SANJAY JAGATSINGH

 

The one that’s about to end. But he hasn’t been Prime Minister since December 2014 I hear you think. So he has completed three terms. Not four. True. But it would not have been a lot different for a majority of voters in several ways. Given that the 2014 ‘gros piège à cons’ of the Bérenger-Ramgoolam-Sithanen trio was complex enough to generate several dangerous outcomes we’ll make a few assumptions to narrow the analysis before looking at how it would have been a different five years.

Three Assumptions

The first one is that the LP/MMM alliance won the elections but fell short of the supermajority needed to transform our political setup into a totally useless semi-Presidential system. The second one is that Ramgoolam, Bérenger, Sithanen and the two Jugnauths are elected. The final assumption is that the LP had more MPs than MMM so that Bérenger is sworn in as Ramgoolam’s deputy. After the toss of a coin the Sun Trust decided that SAJ would be the Leader of the Opposition as long as he’s healthy enough.

What Would Have Been Different

BAI would probably have been dealt with differently. If the relevant authorities had given a deadline to the management and shareholders of the conglomerate they would have respected it. Party leaders fondly remembering large political contributions might have helped to avoid causing premature distress to thousands of policyholders. There’s no guarantee that the group’s situation would have improved but that’s an entirely different matter.

No Minimum Wage Or Negative Income Tax

I don’t think Sithanen would have implemented a minimum wage. Instead he would probably have worked hard to remove the little life that was left in the economy by again ripping off the poor and giving to the rich. But he would not have done two of the most stupid things given that he had already made those decisions almost as soon as he got elected in 2005 (killing our savings culture https://youtu.be/YrGd0kKcOZI and flattening the tax structure).

Not a lot of voters would have been surprised to see him try to cancel the school-feeding program anew – which would have been hailed as courageous by some in the mainstream media a bit like when abusive hire/fire labour laws were passed – and shrink our basic welfare state that keeps 20% of Mauritians out of poverty. Interestingly Navin Ramgoolam has said recently that the minimum wage has been set too high and was partly responsible for a few factory closures. I think he should tell voters right away by how much it should be lowered. For riptir’s sake.

Siphoning Off Money From the Bank of Mauritius Likely

It is very likely that Sithanen would have forced funds from the Bank of Mauritius to be transferred to the treasury to prop up his giant Ponzi-like scheme: the 15% flat tax. This would have been just another bean-counting moment similar to when he cancelled the rice/flour subsidies before they reappeared at the STC or when he created a galaxy of funds with pompous names that he claimed were funded by an early harvest and a bumper crop but which his successor at the Ministry of Finance told us were in fact created with borrowed funds. In any case what stupid move is not too stupid for a guy who killed our savings culture (missing savings between 2006 and 2018 are Rs753bn while we received only Rs189bn of mostly unproductive FDI) and who cancelled the tiny school-feeding program? There’s also the 5-6 billion rupees mysteriously lost at the STC in a hedging.

Safe City, Ramgoolam–Style

Ramgoolam would no doubt have implemented a ‘Safe City’ project as it is the second step in setting up a hi-tech and totally unnecessary surveillance state, the first step being the biometric card that happened on his watch. Furthermore we’ve seen until very recently that about the only problem he had with the Lepep version of Big Brother was its massive cost.

Cake Size Would Have Been About the Same

Growth would have been similar if not a bit lower because of some of the really stupid stuff Sithanen would have done like reducing flat taxes to 13% almost immediately and the smart stuff he would have avoided to do (freeze the horrific real estate speculation). In any case it would have stayed around 3-4% for the entirety of the term which is half the required 8% growth to keep the current regressive and ruinous structure. In effect we would have had five more years of proof that making the rich pay the tax rate of the poor is Paglanomics. Incidentally Charts 1 and 2 plot the growth rates of the past ten 10 years. Can you tell which one is the performance of the Lepep government? Keep on reading to find the answer.

