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MAURITIUS TIMES

This Week’s Highlights

Issue: Friday 28 August

•    EDITORIAL

Unlocking our future economic potential

There has been an enduring feeling among citizens that the economy has not been receiving the attention it deserves. It is with the hope that the government will prioritize the economy, rather than indulge in politicking for its own sake, that the people in their majority mandated the new government to power.

Despite the governmental programme given out at the beginning of the government’s term followed in March by the first budget, a conviction was gaining ground that the economy was being relegated to the background while pre-occupations with adversaries and scandals had seized the country’s centre-stage.

The strong statement of SAJ in his elaboration of what is called the government’s Economic Mission Statement on last Saturday appears to be placing the economy once again into principal focus. It was important and necessary to restore the losing sense of confidence in the country’s economic future. But one also needs to go beyond the hype and read in the whole exercise a subtle move at the highest level, a political statement in its own way, to bring the economic agenda and the instruments required for its implementation under the direction and supervision of the PM and his Office. There must be good reasons, other than the mere economic aspect, for this decision.

* * *

•          INTERVIEW

Eric Ng Ping Cheun, économiste et directeur de PluriConseil

« Créer 100 000 emplois avec une croissance économique annuelle de 5,5%, ce sera vraiment un miracle »

Dialogue Public/Privé : ‘Il ne saurait être question d’un dialogue strict entre les élites politique et économique… Le peuple se sentirait cocufié, voire délaissé’

* ‘Qui décide vraiment de la politique économique du gouvernement? On ne le sait pas trop’

Extraits :

« La seule bonne nouvelle par rapport à cette initiative du Premier ministre, c’est qu’il s’est engagé à être présent sur le front économique et à renouer un dialogue structuré avec le secteur privé. Historiquement, ce dialogue public-privé a été un facteur-clé du succès économique de Maurice. Aujourd’hui, cependant, l’économie mauricienne s’est démocratisée et s’est diversifiée… Donc, il ne saurait être question d’un dialogue strict entre les élites politique et économique, comme on l’a vu précisément durant la période 2000-2005. Le peuple se sentirait cocufié, voire délaissé… »

« Les dossiers de la BAI ont été mal gérés avec les conséquences que l’on sait. Le gouvernement s’est efforcé de circonscrire l’incendie, mais a négligé l’économie. Le ministre des Finances lui-même s’est montré plutôt discret. Il a jusqu’ici donné très peu d’interviews de presse. Il faut dire que son collègue des Services financiers lui a fait de l’ombre sur des sujets sensibles comme le traité de non double imposition entre Maurice et l’Inde. Qui décide vraiment de la politique économique du gouvernement ? On ne le sait pas trop… »


« La confiance ne se décrète pas, elle se construit. Elle est un tout qui est plus que la somme des parties. Ce tout, c’est la bonne gouvernance du pays. Lorsque les institutions judiciaires sont ébranlées, que les régulateurs sacrifient leur indépendance vis-à-vis du pouvoir politique, que les appels à manifestation d'intérêt sont entachés de soupçon, et que les arrestations policières deviennent faciles, pour ne pas dire arbitraires, les investisseurs perdent confiance dans les autorités… »

« Laissez-moi vous dire ma perplexité devant la volonté affichée du gouvernement de créer 25 000 emplois dans l’économie bleue d’ici à cinq ans. On n’a même pas commencé à poser les fondations de ce nouveau secteur en termes d’infrastructures, de renforcement des capacités et d’expertises techniques. Sachez que notre secteur de l’externalisation et des services informatiques a pris dix ans de croissance continue pour arriver à 20 000 emplois aujourd’hui… »

* * *

• Qs & As

Teeluck Bhuwanee: “Reforming education demands fundamental change, not mere tweaking”

* ‘The present 9-year schooling project still spends much energy on the access issue when the focus should have been on quality and equity’

 

