Today’s promises, tomorrow’s costs

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Here’s a piece of advice to our political leaders and I will not even charge for it: cut the c…! 

Ever since talk about the elections started,  tapping into ugly populism and appealing to all sorts of lobbies have gone into hysteria mode.

We don’t mind the usual empty and useless talk about poverty, for example. All these people, adamant on eradicating it today, have spent years in power worrying about everything else. Apart from creating vultures who feed on it and maintain it, we have seen little improvement. And we’re unlikely to see any. But keep talking, please. We are listening.

But where it gets really dangerous is when we start committing the country to promises it can’t afford, in a very calculated – often communal – way. First, the idea of increasing the old age pension to Rs 5,000 up from the Rs 3,623 it currently is. A smart idea in fact, considering the number of old people each constituency counts. (See our cover story for a detailed analysis.) But when you take into account the fact that in our greying country, the thinning youth are finding it more and more difficult to finance the frantically-growing old, you begin to understand what we are embarking our future generation on.

Add to this the sudden realisation, by both political blocs, that the Penalty Point System which, though it may not have made us that much more disciplined as drivers, has for sure reduced the number of fatalities on our roads, should be reconsidered and then you realise to what extent we are giving in to senseless lobbies just to attract some cheap votes. Oh, some say,we should perhaps exempt ‘professional’ drivers because they make a living on our roads! I beg your pardon? Is a life taken by a reckless ‘professional’driver worth any less than one taken by an ‘amateur’ driver? Have we looked into the number of accidents caused by these ‘professionals’? Have we seen how some bus drivers burn rubber just to pick up a few more passengers? Have our politicians ever driven on our roads without having their motorcycle cops clearing them for their ease and safety? Those who depend on our roads for their livelihood just have to be more careful. Period.

As for the promise of introducing a law “which would allow those convicted of criminal offences to have their case re-opened” – presumably without any “fresh and compelling evidence” – as announced in Piton on Tuesday, it is just so beautiful that it requires no comment. You just call your lawyer and have your case re-opened. The lawyer will get more money, the convicted criminal will have something to keep him busy, there will be some publicity around the Amicale case and the Muslim vote is won! Beautiful, isn’t it? Who cares about clogging up our justice system? It’s not as if it is slow enough as it is, is it?

Well, as the scholar Thomas Schelling once noted, two things are very expensive in life: promises when they succeed and threats when they fail. May God save us from both.

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