OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF TECHNOLOGY: Creativity takes courage

Dear Pravind Jugnauth,
Do not be disheartened because your father has taken back de facto leadership of your party, defeating the depraved was his duty. Nor be dismayed because another has taken over the Ministry of Finance, profound improvement of macro-economic fundamentals is the priority. Nor be disappointed because you are not Deputy Prime Minister, success always outshines status.
Innovation
And we wish you the greatest success, because, while others may not yet perceive it, yours is the most important Ministry and therefore, you shoulder great responsibility. The vital component is innovation and we ask that you be not only its Minister but also its champion, throughout the whole of Government and indeed the nation, most especially in education. As your father’s son, perhaps you alone have the credentials to achieve this.
Nine years ago, someone was asked to help create an innovation centre at the University of Mauritius. He declined, declaring that Mauritius doesn’t need an innovation centre, it needs to become a centre for innovation. While those prophetic words fell on deaf ears, they capture an idea whose time has surely come. While some fantasise that wizened wizards might conjure a second economic miracle, the next generation will create a new economic reality, flowing from a wellspring of creativity. But only if it becomes the priority in curricula from pre-primary to post-doctoral, with competition, reward and recognition for the most imaginative ideas and expression – at every stage – in the arts as well as science.
Follow the plan
When Mother India built Cyber Tower 1 at Ébène, she intended for us to replicate the success of her own silicon plateau – Bangalore – with expatriates housed in the adjacent cyber village. Sabotaging the development of an IT hub, BPML permitted the creation of short-lived call centres and the relocation of head offices from Port Louis by relaxing lease criteria. Instead of requiring businesses to be at the cutting edge of information technology, it seemed enough if a PC were placed on each employee’s desk. Occupation densities were never intended to be so high, hence traffic flow and parking should not have been issues. The Cybercity catastrophe was the result of sacrificing the plan in order to make a quick profit and is probably impossible to repair until the substandard buildings crumble to dust.
Fortunately, we have another opportunity at Highlands. Designated to be the new administrative capital, it was ungraciously scrapped in 2011 in order to prevent the collapse of property rentals in Port Louis, including, suspiciously, your own Sun Trust. Relocating the Ministries will be redundant if one-stop government service centres are established in each region, which we strongly recommend, conveniently relieving road congestion. Bordering Bagatelle Dam (some distance from the misnamed out-of-town mall, which was asininely approved in flagrant violation of the National Development Strategy), its potential to be the most modern, beautiful and ecological city in Africa must be realised. Creativity flourishes in an inspiring environment. Comprehensive, integrated planning is essential (adopt the project), coupled with vigilant implementation (protect it as your baby).
World-class
The challenge will be to attract a core of international researchers to explore the pharmaceutical potential of our unique flora and fauna, both marine and terrestrial. Our fellow invasive species – the disease-free macaques – are another unique resource. We can please animal lovers by ending their traumatic transport overseas and by conducting stringently humane experiments over here. Human trials of new drugs and alternative remedies is another golden opportunity, given our abundance of non-communicable diseases and more than our fair share of opiate addicts. It’s an expedient way to heal the sick, engage the under-employed, uplift the poor and help students afford the best tertiary education – for where research leads, prestigious universities inevitably follow.
Indigenous innovation
Ignore antiquated economists stuck in the past, import substitution is the future. The only question is: will we lead the way or play our usual game of copy-cat? Invest in a suite of the latest 3D printers and watch start-ups spring up like mushrooms. With access to an infinitely flexible manufacturing facility, entrepreneurs will be able to produce goods made in Mauritius, for the Mauritian market, on demand. Subtle taxes on the unpatriotic will catalyse the transition and pay for upgrades and expansion. How many dominant designs can Mauritius contribute, for both profit and prestige, to the 3D printing market-place? Your task will be to overcome the obvious objections of the obstinate obstacles to progress. Make Marx proud.
Grow up
Give up your puerile pet projects like the light railway. Decades ago it was required, less than a decade from now it will be redundant as ultra-efficient autonomous vehicles come of age. And forget trying to turn Mauritius into a shopping paradise like Singapore or Dubai. We are neither a trading entrepôt, nor will Air Mauritius ever be an Air Asia or Emirates. How can we join the customs unions of SADC and COMESA if we unilaterally eliminate duties?
Clean up
Stop trying to walk in your father's footsteps and learn from his mistakes. He has discovered that an inspirational leader puts his country first – without seeking personal profit. Why did you claim Rs. 100 million from the people for an "arbitrary" arrest? Did we approve it? Why don't you persuade the shareholders to take back MedPoint? Do we want to send our grandparents to a second class clinic for geriatrics? What's stopping you from revealing the secrets of Sun Trust and lifting the veil on your party's funding? Will we re-elect those who continue to foster obscurity and impropriety?
Realise our potential
If you can break down the barriers between individual fiefdoms and make Government work as a team, if you can champion innovation and pilot us on the path to a creative economy and culture, if you can listen attentively to the people and help us perceive and achieve our true aspirations, then you will have learned how to lead, earned our respect and deserve our vote as the next Prime Minister. It’s up to you.

We Love Mauritius – now prove that you do too.