The budget speech, a major exercise, where the population learns about Government’s ambitions and projects for the coming year but also about the health of the economy, has been a great opportunity to learn for anyone with an open mind. I have personally learnt the great gap between my perception of the state of the country’s finances and the reality as communicated to us by the government.
Minister of Finance Renganaden Padayatchy put his stethoscope on the chest of a country that was already in the cardiac ward before Covid-19 sent it reeling to the Intensive Care Unit and a diagnosis was made. The economy, we found out, is actually in very good health, thank you! There is absolutely no need for any reforms, certainly not in the public sector or anywhere else where public money is spent. No need for any salary cuts – perish the thought! – for ministers or high government officials. In fact, we are doing so well that the public sector needs to hire 4,450 more public servants to serve the country! Also, no one needs to worry: the PRB report, with the usual salary revision, is on the cards and all is well in the best of worlds.
This is warmly reassuring, particularly for those of us whose salaries have been dwindling since the pandemic hit the world. But worry not. We are not like the rest of the world. We have geniuses at the head of the country and our young and dynamic prime minister managed to “save the economy”. He repeated it so many times this week that it must be true. So let’s all be thankful for his magic wand.
Let’s remember then, every time we go to the supermarket that though the prices are going up at a dizzying speed, all is well. When the rupee loses its value twice in the same day, you have to trust those in charge, not your threadbare pockets. When you lose your job, don’t concentrate on that. Look at the official statistics instead. Our leaders are really achieving magic: they have been able to halve the unemployment figures simply by dividing the list of the unemployed into two categories: the unemployed and those available for work. You must admit it is a masterly stroke.
I have also learnt that our economy will bounce back to a whopping 9% growth through receiving 650,000 tourists who have already packed and are just waiting for us to open our borders! And building drains – again! So take heart, graduates and entrepreneurs: if you have lost your jobs, your company has gone belly-up or you simply can no longer put food on the table because your salary has gone down while prices went up the roof, you can convert yourself into drain builders. Failing that, there is more good news: the Rivière-des-Anguilles dam will be built for the 11th year running. Remember also that we will soon be producing vaccines and exporting them to the rest of the world. Yes, I know that South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria and Rwanda are now considered as vaccine production hubs but we will give them a good run for their money. Trust our leaders, who have saved the economy, to make it prosper even more.
The budget speech has also been an opportunity for me to learn about all the names of villages. Who would have thought the National Assembly would be the place to brush up on one’s local geography. Yet, here we are, more educated than ever!
Those who are worried about the Rs28 billion hole, please be reassured that there is no such thing and that our public debt is “manageable”. Yes, the Central Bank did give the government an ‘advance payment’ on future dividends. But here is the trick: the minister of finance did not sign any paper attesting to that so the money being used is not a debt. It is a gift. Remember that when you next borrow money from a friend!
Oh and all the oldies who are worried about their pension, relax! The Contribution Sociale Généralisée is the silver bullet, take the minister’s word for it. Don’t listen to the World Bank that sees it as not only unfair and unsustainable but moreover “the fiscal costs are initially lower, but increase continuously and quickly threaten fiscal sustainability”. Our luminaries have worked it all out!
So I really have no idea what people are on about. We have geniuses at the helm. Anything you can’t understand is your problem, not theirs. Unwind and listen to Céline Dion. Near, far, wherever you are, relax and forget about the iceberg. If you can’t see it, it can’t spoil your view, can it?