A costly ego

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When the news came out that we had forked out 10m rupees to pay for our Minister of Financial Service Roshi Bhadain’s 14 overseas trips last year alone, he did not fail to react. Flanked by three other senior ministers all clambering over one another to inaugurate – please don’t laugh – a parking lot – who says Mauritius is not developing? – he said that he had brought us so much more in return.

So, let’s please talk about how much more. Please!

First, he shamelessly tried to take credit for the congress on arbitration held on the island this week. If that’s what we are getting for our Rs10m, then we have been badly short-changed. 

The ICCA website states that “Mauritius was chosen as the host for the Congress […] because of the progress that Mauritius has made to improve its legal system [...] This progress includes the adoption of the International Arbitration Act 2008 [...] Mauritius has also put in place institutions and systems which support international arbitration: In 2009, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, opened its first overseas representative office in Mauritius […] In 2011, the Government of Mauritius and the LCIA agreed to form the LCIA-MIAC Arbitration Centre [...] In 2013, a special group of Designated International Arbitration Judges was appointed in the Supreme Court […]”

Forgive me, but I did not see anything under the heading: “In 2015” or “in 2016”! The ICCA clearly points out that it was in 2012 that the decision to organise this year’s congress in Mauritius was taken. So I still cannot see where my Rs10m went!

Oh, but there is also the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with India. Completely oblivious to the fact that the industry has organised a three-day mourning and that youngsters in this country have sunk in total despair at the mere thought that he had signed the treaty, Bhadain had the audacity to brag about what this treaty will mean for Mauritius!

What it will mean can be read on the faces of the economic operators in the sector who know that we have signed away our taxing rights on capital gains to India – something which no finance minister had accepted to do in the past. Reuters did not miss a beat and duly hailed the amendments to the treaty as “a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, after previous administrations had unsuccessfully tried to change the terms of the treaty.” 

This will sound the death knell for our offshore. Everyone knows that with the stroke of a pen, Bhadain has killed off a large part of the business of management companies, law firms, audit firms and banks. The damage he has caused is irreversible and it will soon result in heavy lay-offs. Everybody knows how dire the situation he has voluntarily put us in is – except him. 

We have surrendered our taxing rights on capital gains to India and given them much more than they had asked for through the GAAR. We will thus gradually destroy the quality jobs that thousands of our youth have in the sector, cutting off a good chunk of foreign exchange and therefore starving our economy. In exchange for this, we took out our begging bowl and accepted the Rs12.7 Bn that India threw at us! Where is our national pride? 

This compensation – for which we’ve sold a whole sector and our dignity – will not be used for the industry or for any project which the country is badly in need of like a proper transport system, access to water or adequate social housing. It will be used to build Heritage City which Bhadain seems to be obsessed with. It is now a question of ego and of not losing face or backtracking: he has nailed his colours to this “prestige” mast and nothing is allowed to stand in the way. Not even reason.

So our minister will carry on with his globetrotting and spin doctoring. And we will carry on applauding everything he does for this nation and pay for his excesses. By the end of his mandate, his globetrotting alone, at this rate, will have cost us Rs50 m. His ego will however have cost the country so much more!

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