The real fat cats

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I do not mean to rain on the parade of our parliamentarians as they prepare to receive the handsome salary increase which is coming their way, but the symbolism behind it is immoral, indecent and unacceptable.

We are going through very tough times, according to the prime minister himself. The country was bankrupt, he said when he took over. Well, if it was bankrupt then, since our national debt has increased by – hold your breath – Rs29 billion since the new government took over, then I fail to find a word in the dictionary to describe the state of our national purse. Our debt has been steadily increasing by Rs2billion every single month since the beginning of 2015!

In such an alarming situation, what do you expect a responsible government to do? First and foremost, to lead by example by containing its expenditure and reducing waste by those living off the public exchequer. The expenditure includes salaries, fringe benefits and other unnecessary expenses.

As far as that is concerned, this government has been occupying the first step of the podium for months. They increased the per diem for themselves to make it even more obscene and suddenly we saw how ministers and other MPs, including the speaker, started clambering over one another to travel and benefit from all sorts of allowances. At times, family members, mistresses and cronies too benefitted from our generosity.

As if the increased travelling and the increased per diem – by far a record for some ministers – was not enough, now the lucky ones we elected to serve us will probably vote to give themselves an even more disproportionate salary increase.

And what do we get for our money? We certainly did not get our elected members to work hard or even harder. In total, the anointed ones received a handsome vacation of… six months in one-and-a-half years! While they are not on vacation or globetrotting at will, they sit in the national assembly once a week! By sitting, I mean just that. A large number of MPs have never made their voices heard. Some looked as if they were totally unconcerned by the debate.

Outside parliament, we have not seen much going on. The water situation is still the same, in spite of the promises, there is no accountability, no transparency and meritocracy has never been a vainer word than it is today.

As far as projects are concerned, there have been no new social housing projects and, in fact, the houses distributed lately with great fanfare were built by the previous government. Some were even allowed to crumble down before they were refurbished and distributed to a few families. The only big project to date – apart from a couple of initiatives like dealing with plastic bags and street hawkers’ – is the parking lot built in Quatre Bornes which was inaugurated by four ministers!

In fact, many of those who are sitting in our national assembly today are there due to a strange combination of circumstances. They are ill prepared, inexperienced and a few rather uneducated. When the manna from heaven fell on their heads, they must have spent months trying to come to terms with how easy it is for money to come their way. The ministers who did best are those who did their best at doing nothing. At least they did not side with one country against another, run down methadone users because of their perceived voting pattern or jeopardise a whole economic sector. But for doing nothing, I think the real fat cats are handsomely paid for their jobs. No need for any more fattening.

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