Will the proposed educational reform of 9-year schooling bring about the real changes that are required to produce the skilled workforce that will match the requirements of future markets? What are the implementation issues and the challenges that are likely to be faced? We sought the views Teeluck Bhuwanee, educationist, on these questions. He holds a PhD holder in Educational Management and is a UNESCO Consultant. He recently retired as a UNESCO Head of Office, after having been the first Registrar of the UTM, Senior Lecturer at the MCA, Lecturer at the MIE and Rector in state secondary schools since 1975. Read on:

Excerpts:

“Continuous assessments require a great deal of rigour in a small country like Mauritius, where everybody knows everybody. The element of subjectivity and the absence of national or even regional standards in assessing Grade 5 and 6 students for selection purposes (even if limited to 40%) are bound to create a social malaise as teachers are likely to be seen as assessing their own students and their own teaching…”

“If properly conceptualised, developed and implemented, the nine-year schooling can serve to re-conceptualise primary and lower secondary education, building upon a reformed, higher quality and more equitable and inclusive basic education at primary and early childhood education level. It will also challenge the Mauritian government to utilise, democratise and improve all existing learning opportunities…”


“Although most Mauritian children attend and complete primary education they lag behind their peers in comparator countries with regard to basic literacy, maths, and science skills. Mauritians have lower reading literacy rates than the average for their OECD peers. These low learning achievements suggest that a large segment of the population lacks adequate literacy and math skills to meet today’s labour market demands…”

***

•     OPINION & COMMENTS

Gong from the people

The task ahead to put Mauritius back on a high growth mode is daunting. It is therefore not the time for tom-tomming about a second economic miracle ahead of its happening

By Mrinal Roy

Excerpts:

“We need to have a serious rethink at our model of development as it is totally unacceptable that there is such a glaring mismatch between the paltry disposable income of a young salaried graduate earning say the national average monthly earnings of some Rs 25,000 and the substantial sums necessary for him to afford the basic existential needs of investing in a house or a car or of going on holidays. This is a major step backwards as his parents could afford all these and more…”

"It is not economic miracles but the objective scrutiny of history on their track record and the manner they steadfastly upheld their contract of trust with the people and the public interest which determine the legacies of statesmen, politicians and public figures. Far more than economic miracles, it is policies and actions which bring about a quantum jump in the standards of living and quality of life of all and joys in the livelihoods of the people which assure the place of statesmen in the history of a nation…”

“The evidence of an economic miracle will not be measured by the number of golf courses and their immaculate fairways or gated high-end residential enclaves built as part of the hotchpotch of projects indiscriminately lumped under the ‘smart cities’ umbrella, developed in most cases by sugar groups on thousands of acres of their sugar cane land assets. It will be determined by the way the colossal investments and diverse private sector projects meet the legitimate aspirations of mainstream Mauritius…”

* * *

It ain’t done until it is done

By  Rajiv Servansingh

No surprises. The question most asked over the past week in the market place as well as in corporate boards has been: “What do you make of the Prime Minister’s speech of Saturday last?”

The partisan answers notwithstanding, the responses seem to be rather nuanced on the whole. For starters, if the reaction of the Stock Exchange to the speech is any test to go by, then the conclusion is that the effect has been, to say the least, very mitigated. But then one can always argue that the “Black Monday” on the Asian/emerging global markets may have weighed heavily on investor sentiment, particularly foreign investors on that particular day.

Excerpts:

“‘What do you make of the Prime Minister’s speech of Saturday last?’ The partisan answers notwithstanding, the responses seem to be rather nuanced on the whole. For starters, if the reaction of the Stock Exchange to the speech is any test to go by, then the conclusion is that the effect has been, to say the least, very mitigated. Actually any sensible answer to the question will have to take into account what was the real objective of those who have conceived the whole communication exercise, for this is primarily what it was all about…”

“It has been said that the most precious commodity in politics is the benefit of the doubt. Barely nine months into its mandate this government was coming dangerously close to losing this most precious commodity. Clearly under those circumstances doing nothing was no longer an option. The “communicators”, from the PMO it would seem, decided “to take the bull by the horns,” -- to quote from the Prime Minister’s speech -- by initiating a move which would at the least “stop the rot” and at the most create a sense of a new departure…”

 

“While nobody disputes the usefulness of a long term vision to orient the actions of government, such a vision unfortunately fails to articulate an inspiring picture of the future when it is not informed by a concern to resolve the most crying problem of the day. The critical challenge therefore remains the same as it was even before the Economic Mission Statement was made i.e. how to translate rhetoric into a programmatic and time-framed deliverable package…”

* * *

Engaging with Africa

It may well appear we would be punching above our weight but do we have an alternative if we want to really contribute to lift up the continent – and feather our own nest in the process?

