GOOD : Us humans have basic needs. They usually and summarily are food, shelter, health… and in these modern times, education. The VPM did save the best for last in his speech, announcing that CPE would be done away with, with the introduction of 9-year schooling. My offspring is past that stage, but I still did a celebration dance for all those parents who will be saved from the gruesomeness of CPE.
As for food, measures to lead to the reduction of the use of pesticides on vegetables and encouraging the use of bio ones are wise. For other good foodstuff news, try turning vegetarian since a bite will be taken out of soya and veggie burger prices. What about health ? The introduction of a ‘family doctor’, much like the UK’s General Practitioner (GP) system is good, but isn’t it redundant, given the existence of health centres ? Diabetes and cancer are also to be targeted as primary killers in the country. Fine, but prevention remains better than cure ; awareness and sensitisation campaigns need to be urgently refreshed.
For sure, the Bus Replacement Mechanism is most welcome, if not long overdue. Although I, like a lot of my fellow Mauritius, am fuming over the “subsidy of Rs 1 million per bus [which] will be financed through a levy of one rupee per litre on petroleum products…” meaning I will have to pay for private operators to get freebies so they buy better buses… no further comment needed on how that is to be extended to the NTC as well.
The ‘Marshall plan’for SMEs… that’s great… along with the SME parks which are to crop up in Solitude and Plaine Magnen. I just lament that there is nothing to help SMEs out of residential areas and into proper business districts. I am personally tired of mushrooming markets and shops of all sorts in living areas.
Oh… and the integrating Africa plan… great stuff ! Glad we now know we are part of Africa !
BAD : “A National Ocean Economy Task Force is being set up to oversee implementation of the Roadmap, supported by an Office for Ocean Affairs and Development – both at the Prime Minister’s Office…” – read : MID or ‘Culture et Avenir’bis repetita. Do I need to delve into the futility of adding further ‘offices’to an entity that is starting to turn into a micro-government of its own ?
“Our per capita income in 2005 was US 5,200 dollars. Today it is almost double at US 9,300 dollars.” This, to me, shows the disparity between the highest and lowest income, as opposed to demonstrating that Mauritians are earning well. It confirms the weakening of the middle and lower classes and the emergence of a nation of extremes, illustrated through the increase of Porsches or Chryslers on our roads.
Let me come to the green economy – Arundo Donax plant, photovoltaic (PV) system etc… I mean, is that it ? Introducing some new plant and making PVs cheaper for the people who can already afford them and remain inaccessible to the rest ? As for agriculture, which is still part of the green I hope, other than helping catching Batman and throwing in some money for mechanics, there is nothing to increase food production for local consumption. On the contrary : “… investment could bring in some 40,000 tonnes of fish annually and export revenues of some Rs 2.4 billion. Marine aquaculture on an industrial scale is taking off. Currently some 500 to 600 metric tonnes are produced on two sites of which 70 per cent for exports. We are adding 3 more sites over the next two years to double production.” Again, not to make Mauritians enjoy more local fish, but for export. This is the drive of this government. Who cares that fish is a healthy food whose soaring prices are without reach of popular mass ?
Speeding Building and Land Use permit… why ? For more unplanned, un-aesthetic and unbecoming construction all over the place ? Also, the import of ‘high calibre professionals to Mauritius’… why ? Isn’t all of this investment in tertiary education providing a high-calibre manpower enough ? Isn’t it enough that there are schemes to make the purchase of property possible for foreigners… and that this is decisively disabling Mauritian People, who cannot afford the double-digit millions which need dishing out now for a piece of land or an apartment ? Which reminds me that the fancy announcements on housing incentives and new banking control is all claptrap, given that this Government put us in the mess of allowing so many foreigners to live and buy property in this country, real estate prices are now outrageous. The list of paradoxes in this budget is exhaustive…
“Rs 25 million as a Special Fund to boost arrivals from regional destinations during the low season” bad news again – there goes my capacity to enjoy low season hotel rates ! Thank you VPM, for putting people first and ensuring access to their basic rights and leisure has now turned into an economic obstacle race !
UGLY : “.. the Prime Minister’s Office will soon proceed with the licensing of local broadcasters. Application criteria are being finalised and will be made available to those who wish to broadcast solely films, sports and entertainment programmes.” This caused uproar in the Opposition ranks, with the Speaker on his feet threatening to remove some Members. Uproar with reason, since the idea of allowing private television without a news department is purely and simply Goebelesque !
Another ‘ugly’thing in my opinion is how some media still approach budget coverage. Some of them are all about figures and measures which they explain and analyse with great prowess to demonstrate their cosmetic understanding of it all. Media too often are oblivious to what people really want to know. Many Mauritians did not immediately understand that there had been nothing significant to bring down food or other consumer costs. In the direct aftermath of the speech, some media also failed to explain the significance of the main event of the evening, which was the abolition of CPE being announced.
But that, ladies and gentlemen, is another debate. And with this, my fellow Mauritians, I do not commend this budget to the Nation.