Trapped into low income and high debt, employment insecurity, inefficient delivery of public services and skewed income distribution, the working class is plunging into increasing despair and enduring torture for quite some time. Their situation is more anguishing when contrasted with the nouveaux multi millionnaires whose wealth and incomes are not correlated to standard norms of academic qualifications, training and business. Competence and hardwork do not fit in their equation of rapid sucesss and wealth.
Let me start with the peanut post-PRB salary increase of public servants who are in a state of money disillusionment given the tax cuts, pensions contribution plus the rising cost of living. A reminiscence of the golden era of the Mauritian Economic Miracle where sustained increase in real incomes supported with generous personal allocations, generous fiscal exemptions on housing loans, financial investments and medical expenses is futile unless policy makers draw lessons on how to motivate and enhance the quality of living of the civil servants. The only hope is the report of the commissioner of salary, Mr Manraj who unfortunately has a political, time, capacity and financial constraint. Collective inaction on the part of trade unions is the main cause for compromise with the government. Solidarity among the trade unions to reject the PRB Report in toto faded when some trade union leaders played the game of the government. An opportunity to bargain for a better PRB report in line with the aspirations of the civil servants has been missed. On the other hand, workers in the private sector in addition to their job insecurity and low incomes are also subject to discrimination and biased labour laws in favour of patrons. Again collective inaction is very much lacking following low response of workers undermining the efforts of some committed trade union leaders.
A situation of asymmetric information
In sharp contrast with these two types of workers, the recent emergence of a new group of people pocketing wealth has gained currency during recent decades. These include people having political networking and deal in speculative business, access to state property and contracts, brokers for the private sector and business deals, representatives of mushrooming socio cultural groups, political nominations. These are rapacious and counterproductive activities at times involved in money laundering depending on the electoral cycle and the degree of closeness with politicians. This is a manifestation of economic kleptomania where politicians treat and distribute state property including contracts as their own property. This is done at the cost of tax payers' money and economic efficiency and due to a weak legal system, institutions, opposition–both political and civil society–and a supportive majority of uninformed or brainwashed electorate. In terms of economic theory, we can say we have a situation of asymmetric information which creates many failures in the political market leading to problems of adverse selection, moral hazard and agency problems. Only good institutions, signaling and legal framework would solve the situation but it is very costly to an economy as well as to society.
The classic approach of incumbent governments to show their concern and postpone effective actions is to give the perception that institutions are being built up to deal with all these problems. For instance, the creation of ICAC, Speaking Unions, Cultural centers, Equal opportunities, legal reforms amongst others are simple tricks to cool down the population and prevent rebellion. The existence of these institutions would certainly reduce the momentum of collective action especially in a culturally diversified country like ours where unfortunately each community has its own objective which undermines nation building and solidarity.
Another class of nouveaux riches is some professionals in both private and public sector. There is little evidence that most top positions in the public sector is not politically or family motivated. There is a perception that there is a reservation in the country in terms of positions where despite political affiliations, some families across communities are always ruling the roost. They earn this right due to historical heritage or close family or casteist links which always find their way in the corridor of the government. Instead of condemning this illicit avenue, we have a new generation joining these links to make it to the top at the cost of competence and meritocracy. Governance is like a musical chair competition with the same people or families enriching and dancing. My question is how can we Mauritians accept this show ? What is happening to our Civil society ? Even the NGOs are inflicted with kleptomania with the same person gripping to the position and enjoying tax payers' money. Finally, there are some professionals positioning as consultants earning economic rents benefiting from monopoly position of their institutions and of course juicy contracts from the government. Some consultancy firms with their pseudo-economists are ardent strategic defendents of government economic policies. We also have many public entreprises on the hitlist of privatization under the pretence of new capital, modernization and economic efficiency. In reality, these represent lucrative business deals between political agents, politically nominated chairpersons, incumbent politicians and their international business contacts. The tragedy now is that greed is so rampant that some people may be working for generations ahead.
Reward economic and other efforts
Lastly, but more important is the army of well paid international consultants in Mauritius looting the country by their inefficient expertise in economy and other matters. Given their importance in defending the government agenda and links with other international institutions, they are untouchable. A new trend is the involvement of some magical discreet brotherly organizations invoved in decision-making and public policies. There is the perception that a number of privatization deals and appointments of directors and boards in these new entities is done by a selected strong group of well-knitted members of a society.
Inequity and economic injustice is a hard reality of our country. We should encourage and reward economic and other efforts which promote not only personal wealth but the social capital in this country. Unfortunately, there is visible impoverishment of the majority of the population due to greed and economic kleptomania by some politicians with the complicity of professionals, political agents and pseudo businessmen.
Unless we take remedial actions to uproot the problems we would reach a situation of insecurity in the country where children of the greedy selected Mauritians would he kidnapped for ransom by some groups of poor people who have nothing to lose. Mauritius is not far from this situation and that's why I beg for a new economic approach of real inclusive society, broader opportunities and effective income redistribution. In some areas like strategic transport, energy and public services like water, electricity, waste water and others, government should have full control in order to prevent exploitation of our fellow citizens. There is a need for collective action and our civil society should come out from the anesthesia mode. We need a new breed of political leaders who can guarantee economic justice because more often, we have politicians with a short memory forgetting what they said in opposition. Once in power, the promise to initiate actions against the corrupt is put in drawers and to be used only for political bargains and harassment at a later stage. Once in government, they renew or pick up the habit of economic kleptomania to satisty their own greed again taking the population for a ride.