1980. An economically wrecked year. Making ends meet was hard for many Mauritian families, including mine. 38 years ago, I was born to hardworking middle-class parents, Kamini and Rajen. Mum was a clerk and a pillar of our extended family. Dad was strict and worked long hours to take care of the sick and weak in a crumbled health system. Mauritius was, they said, going through an ‘economic miracle’. There was no miracle but sweat, tears and collective effort. Our then leaders do deserve the credit, however, for convincing all Mauritians to come together to overcome existential crises.

Yuvan Beejadhur

My memories are many. We felt blessed to have a warm ‘kichree’ amidst cyclones, sitting next with multicultural neighbours at Flic-en-Flac; visiting Rivière-du-Rempart where my family once lived. Abroad, I saw how our diaspora stuck together. We felt goosebumps seeing the Paille-en-Queue. We missed home. Those who left, have not been less Mauritian.

Finishing school, the lack of opportunities and some kind of roadmap aggravated me. Politicians deepened their pockets while others worked honestly. Some hereditary monarchies produce good leaders at least for a short time. Ours generally demonstrate a sense of entitlement, yet show they care a lot about themselves only and sycophants surrounding them.

Parents have lost faith in the country and want their children to emigrate to societies, that, unlike ours, value their experience and education. Yet, I have never been more hopeful for building our ‘rêve mauricien’ and passing on to the next generation. I have never felt more so since becoming a father in 2014. That’s the reason I moved back, to transform the political mindset and help build, together, a common future, a new Mauritius.

At the election, I was honored to stand alongside respected figures like Dr. Boolell, Mr. Bizlall, and new ones like Bhadain, Juddoo, Diolle, Barbès-Pougnet, and unknown ones too. Some of you are asking for a new political party. Prevailing winds are strong for this to happen successfully. We are divided and have not known anything else. It’s the duty of several politicians to now pass the torch legitimately. Irrespective of the landscape leading to 2024, serious work on what has been achieved, taking recommendations and what can be scaled up are a must. On climate change only, 7% of our GDP can be lost over the next 40 years meaning new adaptation strategies are needed. We can’t wait for electoral manifestos to do this.

That is why we are launching “EnForce Maurice!”, a movement of citizens, of all backgrounds and affiliations, at home or abroad, who care about our society and have something to share. EnForce Maurice! will be multisectoral and bring together youths, workers, unions, businesses, fishermen, health care providers, sociologists, psychologists, religious figures, sportsmen, therapists, artists, farmers, architects, manual workers, landscapists, economists, women associations, law and order defenders amongst others – to convene and leverage ideas, champions and partnerships to make Mauritians live, breathe and feel better.

On May 8, we celebrate V-Day, where soldiers, including Mauritians, won against the Nazis during WW2. The Allies had no choice but to be ready. Are we ready to do our part to help the PM lead Mauritius to become a resilient Advanced Economy with a GNI per capita of US$20,000, efficient public services and strong social safety nets? If yes, is the PM ready to accelerate necessary reforms, from cadaster to land management and to smarter/healthier farming to ocean economy? How can young couples own a house more cheaply? How to develop curiosity, learning, skills to adapt to this changing world? Is our comfortable civil service, ready for greater efficiency? Ready to pay more when polluting? To achieve greater efficiency service delivery and tackle diseconomies of scale, are we ready

to bring in strategic partners for the MPA, CWA, CEB, Air Mauritius? If we are ready, then how do we transparently choose the most able to run them? If we are not ready, can we have a serious evaluation of the management, business needs, human resources and staffing of our parastatal bodies?

On Civil Service appointments, which have often become a way for politicians to repay political debt or choose those who will indulge them, can we push for Key Performance Indicators and more thorough Programme-based budgeting approaches?

For those who can pay, are we ready to contribute more to enhance our medical and education systems – two of the greatest contributions of the Labour Party – which are only free in theory today given the large amounts spent on private doctors, clinics and private tuition? Ready to develop real solutions to congestion and road accidents instead of a white elephant Light Rail that mainly delivers fat contracts to the well-connected? Stop using our cars every month? Are we ready to say STOP to political favors and false manifestos?

Mauriciens ‘pa pou sanze’, cynics will say. A ‘rat race’ with no endgame where we will all lose. It’s urgent we re-examine our potential, the modus operandi of Government and how to strengthen our institutions. We have seen that politicians promise much in opposition but all adopt the same attitude once in office. The argument that those in power are “bad” and all that is needed is to replace them

with the “good” is clearly hollow. American revolutionaries realized that the problem is not good and bad people but a bad system. All humans with power will have a tendency to abuse, unless there are checks and balances.

