was soon confronted by contrary opinion to the effect that synthetic drugs were very much present and fairly widespread in our schools.

Excerpts:

“Admittedly, certain young people may be prone to be trapped into what may be thought of as “experimentation” with the new chemical drugs. But this is not mere experimentation, if it has led to so many deaths. It must be creating dependency and exaggeration of limits. Besides, even classical hard drugs (heroin, cocaine, hashish, etc.) were known to be affecting grown-ups and not school-goers, as appears to be the case at present...”

“Many questions arise as to whether we have a carefully thought-out system capable of eradicating this new scourge, which has invaded our schools, before it hits society itself on an unmanageable scale. The loss of lives at an early stage due to synthetic drug abuse in schools is a tragedy at the level of individual families. If carried forward on a big enough scale, it will pose as a serious threat to social stability itself, let alone distort the very fundamental mission for which schools are set up...”

* * *

Nice: ‘Unspeakable beauty - Unmistakable tragedy’

Terror strikes are becoming so frequent now that the new normal will have to be matched by unstoppable vigilance on the part of individual citizens as well as the national authorities

By TP Saran

In commenting on the incident of 14 July in Nice at the Promenade des Anglais, a reporter lamented the ‘unmistakable tragedy’ that had taken place in this place of ‘unspeakable beauty’. Indeed, those who have had the opportunity to visit Nice especially in summer would certainly agree with this description.

However, the terrorist attack has forever scarred it in the minds of the millions of local and foreign tourists who have visited it, not to speak of the thousands who were there that fatal night. And for many years to come the memory of this gruesome killing and maiming will no doubt haunt those who will continue to visit the Promenade.

Excerpts:


“In commenting on the incident of 14 July in Nice at the Promenade des Anglais, a reporter lamented the ‘unmistakable tragedy’ that had taken place in this place of ‘unspeakable beauty’. Indeed, those who have had the opportunity to visit Nice especially in summer would certainly agree with this description. However, the terrorist attack has forever scarred it in the minds of the millions of local and foreign tourists who have visited it, not to speak of the thousands who were there that fatal night…”

“The fact that over 215 people have been killed in the eight months since the equally murderous attack in Bataclan, Paris in November last has led to criticism of President Francois Hollande. He has been severely blamed by his predecessor Sarkozy for his failure to ensure the security of the French people. Lack of sufficient police forces and inefficient response have come up as an issue, and comparisons have been made with Israel for its more effective preparedness during national public events…”

* * *

Legal Matters

Of Exclusion Clauses in Insurance Policies

By T.R.

It is often the case for holders of insurance policies to be denied compensation when levelling claims under the policies. The reason evoked by the companies include clauses in the insurance contracts which exclude certain events from cover in the said insurance policies.

The exclusion clauses are often worded in a manner as not to make fully explicit events which will not be covered which, had they been clearly spelled out, would have led clients not to subscribe to the policies. The following is a case in which an insurance company had inserted certain standard exclusion clauses which the court held could not be invoked for non-payment of claims for having been inexplicitly stated in the policy.

* * *

Carnet l’hebdo

 

Terror without Borders

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

First, it took the world so long to acknowledge that a war was being declared across the continents by different extremist outfits competing to surpass one another in atrocity and cruelty inflicted on innocent civilians. Now, the main targets of terrorism are dithering to point out the source of inspiration which drives a few individuals to resort to a killing spree against other ethnic and religious groups in foreign lands.

The question that arises is: why is there such a lack of political will to name and squarely deal with the source of medieval radical religious ideology spreading everywhere in the world? Fundamentalism is the common factor among terrorists. Lone wolves, deranged individuals, un-integrated migrants, recently self-radicalized young men or educated home-grown terrorists, they all end up with IS flags in their apartments before busting up civilians at airports, restaurants, in concert halls, on beaches, trains and in public gatherings.

* * *

Obituary

 

Chitmansing Jesseramsing

By A.G.

Mauritius has been rapidly losing a generation of its public servants who had a commitment to the cause they stood for. Chitmansing Jesseramsing (Jess) was of them. He belonged to a generation which wanted to pull Mauritius out of its splendid isolation with all the efforts they could muster, whichever compartment of national life they were engaged in, unmindful of the constraints we faced due to our small size and geopolitical un-importance. Their aim was to turn all such preconceptions on their head by making Mauritius succeed where least it was expected to.


