Has Mauritius Struck Gold?

Day in day out we are witnessing public announcements by the government of projects costing several billions

Day in day out we are witnessing public announcements by the government of projects costing several billions. In last year’s budget speech the Prime Minister who is also the Minister of Finance and Economic Development mentioned the construction of an Olympic type Multisport Complex (MC) at Cote d’Or, a remote region in the PM’s constituency, to the tune of R1.9bn. In this year’s budget speech the estimated cost of this very same MC has risen to R3bn. Maybe in next year’s budget the estimate would be raised to R4bn!

It seems that billions of rupees are mere peanuts in the hands of politicians. They speak only of billions. Yet, not a single member of the Opposition even raises their eyebrows which means that everyone acquiesces. Had a Sookdeo Bissoondoyal or a Jules Koenig been alive, what a scene we would have witnessed in Parliament. Alas, gone are the days when we had politicians of conviction and guts.

Late Mamade Elahee was right when, a few months before his demise, he stated that sports had turned out to be more “communal” than before. He made a point underlying the fact that sport was being practiced, with a few exceptions, mostly by Creoles. Without malice, he went on to praise them. He further stated that had it not been the case, Mauritius (MRU) would not have won a single medal in any event.

Apart from our neighbour, Reunion Island, MRU has the largest number of football grounds. But are they serving their purpose these days? Many of them, as well as volley-ball and basket-ball pitches, have turned into mere wilderness, overgrown with weeds.

Our youngsters, mostly the non-Creoles, are more inclined to egocentric activities such as sitting in front of their laptops, taking futile selfies, chatting idly, focusing more on their smart phones and the opposite sex. At the week-end, they spend more time on happy hours in pubs, drinking and watching foreign football matches as fans of this or that club.

The MBC is also encouraging these futile activities with its Action Football Club. Our youngsters should be actually playing football, the most popular sport in the world, instead of just watching it on TV. We need action, not mere “bla, bla,bla.” Factis, non verbis!

During all local football matches, our stadiums are empty, with hardly a few dozen spectators. Our football grounds in towns as well as rural areas are underused and under-occupied. One can see only a few kids playing football, or any other game for that matter. No wonder our performance in the field of sports is among the lowest in the world. In comparison, Trinidad — with a population size equal to ours — won 4 medals at the London Olympics in 2012 which included one Gold.

The George V Stadium (GVS) was upgraded under the previous government at a cost of Rs 125m. I have personally attended football matches at the GVS between MRU and Burundi, Mohan Bagan, Singapore, Tunisia and Sudan. Although the stadium can accommodate 10 thousand spectators, during all these matches the attendance was a pitiful 200.

A few years back my nephew and I attended a match between an amateur English team and the Petite Riviere Noire at Germain Commarmond stadium in Bambous. In spite of an entry ticket costing a mere Rs 25, there were at most 200 spectators. Some three weeks back I attended a football match between Mauritius and Angola at the Anjalay Stadium. Although it was school holidays the AS, which has a capacity of 15 thousand, the attendance was hardly 250-300 spectators.

In view of the above facts, do we really need an Olympic type MC? The country is already heavily indebted. The forthcoming Jeux des Iles in 2019 may last two weeks. Believe me, once the competitions are over the Rs  3bn MC would end up being the biggest white elephant in the country.

Rs. 3bn! Such a huge sum could be more practically used for the construction of lay-bys on the Vacoas-La Louise road, restoration of the Port Louis and Plaza theatres and the town hall of Curepipe. Actually there is no dearth of projects in the country awaiting to be financed.

 

  • Published in print edition on 15 September 2017

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