EnForce Maurice! will pay particular attention to five trends:

1. Politicians and political parties and invisible hands, instead of citizens, have become too influential. Better insights and critical thinking are needed for citizens to decide, else we hit into stagnation, mediocrity and cynicism. Pomponette, Tikka affair, synthetic drugs and violence against women and animals show a denigrated society! Parliamentarians avoiding referendums and PNQs… No real marine spatial plans on our oceanscapes. Why have we allowed ourselves to say yes to a culture of opacity? What/who are we afraid of? Let’s fight the impossible – make character and knowledge count over community or caste. South-Africans fought apartheid, why can’t we? We will leverage inspiring stories for impact. Farmers waking up at 3 am. Ranini winning gold. Media investigations on corruption. Our fearless Judge Lam Shang Leen. Jane Constance at UNESCO. Resistance against The Residence.

2. We are massively indebted, by the day. The middle-income-trap of low value-added growth and widening social outcomes is real. Efficiency in our public sector to

bring down the USD7500 million dollars, equaling around 62.9% of our GDP without raising taxes is needed. Let’s reduce the gap between the incomes of the poorest and the richest 10 percent of households [1], change our safety nets, change NRB’s minimum wage rates, enforce a minimum basic income and an opportunity to earn this for everyone. Dewantee told me how she was paid 30% less than her male counterparts, making it difficult to plan for the future. EnForce Maurice! will look for pathways to provide our people a reduction in their loans, keeping them out of poverty in return for services to the country. Let’s get more Public-Private Partnerships with higher volumes of finance to leverage public resources. Our minimal knowledge makes it difficult to specialize into sophisticated products/services, a bit like Switzerland with its watches. The Atlas of Economic Complexity states our top exports in 2016 were preserved fish (11.36%) followed by raw sugar (10.31%). Imagine then our immense blue economy and the hectares of land sleeping! EnForce Maurice! will mobilize skills at home and in the diaspora to deploy the right conversations with the right people.

3. Our youths are losing sight of a bright future. We need to mentor them to rebuild a new Mauritius. 41% of our university graduates are leaving.[2] Let’s look at pathways for them to work towards saving, for example Rs. 500,000 and investing. Push for a secular, real national identity, while embracing a diverse society. Let us not hurt people’s religions. “Encadrer” our 24 % of unemployed. How to make it affordable for joining a gym, scuba dive or theatrical arts? How to continue providing free treatment for NCDs like diabetes, cancers and take care of many lonely, depressed and drug dependents? As a father, I’m worried. Does the war on drugs work or enrich barons financing politicians? Can rehabilitation work better as in Portugal? Why shouldn’t we be able to work from home more often? Let’s bring our collective responsibility forward. EnForce Maurice! is ready to serve as a platform for intergenerational conversations to happen.

4. A different paradigm, taking into account climate change, natural resources, renewables and our diaspora, is imperative. For some projects, we need a cascade-effect in policy making – where the private sector should identify constraints for growth, see to it that the public sector becomes the enabler that removes them. The potential of our ocean demonstrates how USD 580 million to be invested per year, in areas like renewable energy, research, marine ICT and lagoon rehabilitation over the next fifteen years will double to 25% of GDP.[3] The EDB should play these roles independently, retaining FDI [4]. Are we skilled enough to obtain the best from superpowers without compromising our territories? We need business leaders to serve as Ambassadors. EnForce! will explore the potential of a diaspora bond, new capital markets attracting top liquidity providers and investment banks.

Mauritians abroad should be allowed to vote, invest easily and share their experiences.

5. Strengthen the rule of law, justice and service. God isn’t dead, the political biodiversity is weakening our character and social fabric. A less secular Mauritius breeds on ‘tapeurs’, intimidation – much like Bihar in the 1980s. It was partly vendetta that brought down a known bank without a backup. Sectarian violence of 1967 wasn’t long ago. We are seeing the biggest affronts against our sisters, mothers and children. Our heroes, i.e. our police, doctors and nurses, teachers, firemen, farmers and others are at risk of giving up! Promotion on political backing and retaliations due to affiliations continue. This has to STOP!

Little Shane was abandoned at the hospital. No one should go through this. I want young Mauritians to feel loved, protected, confident and build their character for a responsible and hard-working future. Not one of entitlement.

L’espoir mauricien has to come back. Change only comes from within, with the right mindset and hardwork. We have an easy test to know if we are succeeding. Singaporeans, Canadians, Australians, French have no doubt that their country is where their children should live. If we succeed, Mauritian parents will similarly want their children to build their life in Mauritius and young Mauritians will have no doubt that this is the country they want to work for and raise their family.

To shape the destiny of our country is your birthright!

You are ready. A nou vini EnForce!

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FOOTNOTES

[1] Around Rs.180,000/inhabitant.

[2] Mauritius is the 5th country most affected. OECD and Harvard Business Review, 2017.

[3] This will boost returns on investment by 20%, create 36% more jobs; improve diversification of the ocean economy away from tourism (a 20% increase in diversification); improve the trade balance by 60%; reduce poverty and inequality; and strengthen the government’s finances (a 2% reduction in the debt/GDP ratio).

[4] USD 349 million of inward FDI to Mauritius (2016-17) and only USD 5 million outward.