Ouf, the Budget again

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In this ‘plaisir’ country there are a few recurrent themes which plague us at the same periods, year in and year out. The lack of rain and the empty reservoirs are hot pleasurable topics of conversation in every living room every year. We have become so ‘blasé’ about this that we get all uptight when the Met Office announces rain at this time. Please let us go through the motions of talking about how the CWA is taking drastic steps and how global warming is responsible.

The other thing that plagues us during this time is the hype about the Budget. It is somewhat less infuriating this time as there is Mr Dev Manraj who is the Financial Secretary. This one seems to have his feet well on the ground in Mauritius and he is not hankering after the cherry blossoms of Washington.

I hope that it will be a real pleasure if the Budget speech could be contained within one hour. Any speech that exceeds that time is hideous to listen to and, if all the TV cameras were removed from Parliament, people would be falling asleep. It is simply incredible that Budget speeches every year travel over the same ground and it is creativity and imagination that seem to be painfully absent. A change in the FS might mean a significant difference and it will be welcomed by one and all.

There is no mystery about the Budget and it appears that this realization has finally descended upon all those who work on it. The art of succinctness is to be cherished. Brevity is an art and the Honourable Prime Minister could give some guidance to his colleagues on this aspect of communication. The quality of the Budget does not depend on its repetitions and length. I also hope that the childishness of banging on the table that permeates the House when the allocations for old age pensions and for certain ministries like Health and Education are announced will be subjected to an abolition regime.

One aspect of the Budget which must be stressed is the sheer incompetence of certain bodies which account for cost overruns on infrastructure projects funded by the taxpayer but which also represent grave dangers for the ordinary caring Mauritian. One such body is the Road Development Authority which is supposed to design and build roads which are safe. The wall which is being built on the new lane on Sir Colville Deverell Bridge separating one lane from the two others is a monumental fiasco. How such a so-called development could have been agreed to at the initial stages is mind-shattering. This incompetence must be sent to the Guinness Book of records so that at least we will be famous for something.

What the Minister of Finance must do is to tax incompetence of these bodies and those who failed to do what they are paid to do.

The taxpayer who is prepared to do his share for the country will not and should not be made to countenance a situation where incompetence is rewarded. Certainly not by a ticket to the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The axe must fall.

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