The voodoo budget

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Slowly but surely, the Lepep government has been nibbling at our independent institutions. From the very beginning of its mandate, this tendency has been very clear. When the laws did not allow it to control the institution, the government simply changed them. From the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2015 to the Immigration (Amendment) Act 2019 through the prosecution commission bill that cost it its main partner – the PMSD – the aim has been the same: to concentrate all the powers in the hands of one already indecently powerful person: the prime minister.

You will have noticed that cronies and bootlickers have infiltrated all our institutions. Name me a single independent institution that has not been reduced to a sleeping toothless dog. The Independent Broadcasting Authority is happily watching, without ever blinking, the unprecedented level of propaganda that our already obsequious national broadcaster has reached. Our Equal Opportunities Commission sees absolutely nothing wrong with the level of nepotism we have reached. The ICAC, police, the Financial Services Commission… don’t even get me started on those. Even the State House has turned into a government agency and become a sorrowful shadow of its former self. As for the Electoral Supervisory Commission and the Electoral Boundaries Commission, we all watched the saga that took place and which resulted in appointing a clearly partisan crony on its board.

With the new budget, we are watching the culmination of that trend. Now that the person who resisted clearing Alvaro Sobrinho for business is out of the picture and has been replaced by a more supple governor, the Bank of Mauritius Act is going to be changed to allow the Bank to settle the debt of an irresponsible government that has been squandering our money as if there was no day of reckoning!

So, with a single wave of the magic wand, abracadabra, our national debt is back to the desired 60%. No wealth creation, no increase in our exports, no decrease in our imports, no nothing. You just take the hot money sitting at the Bank of Mauritius, call it a surplus when in fact there is none, and pay the debt that has gotten out of hand! I wonder why no one had thought of that before. It took a genius and his kitchen advisers to come up with such a magic solution. Had we exported this recipe, we would have saved a lot of countries from bankruptcy.

This single measure consummates the conviction that this government champions interventionism in all spheres of public life and has hijacked all institutions, even those whose independence is enshrined in the constitution. Using forex reserves, which may well belong to foreign depositors, is foolhardy. If the latter choose to repatriate their deposits, it could trigger a currency crisis. The BoM holds these reserves to supply forex for import needs and to stabilise the rupee by selling forex. Its capacity to do so is impaired when it is looted so drastically. Worse, now that the government has a free hand in the BoM, what prevents it from printing as much money as it needs to cover its incompetence, leading us on the same path as Zimbabwe?

But none of this is important. What is important is that the non-elected prime minister, supported by some useless ministers and MPs, will be able to brag about how he managed to do in one day what the previous government did not manage to do in 10 years. Just as this same government had bragged about having signed the end of the DTAA with India in one day and called it a great achievement. Who cares about the consequences? It’s the spin that counts.

In this realm, there is no shortage of selfappointed economists who find draining the reserves of the Bank absolutely fine, the minister of finance luminary and the budget brilliant. Their voices drown those of real economists and political observers who are sounding the alarm bells. These roder boute and obsequious rent seekers are as guilty as those whose knuckles must be still aching from tapping the National Assembly tables when hearing things they have no clue about, bartering their dignity for an investiture in the next general election. The other selfless brave voices will be remembered for having denounced the voodoo tactics that, if unchecked, will drive this nation to bankruptcy.

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Lundi 10 juin 2019 : dernier budget de l’actuel mandat du Premier ministre et ministre Finances, Pravind Jugnauth. Retrouvez tous les articles, les vidéos, analyses, sur cet exercice financier national.

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