…and pigs will fly!

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I am sure you have not forgotten yet but, just in case, not so long ago, senior members of this same government sat side by side in a press conference and told us that the British American Investment company is a Ponzi scheme. They repeated the word ‘Ponzi’ until it became synonymous with Dawood Rawat. Yet, the BDO report made public by Rawat’s lawyer this week shows that the company’s assets were valued at Rs17.9 billion! You will also recall how our luminary leaders kept repeating that they were going to solve the problem without a single penny coming out of the public kitty! We now know how many billions of taxpayers’ money have been borrowed, banking on asset values yet to be proven. 

The same team assured us that the Betamax contract was illegal and they rescinded it unilaterally. Today, not a cent of the Rs5 billion award will come out of their bulging pockets. We will have to dig in our threadbare ones to pay for their lousy decisions.

Remember also the promise that the loans we are contracting from India will not increase our public debt! We borrow money, but there are no debts. The kind of magic only this government is capable of. 

I don’t want to rub it in but I won’t allow you to forget the greatest project of all time with its offices, houses, Bollywood park and dancing fountain which was going to be paid for by foreign governments without asking for anything in return! It was called Heritage City and we were called the most gullible fools that have ever walked this earth.

The situation is no different today. Ivan Collendavelloo, the guy who promised us a 24/7 water supply while forgetting to breathe a word about privatisation, is looking us straight in the eye again and promising that this ‘affermage’ contract is going to save the Central Water Authority and that no jobs will be lost. In fact, employees will be offered even more attractive terms, the organisation will come out of the red and our water problems will be something of the past. What? Increase in water tariffs? Yes, of course, but that has nothing to do with the ‘affermage’ Collendavelloo tells us, brandishing the World Bank report. Some sort of a holy book that believers cannot question. 

What Collendavelloo is not telling us is that 14 privatisations and concessions similar to the one proposed for Mauritius were rolled back in Africa between 2001 and 2014 in many countries when they found out at their expense the cost of such a decision. What Collendavelloo is not telling us is the reason that the CWA is in the red is the political weight of populist decisions. The six cubic metres of water, for example, supplied to 63,000 households free of charge may be a humane decision which provides huge political mileage. But why should the CWA bear the cost of Rs43.2 million a year that that decision entails? Shouldn’t that come out of some other fund destined to help the poor? And let’s not begin to talk about Collendavelloo’s constituents who were lucky enough to find jobs in the same company, thus imposing additional costs on it. 

What Collendavelloo is not telling us is that the holy book – sorry the World Bank report – recommends that the pipe and customer connection replacement “be reimbursed by [the] CWA” and that the operator will not go through the tender procedures but rather the operator’s “own procurement processes…to enable faster-unfettered procurement”! And “if the revenues happen to be lower than the stipulated remuneration for the private operator, the CWA will be responsible for such shortfall.”

What Collendavelloo is not telling us is that the chosen operator may be the luckiest businessman on earth. According to the same World Bank report, the operator will have the pipes repaired using companies of his own choice and billing the CWA. The latter will pay for all the water infrastructure required. The operator will be guaranteed a profit. If there is none, the consumer will have to be billed! Isn’t that a win-win situation?

So what Collendavelloo is not telling us is that we are walking straight into a disaster. As we did in the other above cases. With our eyes open. And that he is, once again, trying to make us believe that pigs can fly.  

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