No, I am not referring to seaborne Somali pirates here but to land-based indigenous predators who are cut to highjack a time-honoured institution for selfish reasons and to entrench the economic domination of the country by an archaic oligarchy.
A few rich and powerful individuals, flushed with insolent self importance are plotting to merge the Mauritius Employers Federation (MEF) with the JEC to bring under their wing the largest, most representative national economic and social institution that has weathered many storms over the past 50 years.
It is a reverse take-over, as JEC is a relatively new institution (it had no legal existence for a long time) which began as an informal group under S.S.R. to dialogue with Government on national issues. I was there and attended its early meetings at the invitation of the P.M. It had no formal constitution then, which came much later.
JEC may have gathered some momentum in recent years, mostly as a result of obsequious media coverage of its deliberations, but it has never been at the deep end of Trade union or Ministry of Labour discussions. It is something of an upstart with little experience of involvement in live issues of national concern, while MEF has spearheaded a number of proposals in conjunction with various ministries and has played a vital role during times of turbulence.
MEF also cultivates linkages with the ILO, Employers' organizations from all over the world, while locally it represents the private sector on scores of committees and is accredited to key ministries. Its support for SMEs, professional associations and the training of managers and other executives, is well known as it has contributed substantially to capacity building of the country. What are the achievements of JEC ?
Ironical and Baffling
What is ironical and rather baffling is that at a time when Government is actively pursuing the objectives of democratizing the economy and broadening the scope of private enterprise, these chaps are busy building road blocks on our democratic highway. For, make no mistake about it, the real object of this exercise is to consolidate their hold on the economy and become the sole interlocutor of Government on all matters related to industry and business. They could not afford to alienate 160 year old MCCI but have a hidden agenda concerning it.
One can expect that if that ill-inspired, dangerous merger takes place, a blind instrument will occupy the position of Director to commandeer the parochial interests of the oligarchy. There is always a Mr Fixit available at hand to save the face at first but other mercenaries will always be eager to carry out its dark designs.
So far a Consultant has been appointed and a report submitted. Funnily enough, the Consultant was not asked to examine the advisability and merits of such a merger, but to “prepare a new constitution”, “define responsibilities” and “prepare a road map for implementing the merger between July and November 2012”. No feasibility study was required. “We have already made up our minds : Don't confuse us with the facts now”.
Obviously, the advocates of this sorry scheme are in a hurry. While the real objectives of the merger are still unclear, there is already a request for a Constitution and a road map. Worse, the whole approach has a conspirational air about it, as neither the CEO of MEF nor the CEO of MCCI was taken into the confidence of the promoters. An air of unhealthy secrecy surrounds the entire scheme. The only excuse for this mammoth blunder is “rationalization” which is invoked every time it is intended to reduce personnel. Go and tell that to the hardworking, dedicated staff of MEF !
It is not surprising therefore that this intended merger breaches the principles of transparency and good governance, to say nothing of accountability. To whom are these chaps accountable if not to the 1400 members of MEF, the over 400 members of MCCI, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and all the stakeholders of MEF ?
The lack of political sensitivity of the proponents of this take-over is astounding in this day and age. Because they occupy the financial heights of the economy, they feel they can ride roughshod over equity and natural justice and arrogate to themselves the prerogative of deciding the future of key national institutions. This is not a good idea, not under this government.
When the PRB has driven a bigger wedge between the top and bottom employees of our public services, when the rich are getting richer and the poor more desperate, that is when these captains of industry chose to manifest their selfishness and arrogance.
Poor timing, guys !