The 2014 December elections brought back this strong narrative of “Lepep” in the forefront of the political landscape generating new hopes especially for the middle and lower class. Today, the “Lepep” government is seen as a failure for most of the citizens. Moneyed interests have captured “Lepep” political system and the dreams for a second economic miracle built on the chemistry of a leader and his minister of finance have finally developed into a nightmare over the last few days.
The “Lepep” narrative is dead. The construct of an economic system that is less stable and less efficient, which is increasing the inequality among the population, is becoming more and more evident. There is an enormous disproportionate gap between the top few and the majority of the population (Lepep) in the country. Lost of hope and growing uncertainty are giving rise to accumulative frustration. The reasons for despair are obvious and the low levels of opportunity suggest that if nothing is done now, the inequality in the future may be worse than it is today. The question of how to bridge these gaps is more one of politics than economics. In concentrating on their own narrow interests, our actual political leaders are missing the fundamentals. They are not addressing key economic and social issues as promised. Speeches of high tonality and threats no longer work. We are in 2016 not 1983. Three decades have rolled out and old recipe will not produce the magic effect, just like coloring white hair does not make one younger. It needs more than that. Persistent unemployment and the erosion of the universal values of fairness, the greed of actual ministers caring for their close relatives and others has given rise to a strong feeling of betrayal in the population (Lepep). The fact that we are no longer a country of opportunity is sinking deep down in our youth and compromises the future. The same feeling of inequality and unfairness has given rise to massive protest in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Powerful dictators and government have fallen from power and this is something that avers much easier in a democratic set-up like Mauritius. The economic downturn and the scandals that have surrounded the financial markets since the beginning of this government’s mandate continue to grow and now, with the ex-minister of finance leading the show, make matters worse.
2016 is persistently showing decreases in income and decline in the standards of living among 98% of the population. The “Gini coefficient” is on the rise. The situation is alarming. The disturbing trend in income and wealth will give rise to more social manifestation and ultimately the country will pay a high price for it, even worse if it is in a welfare state. More and more persons at the bottom will depend on government benefits. The “Lepep” leadership should know that, widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable.
Already our economic system has not been delivering for most citizens. Most of the wealth accumulation in this country for decades has gone to the top 2% of the population and the “Lepep” political leadership has not corrected the market failures – thing that they promised during the electoral campaign. Our liberal market economy has not been working the way it should have been. The virtue of a market economy is supposed to be its efficiency but we have seen here how the market is not responding to the huge unmet needs like unemployment and its inability to generate jobs for the upcoming young professionals. More and more citizens are seeing their standards of living eroded.
There is no doubt that we have a divided society, but the division is not merely ethical but more on those who are fortunate and those who are not. “Gato-la inn grossi me pa finn partaze”. The economic fantasy that “bizin grossi gato pou partaze” is a historical rhetoric and should not come as a big surprise that the new minister of finance revives this fantasy. The banking sector is in this dirty game fuelling the inequality for long and what we are witnessing these days is only the tip of the iceberg. There is need to dig more in the processes and loan approvals of these banks. A lot of inequalities will surface. The “Anti Robin-Hood” approach of bankers (taking from the poor to bail/help the rich) has strengthened the hold of the 2% of the population on the market economy and further fuelling inequality. Small entrepreneur/businesses and the common people suffer from different standards of service, loan-repayment conditions and treatment from the local bankers. The inequality prevails at all levels. There is need for the banks to be better regulated, impartial, well managed and not favouring the privileged few who are “more equal than others”. Good governance has been institutionalized in this country since 2014. Are Good governance and equal opportunity mere slogans?
The “makers” of the inequality in our society should not be tolerated because the consequences of discrimination (past or ongoing) are difficult to eradicate. Can our little Mauritius change course and recover the principles of fairness and opportunity? Yes, it can, but needs strong leadership and now hope is flickering.