The prescient Trinidadian author and Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul called Mauritius ‘The Overcrowded Barracoon’ as far back as 1972. Like diamonds, it is the destiny of islands, perhaps due to their humanly finite but divinely exquisite dimensions, that both their natural beauty and imperfections are dramatically magnified. This has served us very well in the past. However, our island is now a much less glamorous pressure cooker of stifling malicious intentions, ready to explode. In the age of consumer-driven Facebook posts and Tweets, the peeling varnish of ever-thinning layers of tropical scenery can hide neither the naked and crass ambitions of our self-serving politicians (as opposed to leaders or statesmen) nor the hypocritical façade of our (once unique but now déjà-vu) tourism. It is going to get much worse: the world is bracing itself for another recession. The road to perdition is looming unless we take a brave hard look at our society and its ‘values’, now corrupt to the core.
The lamentable, tabloid-level entertainment the politicians offer does not even beggar belief anymore. Without any vision, let alone an ideology, the dinosaurs are only trampling on our fertile land to avoid extinction and make their temporary stay in power perennial. They unashamedly play with the future of our children – having already sacrificed ours to the altar of mediocrity and selfishness. We should not count on global growth to pull us out of the economic quagmire either. The rare bright spots are the UK and the US but this ‘recovery’ is still fragile. Unemployment has receded in the UK … but aided only by more precarious self-employed jobs and lower pay. The German powerhouse predicted a drop of 1.5% in its industrial production for August – the actual contraction was 4%. The systemic flaws and corrupt behaviours which led to the financial crisis in 2008 remain intact:
the big banks are still in power with servant politicians ready to oblige, without any lessons learnt from the financial crisis; incredibly, the CEO of Goldman Sachs smugly stated that he was doing ‘God’s work’;
public and private debts have not receded – governments are not readily able to reduce their deficits;
the economies of ‘developed’ countries are dangerously dependent on consumption as investment is not taking off;
India and China are in the doldrums, their growth rates reduced (though the business-minded and reformist Modi offers a ray of hope);
housing and stock market prices are very high, triggering fears of a bubble (the bursting indeed began early October) – the impressive performance of stock exchanges during the last two years was partly due to excessive liquidity in the financial system with limited opportunity for tangible industrial investment; and
evidence of fraud is rampant, as witnessed by the Libor scandal or the Tesco accounting fraud.
Deflation is turning Europe into the new Japan, stuck in a sclerotic mode with an ageing population unable to re-invent itself – a nightmare scenario indeed. Receding oil prices, down more than 15% in the last 3 months alone, will help but this is (partly) due to foreseen reduction in industrial output – and the Mauritian consumer has yet to see any benefit.