Who are we?

Almost 40 years lessons of freedom. Independence and Republic country since 1992. Mauritius is therefore free after all colonial establishment and procedures. Mauritius is free to act, to transact, to deal with the outside world, to govern, to please her population, to harmonize the atmosphere. Mauritius is independent and a Republic with a democratic constitution. She has an elected government with a Prime Minister as head. She has a President with limited powers in some cases and unlimited powers in others. Mauritius owes nothing to the outside world. Except loans, massive – which she has been taking for years and years. She has to repay with heavy interest. The financers, especially FMI and World Bank and at a certain level, the E. U, impose hard conditions on the government as to ways and means of dealing with our finance. But let it be clear, nobody owes us anything. Not the least cent. We have to behave like mongers to get subsidies, grants, loans in order to run our affairs.

All of us – the whole population – know full well that the national finance is on the border line of bankruptcy. Our main industry – sugar cane – is having dying days. Just some revival injections from European Union with specific conditions and almost orders just like ‘bourgeois donne lordre’. Thirty nine years, Mauritius has been living ups and downs. Presently more downs. A national increasing variancing heavily towards negativeness. Poverty increasing amazingly. Unemployment in the red. Youth changing towards demagogy and irresponsibilities. Mauritian society is living more in fright than in wisdom. Almost forty years of living in our own, yet, we Mauritians still think that our way of living as it was during colonial time should be the same. Free schooling scheme. Free food schedules. Free transport for students and elders. Subsidized basic food. It’s true that as an ex-colony of Britain, Mauritius has developed the (bad?) habit of modelling its social development on the British pattern, irrespective of its economic development. Welfare state established in Mauritius by the colonialists but continued to be so even after Independence, not caring the least of the bad economic situation. As historians say even UK under the rule of Margaret Thatcher had to review to some extent scope of free social benefits to keep them within affordable limits.

Social benefits. OK! They bring relief to poor families, to needy people, to a vast majority of the population living in inhuman conditions. But there is a price to pay for them. Some are justified. But others not. Not at all. Let’s take education. At primary level, it has been free during colonial days and it has been so after 1968. Election ‘bakshies’ of late Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam on the eve of general election in 1982: free secondary education. No planification. No imagination. No source of funding it. Just establishment of an authority to deal with the administrative implications of this scheme. Creation of PSSA. Up to now, a complete chaos! PSSA pays enrolments, wages, salaries to staff of private secondary schools. But it does not consider itself as their employers. The Managers are the employers. Paradoxe. Another weakness of education: free tertiary education. Nowhere in the world does it exist. Yet Mauritius pays the luxury of ‘université gratis’ regarding tuition fees. The University of Mauritius claims registration fees and other administrative fees to all students. Because of a negative variance on its budget, the UOM claims an increase of 20% on these fees. “Leave free education alone”, retorts chairman of UOM students union.

Weakness of government – whichever party at the helm – are so clear that once they start something and in the course of implementations, they justify for some changes, quickly they are put to task. Trade Unionists, politicians use the situation, raise students against government and lead the way for la grève, black-out. Danger. Never start something you can’t stop!

MMM/MSM, Labour/MMM, Alliance Sociale, all political parties agree to continue with social benefits. But with some changes. They try with targetting. Suffice to expose to the public, the targetting plan that the people explose, start ‘grève de la faim, talk of la ‘grève’”. We still remember targetting by the previous government of old age citizens social benefits. A big fiasco. Poor Minister Sam Lauthan had to pay ‘le pot cassé’. Actual government is targetting people earning up to Rs 7500 for payment of exam fees as social benefits. Those earning Rs 8000 or more have to pay full exam fees. We know reactions. We don’t know end results.

 Same bad scheme for health service. Free to all. At cardiac centre of Pamplemousses where the best and latest heart treatment is affordable, rich, very rich people are admitted freely. Not the least cent to pay. Worse: using their influence with Ministers and others, they easily jump over the queue for surgery and others. There is no harm in providing free social benefits. But when the State can provide, can have funds. It’s OK. But when the economic situation is ‘au rouge’, is it not fair, reasonable to establish a sort of subsidy. Subsidy on free education, free health service, free transport, free entreprenariat. Economic development has to go hand in hand with social developments.

But the population is not to be blamed rightfully. Politicians have their share of responsibilities. Wild promises in their ‘programme élection’ without paying heed to the costs, the budgetary implications. Just to win elections, they promise heaven. Once elected, they have to implement their program. The Minister of Finance has to juggle with figures, fight to have funds for funding the pre-electoral promises. But when ‘la caisse commence vide’, they decide to act, to change rules of the games. We know the results. Government is also responsible for social unrest prevailing in the country. A lot of expenditure. A horde of advisers, attachés de presse, chauffeur, body guards costing millions and millions of rupees which ‘l’État bizin tire dan la caisse’. Unnecessary expenditures claim citizens. Rightly or wrongly. Bad communication among government and the population lead to frustration, protest, grève de la faim, marche de protestation, threat of black-out. Bad communications lead to make people believe that government ministers are leading lavish life with a lot of unnecessary expenditures. Rightly or wrongly. Frustration, lack of employment, lack of food, lack of money, influence people to go towards drug, robbery, theft, attack ‘à main armée’.

Mauritius is becoming a country of fear where ‘il fait peur de vivre’ (dixit a French tourist). We all should, shoulder to shoulder, like in our salaat, unite ourselves. Peacefully, in a very civilized way make our leaders understand that they have to change their system of ruling the country. They should gain the confidence of the population. If not, days will be more and more difficulty. Their communication should be reviewed. My only question is: who are we? Let’s all of us look for a reply. A well imagined reply. Not just reflexion without thought. Careful thought. Long live Mauritius!


Ismaël A. Randera

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