By Anil Gujadhur

Excerpts:

 

“The 2014 Africa Survey by Ernst & Young, an international accounting and auditing firm and one of the ‘Big Four’, notes: “In less than 5 years, Africa has risen to become the second most attractive destination (for investments) in the world, tied with Asia.” All the FDI pouring into Africa originates from investors in the very countries whose authorities and NGOs are in the habit of throwing stones at us, not minding that they themselves live in glass houses. The Survey notes that countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are the emerging hotspots for international investment. Other reports add to this list, countries such as Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, Morocco and even Somalia…”

“True, civil unrest and turmoils and the absence of institutional and legal guarantees in different parts of the Continent did not make engagement with Africa an attractive proposition for a long time. But things are changing, and an intelligent nation should go ahead and consolidate its African economic and social ties, not as a fall-back clause, but as an outright core and lasting partnership into the future. Even though having intimate links with the OECD, does Singapore not nestle itself also into the regional grouping called ASEAN and for good reason, too?”

“If not all, several African countries have been inaugurating for quite some years now a change from the antediluvian concept that the whole of Africa should be placed in the same basket of not being fit for doing business. Instead of conceding to those who hold unjustified prejudices like these, Mauritius would do well to join all those who are busy writing a new economic chapter in Africa’s economic history - its major transformation from what was a backward continent to one that hosts today some of the world’s fastest growing economies…”

* * *

From Biochemistry to Spirituality

Gyan-yajna by Swamini Shraddhananda Saraswati

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

No sooner had she obtained her PhD in biochemistry than she begun her training in Vedanta under the guidance of her renowned Guru Pujya Swami Tadrupanand in the Manan Ashram in South India. How come you made this transition from science to spirituality so quickly, I asked Swamini Shraddhananda Saraswati. Her reply was that she had already felt the ‘call’ to a more exalted pursuit when she was in school, when she used to go and attend the gyan-yagnas of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda with her father. She said that his teaching used to resonate with her for weeks on end, and she knew that that’s what she wanted to go deeper into, but that circumstances led her to follow the conventional education path before she took to Vedanta exclusively.

Excerpts:

“Swamini Shraddhananda Saraswati felt the ‘call’ to a more exalted pursuit when she was in school, when she used to go and attend the gyan-yagnas of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda with her father. His teaching used to resonate with her for weeks on end, and she knew that that’s what she wanted to go deeper into, but that circumstances led her to follow the conventional education path before she took to Vedanta exclusively…”

“The purpose of meditation is to steady and quieten the mind so that it becomes serene and thus prepared to receive the highest knowledge, which is knowledge of one's self. Who am I? What am I doing here on earth? And what happens when I die? These are fundamental questions that apply to every human being, and there cannot be any two or ambiguous answers. And whatever answers one gets must not only be universal – that is, be applicable to anyone anywhere, but must make sense and be final, in other words they must not contradict common sense, reason, and human experience. And they must form the basis for a code of sound, purposeful and peaceful living…”

“When we think of knowledge, we usually mean knowledge of the external world that enables us to deal with and live in it. It comprises both science and non-science subjects. Such knowledge obtained through the education system or informally is referred to as ‘lower knowledge’, whereas the knowledge of the self is known as ‘higher knowledge’, or paravidya, that is, ‘that knowing which everything else is known.’ A simple but crude analogy is gold and ornaments made of gold: whatever their forms and appearances, they are all made of the one thing, gold. If one knows that, then one knows the fundamental or most important thing about the ornaments, because it reveals their true nature…”

* * *

Education reform: more haste, less speed!

By U.C.

