To The Minister of Local Government, The Hon. Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo

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The state’s stranglehold on everything is enough to make even a spirit of prudence turn purple with rage, in the same way other city states used to get rather cross with Athens for being so domineer. So, don’t blame me if I get on my high horse for once, rather than into my virtual chariot, even if winged carriages are better at avoiding traffic jams. Incidentally, if mortals don’t want jams, they shouldn’t buy cars. If that seems impractical, at least they could try and keep a sense of perspective. How many major cities around the world have installed metro systems, causing disruption for years, not months, at a time? The government here gets blamed, of course, but that’s because the state behaves like a control freak.

There’s a crying need for decentralisation and more consultation with citizens. Your ministry could lead the way with reforms – and not of the kind recently touted –, but governments are afraid to bring in useful changes even early in their mandates, let alone in the dying embers. There’s always some vested interest that will be upset and the national good rarely gets much consideration. A few wise voices have urged reform for decades but suggestions always fall on deaf ears. It may be time to ask Hippocrates III to check all politicos for hearing impairment, as well as on their mental health.

A very odd situation has arisen since Independence as it seems a new oligarchy has emerged. Successive leaders appear to believe that they can postpone local elections at will – and decide who should head district councils. Perhaps the unions’ bizarre concept of acquired rights has wormed its way into the heart of government. It’s time for branch and root reform. The ideal would be to hold inter-party talks but no political leader, of any colour, shows any interest in having his wing’s clipped. Ordinary politicos are themselves part of the problem, spinelessly accepting that dear leaders should decide on tickets for the general elections – just as others see local elections as stepping stones to higher office rather than as a way of serving their local community. How standards have slipped, perhaps due to the wrong ancestral values. It produces the worst forms of obsequiousness, exemplified by hand-kissing. Mind you, that’s more acceptable, even delightfully old-fashioned, than anal attentions.

There must be an Indian Ocean virus. Mount Olympos watched the recent presidential elections across the water with dismay. It’s difficult to digest one’s ambrosia while watching an impoverished population hero-worship leaders spending vast sums of money on propaganda and electoral bribes. As the Electoral Supervisory Commission here is unable to monitor electoral expenditure, perhaps it’s time for the MRA to step in and examine all the unexplained wealth dispersed. Its chairman could take the lead.

Of course, local expenditure also needs monitoring, especially as many elected officials are aspirant politicos and have the same kind of principles as their overlords. But that’s what the NAO is for. There are a few obvious solutions. You could hand out copies of Euripides’ tragedies to all party leaders – and advisors – to show where hubris leads. If single-member constituencies were also introduced, there would have to be more local consultation on candidatures, although that may explain why no party is proposing it.

A more sweeping version of the Rama tax would also help, providing the money collected and more decision-making powers were transferred to the local authorities, including the village councils. You wouldn’t have to postpone local elections either: in the unlikely event any undesirables won a council or two, you would also have devolved all the criticism...

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