As young people start their journey into adulthood, they face a plethora of constraints that forces them to rethink their priorities. Countless times you’ll hear them shrug off their own novel ideas of entrepreneurship with an air of dejection – some seek solutions abroad, most are forced to remain, and remain anxious about the repayment of their lifelong shackles.
Indeed, a large majority of young Mauritians (50% salaried adults earn less than Rs 16,000) who have managed to settle down are chained to mortgage loan repayments for at least 25 years, which is until retirement. Add to this skyrocketing prices of land (if not already parcelled by their parents), discriminated against by the influx of returning residents (“enriched” from a fat cat-sponsored persistent depreciation of our Rupee against foreign currencies that is supported by prohibitive interest rates for loans – a reflection of market mistrust in the soundness of the Rupee requiring higher premium to compensate for higher risks and unchecked cartelisation), foreigners (mostly lured by “défiscalisation”), and supply severely constrained by large and privileged land owners. Still worse, our statistics on house ownership are grossly misleading as they merely show the remainder of those households who do not pay rent.
Should the situation not improve dramatically, this generation of young adults will be the last one to be able to build their own houses. The remainder who still manages to own a plot of land are overwhelmed by loans that hardly leave any disposable income. A word of caution here: it’s only houses, not habitats – habitats imply carefully planned supporting networks of social, economic and cultural activity around houses to ensure sustainable regeneration of the area over time. As well as efficient transportation and infrastructure – nothing is implemented in isolation. Buying social peace has never been easier nor less expensive, which is in effect a virtuous circle of sorts.
Yes, we can! But…
…it takes courage – and since there are only 1.2 million of Mauritians over 2,040 km2 (5 times less populated than Singapore but with 3 times more land than them…), it cannot cost much (neither in terms of time nor resources) to see meaningful progress, which, if managed thoughtfully, could take a time period short enough to ensure that the outgoing government gets re-elected – the key is to be resolute in converting land into production of meaningful human capital instead of mere State-subsidised rent-seeking.