A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity here to commend the new Minister of Education, Hon Leela Devi-Dookun, for tackling the bull by the horns and launching, barely seven months after taking office, what is undoubtedly a major proposal for restructuring of our primary to secondary school system.

The Minister's intent, motivations, background competencies and sincerity of purpose cannot be faulted. Neither is anybody, including trade unions and body politic of all hues, unaware of the imperatives for redesigning our system to address today's blatant shortcomings.

Excerpts:

“The political conditions for change are there early in a mandate, yet nobody would look askance at a Minister who, having trodden wisely up till now in the birthing of what is probably the most comprehensive documented plan to implement the nine-year schooling concept, takes a step back for a few months and invites all concerned parties to submit their suggestions and alternatives…”

“Nobody can imagine that the Minister has closed up shop in the face of substantial uncertainties that have been raised from public non-partisan voices across the board. Despite the absence of a White Paper, now is the time to step back, invite informed comments or alternatives, take stock and adjust where advisable before proceeding full throttle. A one-year postponement in implementation to take suggestions and proposals on board and refine the reform would not create irreparable damage and would only go to the Minister's credit…”

“As in any such transformational chart, there are several good features, some moot points and many reasons for disquiet, which the different presentations by the Minister and her top cadres have not quite dispelled. As the changes proposed will have far-reaching implications, some of which will only be felt over the medium-term, it is right that, however close the Ministry may feel it is to a satisfactory outcome, those qualms and reservations be neither dismissed nor treated with cavalier expediency…”

* * *

Education must be for holistic development of the person

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

In the view of the current debate on reforms in the educational system, several points have been raised about the risk of 'ideologizing' the issue and focusing on the form instead of assessing the content of the syllabus offered to students, starting from the primary level to HSC, and reviewing the teaching methods used and the motivation instilled to achieve a reasonable rate of success at SC and HSC levels. Indeed, how many of us today would have been able to get through the present CPE exam or the HSC General Paper exam for that matter?

Excerpts:

“Active participation of pupils in role-plays, sketches, dialogues and story telling enhances their interest in acquiring the fundamentals of a foreign language, its grammar, syntax and structure. One such instance was the teaching of French to seven-year-old kids at the primary school of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. The teacher, a French woman who is also a disciple at the Ashram, sat on the floor amid the children. So a few children lifted up their hands to relate a personal story: an incident, a dream or some other item in French. One boy related the dream he had the night before, trying his best to express himself in French as much as possible despite the natural recourse to Bengali and English words. The teacher occasionally helped with some French vocabulary but did not interrupt to correct mistakes…”

“Classifyling people in social classes based on intellectual achievements and financial status is a hapless legacy of a colonial past which is still undermining the way we regard ourselves, view and relate to others in Mauritius. Being addressed as 'Sir' is seemingly an ultimate social recognition of their worth for some of our one meter sixty-five tall men in our small island, especially if you meet them in the neighbourhood of Pope Hennessy Street and Parliament House. Oh sorry! There are also the equivalents of OBE and MBE as the highest rewards awaiting worthy people…”

 

* * *

Nine-year Schooling Plan

Education is far too important to be left to academics’

By Paramanund Soobarah

Excerpts:

“The most significant aspects of the recently announced nine-year schooling education system are the number of name changes and the complicated, multi-coloured flow diagrams. The thrust of the changes is, as expected, an intention to improve the lot of the 30% who do not get beyond the CPE. Good luck to the 30% and good luck also to the Minister, but we strongly doubt whether the desired and promised results will be achieved in any real sense. All that will happen is that every child will be propelled into what has hitherto been deemed as secondary education. We have no problem at all with that; these will come three years later, and they are likely to be the same ones as before…”

“Last year, of the 18645 pupils who sat for the English Language papers at the Cambridge School Certificate exams, 2321 failed outright and 7071 scored grades 7 or 8 (just passes), making a total of 9392, i.e. approximately 50% with less than adequate command of the language. It is the duty of the government to turn these figures around, i.e. to make at least 50% of our cohorts score grade 4 or better, instead of just the 23% that did so last year. Should this come about, we believe that the performance of the remaining 50% also will improve. The figures for mathematics are even worse. One third of the cohort (6309) failed outright, and more than a quarter (5060) scored 7 or 8…”

 

* * *

Non-competition clauses in employment contracts: How valid?

