God damn it, what are we doing, people? We are a great nation, we truly are all smart fellas, and we have come a long way from rough seas and tough beginnings to greener pastures. And we have great aims for our country and plan to go far, to be an advanced, high income country.
The truth is that we all know what we need to do to achieve this, from the man in the street to the  savvy sharpshooter. But we are all playing games, taking pleasure in shifting responsibilities. We are a rich and diverse society, but in this strength lies also our weakness. We know the answers to our biggest problems but instead of leveraging on our diversity to apply the solutions, we often allow our diversity to stand in our way to achieve our greatness as a nation.
Let’s take the prime example of Air Mauritius . Here was the pride of the nation, the Paille en Queue, which won admiration as a product of the vision and collective intelligence of Mauritians. Today, it is beyond recognition, battered in tatters, run by a US firm and a South African CEO, whose inflight duty free shopping service and publications are contracted to South African providers, and catering services to another Indian provider, while Mauritian pilots are having to supplicate for a job. MK has become the graphic symbol of the loss of sovereignty and dereliction of independence of our nation.
I don’t spurn foreign expertise, competence or advice as such. But we make a fool of ourselves when we hanker after their Holy Grail like wimpy crybabies. Let’s take another singular example of the International Advisory Board, newly constituted by Government and made up of high profile experts “to turn Mauritius into a high income economy”. Government has no plan, no strategy or programme whatsoever for them to advise on, and what do we expect from them in their fleeting visits here, that are paid for by the private sector, as just confirmed by the Minister of Finance in Parliament this week?  With what seriousness can we credit this intermittent exercise other than that of a flashy photoshoot with the Queen?
We want to be the Jewel of Africa and we do have all the capabilities and resourcefulness for it. But let’s be serious. Have we ever compared the kind of nominations made at the highest level in our  Embassies and Trade missions in Africa with the competence of even junior Trade counsellors of foreign Embassies based here? We have a tremendous gap of credibility when we talk of our Africa strategy. And yet Africa is our saving grace in a world of economic meltdown.
We are facing a declining trend in our economic growth. We used to surf on an average annual growth rate of 5.5% in the 30 years after independence. This rate has declined to about 4.5% per year over the period of this Government’s mandate. It is now estimated to tank further to an average rate of 3.6% p.a in the near future owing to the enduring Eurozone crisis. This declining rate, while not technically landing us in economic recession, has already taken its toll on the social environment in terms of the cruelty of criminality and the horrendous loss of values. We are now branded as the biggest drug-taking nation in Africa.  Can we allow this to continue?
 We are a small wonderful country. We are a great people. Yet at the core of the system, we are not stopping the rot. Example comes from above. But the national leadership at the highest levels in both public and private sectors is engaged in an unholy and mutually beneficial  alliance for feeding off the lifeblood and resources of the nation. We all know how State expenditures and investments often turn into means of siphoning money for personal benefit and how the private sector actually instigates and enables this siphoning process. This is a visible and criminal process of draining national wealth for the benefit of a few with the result that we are stunting the growth potentials of our people and ruining the future of our young generation.
It is time to go to the source of this corrupt system of abusing public institutions for personal ends and feeding political agents and private sector donors with paybacks for electoral funding. We need to stop the disgusting charade which sees a reward system for political agents who get involved just to gain wealth. We need to have institutions free from party political control, that are answerable to a truly democratic process and not to a Prince Regent or a political party. We have to take some power and patronage away from the Prime Minister. People don’t elect this office, so why is it given such extraordinary powers? Why should its term of office be limitless?
Politics unfortunately is fast becoming a new route to riches. We have to face the facts that too often, this desire for wealth has become a motivation of a political career. That is why it is important that those of us that go into politics have to accept the spotlight and not hide behind the need for a private life or falsely moan about our vital constitutional rights as individuals. There are two simple measures that all persons who stand for office or who are appointed to an institutional position must accept. Firstly, publish the annual tax returns and the list of personal assets and liabilities updated each year. Transparency is the key. Secondly, we must have a new law which criminalises the possession of unexplained wealth by this same group of persons. Then, we need a code of conduct for ministers and members of parliament and a register of interests for them.
Unfortunately all the laws in the world will do us no good if the institutions that oversee our country simply don’t function and the fact is that they very often don’t. How are people getting their positions? Ask ourselves if it’s based on merit? It’s high time we have an Institutional Appointments Committee made up of MPs, professionals of integrity and members of civil society so that all these plum chairmanships and critical leadership of regulatory bodies are made on some kind of public scrutiny and examinations in public hearings. This will help to prevent putting square pegs in round holes and thereby prevent public institutions becoming a political tool and means of settling scores. This is true wherever we look. Take ICTA – our telecommunications and IT sectors are scandalously underdeveloped because the regulator has been a creature of the industry. Highest price for lowest service and a pretence at competition are the order of the day, with shocking mobile phone and internet costs.
Wake up, Mauritius ! We deserve better. Let’s do what we know is right for our people. You don’t need to be a loser, Mauritius !