Jess joined our diplomatic service in 1968 when he was posted to Washington DC as First Secretary. He stayed there until 1993, on becoming Mauritius’ Ambassador to the US as from 1979. As circumstances would have it, he had another engagement as our Ambassador to the US between 1996 and 1999. Even after he relinquished his substantive job as our ambassador, he kept contributing to bring to a successful end the enterprise he had embarked on, transcending local political divides.

* * *

 

Forum

Of Students and Delinquencies

By Nivriti Sewtohul

Breaches of discipline galore prevail in schools and wherever students are present. They look greater than life size when the media broadcasts them far and wide. The negative impressions portend ill for the future of our students who are made scapegoats with all the blame heaped on them. Teachers, parents and the administration are presented as clean. They can never be wrong as they can defend themselves openly in meetings and conferences of all types. They also have the means to do so. The only ones who are defenceless in front of these cohorts are the students who are without any forum to present their cases. Elders generally turn a deaf ear to their grievances when crimes are imputed to them with the pre-conceived idea that they are blameworthy. At the most, when pushed, they claim they are not understood and their needs are thwarted.

And they are right. At home they believe in their parents who are never wrong in their eyes. Love is their faith. During adolescence, they have to go their own ways. This is natural weaning. At school, they respect teachers, superiors and the non-teaching staff. They believe in everything their teachers say, even gainsaying their parents. Schools provide them with role models that can stand them in good stead in life later. They strive to stay in their good books. Words of praise, a smile, a favour and anything that shows appreciation inflate little hearts with joy and satisfaction.

* * *

D’un devoir de mémoire

By Kavinien Karupudayyan

À part la question de souveraineté et du retour des Chagossiens dans l’archipel, il y a aussi celle concernant la mémoire des gens qui sont natifs des îles de l’archipel et de leur  vécu . Et c’est là où le livre de Fernand Mandarin, « Retour aux Chagos » est une initiative à saluer. Il est le narrateur de ce magnifique ouvrage rédigé par Emmanuel Richon, curateur du Blue Penny Museum où le livre a été lancé le mois dernier. « C’est pour que tout ne disparaisse pas, à jamais, avec les derniers des Chagossiens, que ce Mémorial de Fernand Mandarin se devait d’être publié », le dit bien Philippe Forget dans la préface du  livre.

Divisé  en treize chapitres, c’est  un véritable voyage aux Chagos auquel nous invite le narrateur. Il  raconte son enfance, les générations de Mandarin, la vie dans les îles, l’étymologie de « Chagos » et aussi la belle faune et flore de son archipel pour ne mentionner que ceux-là. Ces témoignages viennent apporter un démenti à ce que les anglais ont voulu faire croire à la communauté internationale au début des années 1960 notamment à l’effet que les îles Chagos n’étaient habitées que par des travailleurs saisonniers.

* * *

Farewell to Jesse

I mourn your departure but I should not.

A messenger of peace sent from Heaven

A good person and a man of duty

Also a powerful intellectual

With your savvy, style, tact and elegance

You came, you served, you enriched all of us!

By Joseph Tsang Mang Kin

* * *

 

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

2nd Year No 65 - Friday – 4th November 1955

Land Tenure in Mauritius

By J. N. Roy

 

(The problem of land tenure is becoming acute. While in some advanced countries legislation is being introduced to fix a ceiling for land possession, here we do not even have the necessary legislation to control land tenure. During his visit, Mr Fenner Brockway was shown a small hamlet, which was bulldozered off the ground, by a landlord after the tenants were expelled. Some of them held tenancy for 40 years.

In 1953, 10,195 acres of land which represent 5.5% of the total area under cultivation in Mauritius was held by metayers. Almost all barren and marginal lands are rented to metayers as testified by the following facts: while the average yield per acre reaped by estates with factory was 31.5 tons of cane; the metayer produced only 19 tons.

On the 31st December 1953 government had on lease 4,510 arpents of Pas Geometriques and 4,576 arpents of Crown Lands at an average rent of Rs 17.50 per arpent, per year. Most of the lessees are big landowners. In many cases the Pas Geometriques, which form the coastal belts, are sub-leased at three to four hundred rupees per arpent yearly.

* * *

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