Economic development: rupture revisited

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The author believes that the inaction of the Labour government from 2010 to 2014 has contributed to the downfall of BAI.

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)

ICAC was created by the MSM/MMM government following the report from the then select committee which was chaired by the present Deputy Prime Minister. We have seen the shortcomings of ICAC in numerous cases; it is neither independent nor seen as such, more recently illustrated by the ‘volte-face’ of ICAC in the MedPoint case as a prime example. It is also a waste of taxpayers’ money. If the former Prime Minister is serious about rupture then he should also accept his mistakes, particularly his part of the responsibility for changes he made in connection with the political appointments for those in charge of ICAC.

Financial Crime Office

In order to put this institution on the right track, any responsible Prime Minister should go for the dissolution of ICAC and replace it by a fully independent Financial Crime Office (FCO). In order for such an institution to be fully independent, the appointments for those in charge should not be made by politicians but rather by the Chief Justice with two most senior Judges with the FCO fully accountable to the Parliamentary Cross Party Select Committee.

Any political party with a Prime Minister who makes such changes in the public interest will always be remembered for putting the country on the right track. It will be a road map for the future development of our country in line with the Singapore model and this will help our transition from a middle-income country to an advanced country within less than a decade.

Policy Unit

Instead of having numerous politically nominated advisers in the different Ministries, it is crucial to restrict their numbers and instead, set up a competent Policy Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office. Most of these advisers are a complete waste of time and are also a waste of taxpayers’ money. Such a Policy Unit unlike the former one, should have professional multi-disciplinary commit- tee members with a proven track record in issues of public interest. As the aim of a responsible Government is to work in the public interest, therefore the ultimate goal of the Policy Unit is public interest.

Public Sector Mismanagement

Nearly all parastatal bodies, institutions and companies controlled by the government are sick due to the poor performance of their board members. There is not an iota of doubt that the quality of the majority of Board members is well below standard. Take for instance, the loss of billions of rupees by Air Mauritius Limited as well as the exceptional losses in billions of rupees by the State Bank of Mauritius Ltd since 2015.

The ex-Chairman of Air Mauritius could not bear it anymore and preferred to leave the country while the current Chairman of SBM “pé manz pistas pé get sinéma”. Let us not forget the losses of billions of rupees in the British American Insurance (BAI) case incurred by the Mauritian taxpayers which is scandalous in the ways it was handled.

The board of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation is of such a low standard that the appropriate word to describe it does not exist. Is it not worse than the word “vermine” used in one instance by the Leader of the MMM? The former Prime Minister is also to be blamed but the present state of affairs is worst. Rupture should mean rupture and if the Labour Party comes back to power, the next Prime Minister must cater for an independent TV channel in competition with the MBC. This will lead to objective criticism which will no doubt be in the public interest and be a road map for Mauritius to become a developed country.

All the successive governments since Independence have generally failed in selecting competent and multi-disciplinary board members. The former government has also failed to take appropriate actions to avoid the BAI scandal from 2010 to 2014. The Bramer Bank was part of the BAI group. By way of reminder, performance indicators were available through the auditors’ report and the supervisory role of the Bank of Mauritius, the Financial Services Commission, the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office. In 2013, the leader of the Opposition raised the BAI’s critical situation in Parliament whilst the Chairman of the Financial Services Commission resigned before 2014.

In light of all these indications why did the former Labour Prime Minister not intervene to contain the situation? He failed to do so and therefore, if he really means RUPTURE then he must start by creating an environment to have competent multi-disciplinary people at board level in all the public sector entities controlled by government. Ministers who fail to comply with such a policy must be sanctioned or exceptionally warned not to repeat any such mistake or even removed in certain circumstances. It is basic common sense that if you put garbage in you will get garbage out. Therefore, board members in public sector entities should meet the standard expected of a member of the Mauritius Institute of Directors and comply with the Good Governance body. It would then be up to the Policy Unit to recommend the appointment of board member in the public sector entities.

If these policies are adopted then they will create a conducive environment to the reversal of the brain drain. Hence with the quality of life in Mauritius, we can even attract the best brain from abroad and can move ahead of Singapore! As a patriot, I sincerely hope that it is realisable in the near future, “Alé Moris” can then be extended for our economic development to be an advanced country!

Conflict of interest

Our beloved country has been plagued since 2016/17 up to now for not having a full-time Minister of Finance independent from a full time Prime Minister, creating an unparalleled precedent since independence in 1968. In cases of disagreements with the Ministry of Finance one can appeal to the Prime Minister. However, such a case is not possible as the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister is the same person. He cannot be party and judge at the same time.

This particularly applies to the issue of the famous controversial repayment of government debts from reserves of the Bank of Mauritius. Had I been a board member of the Bank of Mauritius, I would have insisted that this transfer of reserve is a loan to the Government and is refundable. If this was not adopted by the board of the Bank of Mauritius then I would have resigned as a board member.

Going forward

As a responsible citizen I can only hope that the next general election will elect a responsible government to make strategic changes in the public interest. One among them being for the Metro Express to be aligned overhead in St. Jean road instead of surface track at Quatre-Bornes. The track on the surface on St. Jean road would be catastrophic in all aspect.

If the next Prime Minister is serious about the implementation of the principle of RUPTURE and adopts such policies of genuine rupture referred to above, then he will no doubt be remembered as the Prime Minister who has transformed the economic landscape of Mauritius, and set the trail of progress for our country to be fully developed within less than a decade.

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