CHETAN RAMCHURN

The camera careens from one side of the house to another, trying hard to keep us engrossed in the cheap drama. Not much to expect from this charade enacted by burlesque figures. The 2014 change of government was built as much on promises of economic, housing and employment miracles as the failures of the previous government. In 2019, with most voters having changed for the sake of change, we are worse off. The many hubs never materialised and there is the perception that the economy as well as corruption has worsened. But that should not stop new promises to be made…this is where a budget comes in handy.

 Table shattering vigour notwithstanding, there is not much that stands out from the dull budgetary debates. There were some insightful interventions amidst the noise of the blind followers. Some were untainted enough to mention the opaque deals in the energy sector and others took the time to explain how resorting to the special reserve fund of the Bank of Mauritius inherently involves the depreciation of our currency to amass realised gains for debt repayment. The cheek pinching episode laid bare the dearth of the decorum in the august assembly. It gave rise to some buzz and yet another opportunity for the mud raking media to thrive.  We are accustomed to that. The outpour of emotions designed to manipulate us was again on full display.

 Déjà vu. The “mesurettes” on the social front are overhyped while the bending over for part of the private sector is mentioned with scant details that veil the full depth of the generosity of the government towards the potential financers. We are told of fiscal rebates but the heir does not dwell on the value of those gifts. SMEs still suffer as they always do. There are no visionary measures that will sow the seeds of new sectors. Of real interest to us are references to Betamax and IPPs. This might be in essence the only thing that opposes one side from the other. Zealous supporters of the historic bourgeoisie face state supported capitalists. Do citizens benefit from this struggle between the haves? Yes-men on both sides tell us that they are less dirty than those opposing them. The unchosen one reads, still cannot express himself without a document prepared by his PR team. His fans laugh at his lame jokes…so much so that you would think George Carlin is on stage. Occasionally, one of those intervening talks about his miserable past, how he/she rose from poverty to…hitting the table with passion and supporting antipatriotic measures.

 Billions are being spent on dubious projects: the onerous Safe City project that is expected to miraculously cure our many law and order woes, the ever increasing price of the Côte-d’Or sports complex, the abrupt obsession with the tramway project and other gargantuan infrastructural projects that keep deepening our debt level. Can we pay for these projects? We should not worry for one of the beggars will fetch us the required millions of dollars from the powers preying upon us. If not, those at the helm will conveniently masquerade our true situation with the use of artifice. Independence has gone missing from many of our regulating institutions and the price will be hefty for future generations. Privatisation is also alluded to with the disposal of the country’s assets offered as a solution to absorb our liabilities. Nothing is off limits.

 Like the government, this budget is a flop.