Cake-sharing Stays Very Unfair

The absence of a minimum wage would have caused inequality to persist at the record levels registered in 2012 and might have worsened. Stale stories of gato-pima and savat leponz would have made a big comeback but as everyone except the bean-counter is aware these don’t reduce inequality. Indeed after Sithanen’s first stint the share of GDP for the bottom 90% of Mauritian households – that’s over a million citizens – fell in 1996/7 and that too after pensions were doubled by Ramgoolam while 70% of households (about 880,000 Mauritians) saw their share of the national cake shrink in the first five years of his regressive policies in 2012 (https://youtu.be/uOsB54OMCc8) with the bottom 60% hitting their smallest share in two decades. This conveys a lot more information than the bland Gini coefficient as does the distribution of incremental GDP (https://youtu.be/L10wALtIoUs).

Public Debt Would Have

Kept on Increasing

Reaching levels similar to the current situation with Pravind Jugnauth instead of Navin Ramgoolam clamouring that every baby born now has Rs300,000 of debt on her head. Servicing the flat-tax-induced borrowings would have made less money available to maintain let alone enhance service delivery of our welfare infrastructure. This would have, for example, meant that dialysis and cancer-treatment equipment that broke down are not replaced.

More Pressure to

Privatise National Assets

Given that we would not have seen any growth rates close to the 8% target for fourteen years and the fact that our politicians don’t work in our interest, government during the fourth mandate of NR would have given many of our public corporations a bad name, floated the idea of privatising several of them – using bizarre terms like affermage, strategic parnership and other rubbish – with the very controversial World Bank standing by with a noose in the form of dodgy reports. Citizens would of course have taken to the streets and Ministers would have had their Billie Jean moment.

Sliding Rupee

Given that Bheenick would have been sacrificed in the name of the ‘gros piège à cons’ it’s likely that a spineless governor would have been appointed. And this would have meant a rapidly-depreciating currency. Probably as much as we’ve seen during the past five years that is the dollar gaining 6-7 rupees or more if that governor wanted to send an unambiguous signal that when it came to being a doormat he’s second to none. Which would have made 99% of us poorer and Sithanen very happy.

Persistent Water Problems

We had some pretty acute water problems between 2005 and 2014. They would have lingered on because the flat tax has caused our government to run out of cash by not putting us on the right side of compounding. Otherwise we would have paid for our own ENT- and eye-hospitals. And so many more things.

A Traffic Frankenstein As Mean

As was shown a few weeks ago a crucially-important ratio to gauge the quality of our transport policy is the car/bus ratio. It almost doubled from 31 to 56 in the 2005-14 period and made driving a lot less pleasant. There’s no reason to believe that it wouldn’t have reached its current catastrophic level of 77. Definitely not after hearing Sithanen put both of his feet in his mouth on this dossier a couple of years ago. This sorry state of affairs would have been accompanied by a multi-billion-rupee road congestion program (building new roads) and a tram on stilts that would not have solved anything but on the contrary deface Mauritius on a big scale. The first chart shows the growth performance of the Lepep government.

Road Fatalities Would Have Stayed Flat

The point system would not have been scrapped and we might have made some progress as far as road deaths go. Or we might not have. Simply because just having a point system doesn’t make our roads less lethal in a sustained manner. There are other boxes we need to check before we solve this problem such as having enough money thrown after this problem. Ask Sweden.

Still Hostage To

A Few Centimetres of Rain

Because of a lack of deep-enough drains, too much single-use plastic, haphazard construction and an unchecked car pool. We might not have been so lucky after enough rain poured while a street festival was held after the sun had set. Our friends in Fond du Sac would have lost all their possessions each time rain exceeded a certain threshold. These would have been immediately followed by harsh water cuts.

Substance Abuse

Stays High

Reducing taxes to 13% might have led us to move from like 3 casinos per town/village to 3 casinos per capita. That’s how the mind of the bean-counter works. Not good given the drug-gambling nexus.