Following recent events involving high profile ministers who have made banner headlines, there has been an ever increasing call for those perceived as incompetent to resign. There is no doubt that mediocrity has become the norm in the performance of some of the current ministers. The question that begs to be asked is why we have reached such an abysmal level.
As a starting point, let us try to analyse the underlying reasons. First, the million dollar question should be, on what basis are ministers appointed? Is it purely on ability and good management or is it for some other weird reasons that have been prevalent throughout present and past governments? To satisfy our multi-ethnic population, there is an unwritten quota system in place and that is the basis in the allocation of any ministerial post. In essence each ethnic group is supposedly to be entitled to a set number of ministers at senior and junior level, known as PPS (Parliamentary Private Secretaries).
Other factors that are considered are that if the government happens to be a coalition of different parties, then it is the question of how many ministerial appointees each party is entitled to, well, that would depend on their number of elected members of Parliament. It goes without saying that each leader of the parties involved will automatically hold high office. So it pays to form a party and appoint oneself as leader (a popular trend in Mauritius) because if you can be elected even alone and have enough political clout, you are bound to get a ministerial position immaterial of your ability. Now as a bonus, if you happen to be the sole elected representative of your ethnic group and form part of the majority, you are assured to be a minister as observed in the current crop of ministers.
Another scenario, which has also happened during the lifetime of this government, concerns the turncoats. If you are prepared to renege your political ideology (assuming you had any in the first place) and decide to stay put even if your party resigns from the government. If you decide to shift your loyalty to bring much needed oxygen to the government of the day, then you have hit the jackpot because it can prove to be an irrefutable bargaining power to claim that ministerial prize. Again, this was confi rmed by the sequence of events the last time when there was a split in the government ranks.
As you can observe, there are number of ways towards obtaining the coveted ministerial seat, but you have to be sure to fulfil the criteria spelt out already. Attributes such as intelligence, ability, reasoning powers, dynamism, proactive approach, clear sightedness are desirable but not essential if you can qualify through other means.
Recently, we read and heard a PPS giving interviews to all and sundry and each time emphasizing that there is a few mediocre ministers currently in the present government. Who am I to argue to the contrary as he has a first hand knowledge of those not up to the task? Obviously, there is more that meet the eyes because it is obviously a long-standing problem.
In an article in March 2012, a well-known and respected journalist wrote, and I quote, “Ramgoolam must take his ministers to task for taking their responsibilities lightly, for engaging in blatant conflicts of interests”. At that time, it did not cut any ice with the present incumbent; there was no reaction, no cabinet reshuffle. Let us assume for argument’s sake that, in the near future, changes will be made. Will they be made purely on ability or will other relevant considerations come to the fore yet again? Will the incompetent be sacked or moved sideways just to pacify ethnic considerations?
When will the time come when only the fi nest will be appointed because they are the most able and MAURITIAN by birth immaterial of their ethnic origin? To quote the late Martin Luther King “I have a dream”, and I hope that it is not pie in the sky. Recently I heard a very loquacious politician state that Minister X is a hard worker, I wonder, does that suffi ce? Is it an alternative to competency? If only ministers were made to realise that “THE BUCK STOPS HERE ” , instead of coming up with the usual platitudes when they fail appallingly to perform to the minimum acceptable standards in their responsibilities as ministers.