By TR

The Supreme Court recently gave an insight into the conditions for a non-competition clause to be valid in employment agreements. Such clauses generally restrict employees of companies from taking up employment with rival companies after they terminate their employment.

In the case of Medical Computer Communication Caraibe Limited (the Applicant) v Nayar Yacoob Inder (the Respondent) & Superdist Ltd (as Co-Respondent) 2015 SCJ 298, an interim order in the nature of an injunction was made interlocutory up to 28 November 2015.

By way of background, the Respondent was employed/trained by the Applicant and given access to confidential information and had information on the clients of the Applicant. The Respondent resigned from the job on 28 November 2014 and notified the Applicant that he wanted to work with the Co-Respondent, a rival company of the Applicant.

* * *

* FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY - MT 60 YEARS AGO

Creation of a World Socialist Movement

By Peter Ibbotson

As a result of two articles by Professor GDH Cole, the Socialist economist and philosopher, in the New Statesman of January last, a World Socialist Movement has been started. The initiators of the Movement make it plain that they do not want adherents of the Movement to renounce existing loyalties to national socialist movements; but they emphasize the necessity of accepting loyalties greater than mere national loyalties if a socialist world is to come about.

* * *

To Sum Up

The storm raging around our editorial, ‘Priests on Soap Boxes’, has blown over. After devoting a paragraph on Tuesday and an article on Friday to us, and after publishing a translation of our editorial on Saturday of last week, Le Cernéen has calmed down in its conclusions last Monday. What a hectic week it has known!

On the other had Rev. Father Dethise in La Vie Catholique of last Sunday has condescended to talk apparently for the last time to us in an article entitled “Dialogue avec un sourd”.

* * *

Mauritius – The Land of the Ramayana

By Sarita Boodhoo

Mauritius is renowned as the land of the Ramayana. When the girmitias arrived in Mauritius as from 2nd November 1834, they brought along with them the verses of the Ram Charit Manas and the Hanuman Chalisa in handwritten and published versions as well as in oral forms. Over the years, a typically Mauritian brand of Ramayana chanting has evolved, giving Ramayana in Mauritius a distinct tradition, over the last 180 years.

The Ram Charit Manas written in Awadhi and a sister language to Bhojpuri is ingrained in the Hindu consciousness throughout the Hindu diaspora particularly of the former plantation colonies: Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, South Africa. In Mauritius as elsewhere in the plantocracy, it was to the Ram Charit Manas that the indentured Indian workers turned to in moments of hardship, humiliation, oppression, repression and suppressive atmosphere of the harsh conditions of the colonial period.

The new and old waves of indentured immigrants have not only told and retold and enacted the traditional Ram Kathas and Ram Lilas but innovated by creating and recreating their own new stories based on the surroundings where they built solid and resistant pillars of sacred spaces.

* * *

Photography Day

By Mohun Aujayeb

No media: newspaper, periodical, magazine, etc., can captivate its audience effectively without illustrative photographs. Hundreds of photos are published every day for this purpose. This weekly carries around dozens of photographs in each of its edition.

A photograph freezes a moment of life which is passing and which is true. It captures emotions equally well, and allows you to experience those moments again and again. It tells a story and many a times reminiscencing about the story or event is more or equally noteworthy.

Photography has revolutionised the way we see the world. We capture memorable moments of travel, adventures, functions, celebrations, expressions of love and emotion to document and share the images instantaneously with relatives and friends around the world. Photos of those who have passed away become treasured items. Photography is a passionate hobby that melts away one’s worries and stresses.

* * *

Une terre sans partage

By Clifford Ng Kwet Chan

Toutes ces splendeurs de la nature

Sont là pour nous confondre.

Même le ciel majestueux

Et l'harmonieuse rondeur du globe terrestre

Ne sont que trompe-l'oeil

* * *

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