Mr. Dependable

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There, it’s been said. Without Navin Ramgoolam’s leadership we’d still be stumbling blindly though the darkness of crippling underdevelopment, painfully bumping our shins on blunt objects and wearing jute sacks. A frightful thought indeed. On the bright side, just think of what we can achieve by keeping him in power for another 20 years as he suggested we do.

Although the Prime minister’s speeches are becoming increasing outlandish, a characteristic that usually betrays a tenuous grip on reality, his recent utterances about being the font of all development is an opportunity to put one particularly counterproductive half-truth to bed.

Yes, it’s true that the economy hasn’t performed too badly these past few years. The former minister of Finance for one never tired of reciting the amazing levels of Foreign Direct Investment that were pouring into the country. But this is where things get interesting. Has this economic development benefited the population? More globally, has it been translated into human development? The latter question in particular is apposite, as it’s becoming an increasingly important gauge of a country’s progress. Sadly, it seems to have been virtually sublimated here.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index is the internationally accepted benchmark for measuring this kind of development. Yet as the Prime minister has pointed out, one doesn’t have to be a boffin to know things (although it’s fine line between being a know-nothing expert and a semi-intellectual). There are a few elementary questions that can act as a guide to establish the level of human development.

Are my kids receiving a decent education? Does the public health sector provide a quality service? Do I feel safe at home and in public places? Do I have job security? Do my wages allow to me to live decently? Is my quality of life getting better? Or worse? Does everyone have the same chances of getting ahead? Do I feel free to express myself?

These are the sort of questions that people ask themselves, not “how much will investment will this project attract?”. The time when the word development had a magical effect on the press and civil society are long gone. Not only do we want to know what kind of development the authorities are plumping for, but we also need to be convinced that it won’t come hidden social and environmental costs that will have to be paid by future generations. The Prime minister should be proud of this evolution as it shows that the citizens of this country are becoming more discerning and, it must be said, mature. Wait, on second thought that actually sounds like a politician’s nightmare.

And as his tendency of lashing out against critics shows, Navin Ramgoolam seems perfectly aware of this. So what do we get? Inane speeches of how incredibly well his administration has done to improve the lot of the population, speeches that are increasingly at odds with reality. These delusions of grandeur are partly responsible for the choppy start the Prime minister’s second consecutive mandate has gotten off to. Perhaps he should lean on human development indicators to guide his decisions people will tolerate a lot if they feel they’re going forward. They might even give him all those mandates he’s asking for. Better yet, he might even deserve them.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

Nicholas RAINER

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