The Mess Continues

What should we make out of the continuing mess that’s being inflicted on the population by the habitual defaulters within the Alliance Lepep?

What should we make out of the continuing mess that’s being inflicted on the population by the habitual defaulters within the Alliance Lepep and that keeps adding up to the already bad image projected in public of the government, due largely to its own misdoings? Is it a lack of sound political culture that brings some senior members of that alliance as well as political novices to sully their own and the government’s image and reputation? Or is their misconduct so designed as to distract attention from the real issues that affect the people and that should have been the focus of the government’s action?

The latest in a long list of ‘écarts de conduite’, as the Acting Prime Minister puts it in an apology posted on his Facebook page on behalf of his Muvman Liberater, refers to the condemnable words uttered by his party colleague Ravi Rutnah against a lady journalist. Mr Rutnah held it against her for having allegedly equated his usual political rantings with the beastly kingdom – and that in the presence of the Hon Collendavelloo himself and the Gender Equality Minister Fazila Daureeawoo.

Another senior Alliance Lepep member, Vice Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun, had earlier threateningly declared that he would have killed the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly had his bodyguard given him his service revolver. A police inquiry has been initiated following Hon Xavier Duval’s formal complaint with the CCID, and the Office of the DPP seems determined to pursue this matter in a diligent manner – with all the care and attention it merits. A few days back, Hon Soodhun bounced back to his usual self and castigated a lady, Ms Nirmala Maruthamuthu, for having dared challenge his Middle-Eastern travelogue and his outpourings against the morals of the former Prime Minister during an NHDC seminar, which was about ‘Building a better Mauritius for our children’. Under the circumstances, God save our children!!

We have said it earlier that the government’s growing bad image will persist notwithstanding concrete realisations it might ultimately accomplish; it will go under thanks to its own misdoings and helped in that by all sorts of negativities being exposed in the media regularly. One could argue that the signs of impending collapse are coming up, and point to the growing disaffection of large sections of the people – as illustrated by that one lady who picks up the courage to challenge publicly a government minister. Government may complain about the particular agenda of some sections of the media, but what defies understanding is the absence of sanction of wayward members of the Alliance. Would that have to do with a weak leadership at the helm, stemming from the absence of legitimacy gained from a plebiscite at the polls?

There are so many problems crying for attention and concrete actions and robust leadership from the government: the lowering of the standard of living and growing inequality; the hardships being faced by the small planters community in the sugar sector as highlighted in a number of previous articles in this paper; drug trafficking which has invaded most parts of the island, including the rural areas and causing havoc in countless families; skills mismatch and lack of employment openings for highly qualified graduates, who are increasingly looking for opportunities beyond our shores…

Reverse democratization?

As if this were not enough, here comes another case which in our opinion poses a great risk to government and a greater loss to the people.

In fact according to press reports that appeared during the week (l’express of Monday 18 September) it seems that the Bhunjun Group is not at the end of its tether as regards its dealings with the government of the day.

The Ministry of Housing and Lands has apparently rejected a project submitted by their company Western Marina Ltd, on the ground that the feasibility report submitted does not conform to one of the conditions stipulated by the Ministry in a letter of reservation that it had issued earlier to the company. Veekram Bhunjun, promoter of the project, maintains that all the conditions stipulated have been respected, with meetings held at the Board of Investment. The latter referred to an independent study carried out by the Environment Ministry which found the site an ideal one for a marina. Further the BOI was to submit the project to government for a fast track approval process.

It is also reported that Veekram Bhunjun is considering legal proceedings to contest the government’s rejection of the project. It may be recalled that one of the first measures that was taken by the government after being installed was to rescind the contract for petrol supply that was awarded to Betamax, another company of the Bhunjun Group. They filed a case against this decision of the government, considered arbitrary, and the International Arbitration Court in Singapore determined in their favour, awarding damages of Rs 4.5 billion which the government will have to pay to the group. The STC has appealed to the Supreme Court against the ruling of the Arbitration Court.

One would have expected the Ministry of Lands and Housing to tread more carefully before coming to its decision in the case of Western Marina Ltd, given the Betamax precedent. This remains to be seen, and it is hoped that the consequence of this rejection will not again have to be borne by the taxpayers in the form of damages due to Western Marina Ltd.

What is more strange in this whole affair is that, to start with, this notice comes more than two years after government has been in power. As it is, economic operators are complaining about the morosity in the world of business, and that projects are not getting off the ground, being delayed for one reason or another. On the other hand, such a decision goes against the government policy of democratization of the economy as enunciated in its government programme. If at all, it looks more like a ‘reverse democratization’.

Democratisation of the economy was supposed to open up the economic space to more players, so as to reverse the concentration of economic power and space by a select few in the capitalist model of the economy. Studies by the World Bank have shown that such concentration is not only unacceptable but that it also impacts a country’s GDP adversely. The rejection of the marina project amounts to no less that a negation of this policy. Together with the inanities of its members which seem to multiply day by day, the promise of bettering the life of the population with which this government came to power seems further and further away from being fulfilled. It is time for a serious rethink of all government’s way of doing things, otherwise there is no preventing the further slide which does not augur well for either the government or the country’s future.

 

  • Published in print edition on 22 September 2017

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