While we were busy with our legendary and endless New Year celebrations, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, casually dropped a rather noisy bomb. While talking about the orientation of his foreign policy, the foreign minister hit at the very heart of what is now affectionately called ‘La Cuisine’: “More than 40% of the staff of parastatals are political nominees, and there is a surplus of them,” he said. As if that were not enough, he added, “Parastatals have become ´orphanages’ for placing these nominees!” He, in other words, accused the government – of which he forms part – of creating jobs for the boys and looking after their cronies at the expense of the interests of the country and those of all of us.
I didn’t want a statement of this magnitude to drown in the euphoria of the end-of-year festivities, nor would I allow the stench of its implications to be masked by the latent smell of alcohol and spirits.
First, one must bear in mind that Lutchmeenaraidoo’s statements are often calculated. You will perhaps vaguely recall that, in the middle of the euro-loan storm, when everyone thought he was going to come crashing down, Lutchmeenaraidoo kept quiet for a long time and then made what looks like an innocuous statement but with deep implications: “I am the cleanest member of this government. I am not the one with bank accounts in Hong Kong.” Now if he doesn’t have any money in Hong Kong, who does? How much does he know that he was about to tell us?
Perhaps a lot. For, the row between him and Anerood Jugnauth about who had lied to who immediately came to an end and he was carted off to foreign affairs where he kept all his privileges and will live happily until the end of his mandate.
His statement about the outrageous nepotism taking place by his government in institutions he boldly named and which are known to be run straight from La Cuisine cannot be innocent. Did he not get enough favours for his own dear ones or is his outburst a way of saying that nepotism and jobs for the boys have reached such an embarrassing point that something has to be done about it? Or is he being bombarded by his constituents about the total lack of transparency and meritocracy?
Any objective observer today can see that government members are working full-time to make sure that when they leave government, their dear ones are home and dry for the rest of their lives. And it is not just in parastatals. Almost every position available has been hijacked by those in power. Every project, from fish farming to gambling is only allowed to go ahead if it is connected to those in power. Being a qualified professional in Mauritius today means little. You have to show your allegiance to find a job as a doctor, get huge contracts as a notary, be hired as a lawyer by government institutions, sell biscuits at the airport, drive employees there, have a salary that cannot be disclosed to those who are paying for it or even supply fish to prisons. You mention it, you need to have a foot in the Sun Trust to get it. In some cases, if you are well connected, juicy jobs just fall in your lap without you even knowing that they have been advertised!
The worst part of it is, instead of lying low until we forget about their deeds, they rub it in by looking us straight in the eye and repeating that their cronies are highly competent and qualified for the jobs bestowed upon them. That means many unemployed graduates are not. Because they don’t have the main qualification of being connected to the parties in government.
Lutchmeenaraidoo’s statement might be qualified as too little too late. It is, however, a sign that those in the bubble know that the population is seething. The shameless bit is that instead of cleaning the Augean stable, they are using its dirt to bolster their own position.
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