Parliament: XLD calls for increasing pensions, minimum wage and municipal elections in no-confidence motion

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The Leader of the Opposition, Xavier-Luc Duval, called for increasing pensions, the minimum wage, lifting unnecessary health restrictions and holding municipal elections during his speech on the no-confidence motion against the government in the National Assembly on 10th May 2022.  Duval hammered the government by criticizing it for the increased cost of living. After pointing out how prices of key commodities had risen over the years, he recalled that the government had promised to launch a price observatory in June 2021. “Till today it has not come up with a single report”, the opposition leader said during his speech. He warned of looming shortages of key commodities such as cooking oil.

Speaking of pensioners, he said that the government had introduced the CSR system in September 2020 and Rs15 billion had been collected through the system so far. “Why is it being kept away and not being used?” he asked, “the government should increase pensions by Rs2,000 to make up for the loss of purchasing power of pensioners. They can do it, the money is there. Why is the government refusing to raise pensions now when lots of pensioners are suffering?” During his speech, he said that the medical negligence committee announced by the health ministry has not been able to work because the government has not provided it with adequate money or staff to work with.

He criticised the government for not cutting down on taxes and levies on petroleum. “Most countries have reduced taxation on petroleum, they know that the spike in oil prices is temporary and will stabilise later on, so they are reducing taxes so as not to create a shock to their economies.” Mauritius, in contrast, he insisted, had increased VAT collections on each litre of petroleum sold from Rs6 in 2015 to Rs9 today. He pointed to the 65 cents levied on each litre of petroleum sold to build oil storage facilities, mentioning out that since the end of 2015 the government had collected Rs300 million through this levy and used only Rs50 million to build an oil storage facility in Mer-Rouge. “This is just putting your hand in the pockets of consumers”, said Duval.

Referring to the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) and the shortage of foreign currency, the opposition leader recalled that just after he had asked a PNQ and the finance minister had assured him there was no forex shortage in the country, the BoM had immediately released forex worth Rs10 billion on the market. “The BoM has been weakened more than it has ever been before”, Duval argued pointing to a recent IMF report urging that all funds not utilized by the Mauritius Investment Corporation (MIC) out of the Rs80 billion made available by the central bank, be returned to it. The opposition leader stated that it is because the MIC and its spending – including Rs23 billion given to Airport Holdings Ltd – did not appear on the balance sheet of the central bank, the central bank’s own auditors, the KPMG, did not sign off completely on the BoM’s accounts, only giving it a “qualified” clearance. Duval recalled that whereas back in 2012 the international ratings agency Moody’s had upgraded Mauritius to BAA1 status, in June last year, Mauritius had been downgraded back to BAA2, with Duval pointing to a warning from the Mauritius Banker’s Association that should current trends continue, Mauritius risks being further downgraded to BAA3, just a rung above junk status. “If this were to happen, a loss of new and existing business would be highly likely”, Duval warned, quoting from the statement.

Duval said that the government was suffering from what he termed the “Sri Lanka syndrome” when it came to wasteful spending, he outlined a few of them: Rs20 billion spent on the BAI, Rs19 billion on the Safe City Project, Rs6 billion paid to Betamax, Rs23 billion to Airport Holdings Ltd, and Rs5 billion on the Côte-d’Or stadium. “The government has to reconsider projects that we don’t really need and don’t create value”, Duval posited, referring to a report from the National Audit Office that stated that during the year 2020-2021, the government had spent Rs110 billion in servicing public debt. “This is an enormous amount, you could do a lot for the country with that”, Duval argued, emphasizing on the fact that the total annual budget of the health ministry was just Rs10 billion. “Europe is going into a recession with the war in Ukraine, we have hard times ahead of us, how will we be able to pay back all this debt?

After outlining corruption scandals alleged against the government, Duval then called for the lifting of some of the restrictions put in place by the government in response to Covid-19. “Isn’t it time to give Mauritians back their fundamental rights?” Duval asked, stressing that Mauritius was still fining people Rs2,000 for not wearing masks while elsewhere in the world countries had stopped mandating their citizens to wear masks. He also pointed out that while elections were being held during Covid-19 in the UK, France and Rodrigues, municipal elections were postponed in Mauritius. “What is stopping the government from holding municipal elections? Nothing. They just do not want to face the voters”, said Duval, demanding that the government hold municipal elections as soon as possible.

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