It is not just an embarrassment; it is an utter humiliation! The latest World Bank report on the Ease of Doing Business in which Mauritius has lost 17 places should be a wake-up call. It is a reminder that incompetence, amateurism and shooting from the hip do not go unpunished.
More than the report, which should make our leaders hang their heads in shame, it is the disconcerting flippancy with which it has been received that is even more shocking. First, and to be consistent with their attitude of opacity and bluffing, those in power did everything they could to hide the findings of the report from the people to whom they promised transparency. You will recall how quick they were, in 2015, to brandish the more positive reports evaluating previous years. Then it all became the fault of journalists and the opposition who have been cooking up stories and giving the country a bad name.
You will agree that it was journalists who abducted foreign businessmen in the Dufry saga and prevented them from leaving the country, sending the signal to those interested to know that this has become a country where lawlessness has replaced the rule of law; where ministers take the law into their own hands and decide who should do business here and who should be forbidden from leaving the country.
Then it was journalists who had an attorney arrested and confiscated his confidential papers in total disregard for the lawyer/client confidentiality. And it was, naturally, journalists who zeroed in on targeted companies, terminating perfectly legal contracts, nationalising some entities, killing others and feasting on the carcass with alarming greed.
It was also journalists, you will agree again, who put an end to our treaty with India and asked us to be thankful for the privilege of having received a meagre sum of money in return.
While the blame-game is going on, the arrogance of those in power continues in complete oblivion of the harm they are causing the nation. As we are all staggering from the shock of hearing how, from the position of 32nd, we have sunk so low that we hit the 49th rank in doing business, those whose heads have become heavy with power are sitting in their ivory towers apparently only worried about who should get what advantages, thus increasing the already alarming instability which has characterised the country recently.
Showkutally Soodhun, for example, came out recently to shamelessly tell us that the man we elected as prime minister to run this country for five years – and to whom he had declared he was prepared to act as a slave – has to go and let his son become prime minister! “Abroad,” Soodhun said, “Pravind is already considered the prime minister!” So off you go!
And he is not the only one making the law in this country and usurping the powers of the prime minister. Mahen Jhugroo, chief whip of the government, suddenly, and out of the blue, decided that Mahen Seeruttun – you know the guy who messed up big time in the case of the foot-and-mouth disease – is going to be the next minister of finance!
The country is sinking; our ranking has never been as low since the ranking started; Foreign Direct Investment is literally half of what it was in 2014; disinvestment is alarming; public debt has soared to unprecedented levels without even a single project taking off. And the only concern of those in government is who should grab which ministry! I sometimes wonder what drug they are on. We could all do with a small dose of it.
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