BHAWNA ATMARAM

The MSM/ML government presented its policy address for its present mandate in an appropriately pompous manner on Friday 24/01/2020. The imposing title ‘Towards an Inclusive, High Income and Green Mauritius, Forging Ahead Together’ promises a series of measures that would uplift the country on various fronts, bringing human happiness and respect for the environment into symbiosis. This government programme contains many valid suggestions, as previous ones did. The pathology however lies in the pragmatic application of the proposed measures. Following decades of experience, translating the suggestions into practice can prove thorny.

As a simple citizen of this country, the ‘High Income’ section made me do a double take. Unfortunately, for us common lots, our trips to the grocery stores/supermarkets and markets are making our wallets lighter and lighter while the prices of basic foodstuff continue to soar. Quality fruit and vegetables, milk, butter, cheese among others have become expensive and therefore unaffordable for many. Destitution is a harsh reality with many children turning up hungry at school. No one is in denial that the country is indebted to the zenith, with our Mauritian rupee quietly depreciating vis-à-vis the US dollar. Unemployment continues to plague us and for young people wishing to get on the property ladder, it is going to be a tough ride due to a steady rise in the prices of building materials. How can we be an inclusive nation if many people are being left behind?

In the context of a ‘Green Mauritius’, some proposed measures are ambitious but are they realistic? Most of us do not even have the rudimentary multiple bins to separate our domestic waste for the purpose of recycling. With bread and butter issues being the main concern of our citizens and bulky waste collection by the local councils being problematic, no wonder we can find old mattresses, broken electronic home appliances or furniture abandoned in every nook and corner of the island. The waste collection needs to be reviewed urgently. Ongoing sensitisation campaigns and promoting green energy sources are commendable. Having dedicated cycle lanes for a greener and healthier Mauritius, though welcome, brought me to the reality of our narrow, bumpy roads in urban areas. Well, time will tell.

Inevitably, communication is key in the implementation of the Government Programme. Decisions have to be carefully debated and reviewed by all stakeholders. For instance, proposed measure Number 30 pertaining to the introduction of an Educators’ Council Bill, needs to be discussed taking on board educators and school administrators; those who are in the field. Otherwise, imposing decisions blindly leaves us confused trial and error state, where the lives of thousands of children are concerned and any wrong step is costly. The government should ensure that Members of Parliament do not simply disappear, following their election, and are present to answer our queries and consider our proposals too. Governmental measures should not be the monologue of a select few.  Band Aid measures will not withstand the long haul development journey.