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High-income nation: santi li ?

At $8.99 per month, your basic Netflix account didn’t seem expensive so you went for the premium one at $15.99 – not much, really at Rs 36.50 per US$ back then. But just wait until you’ll need to renew your subscription to the tune of Rs 680, instead of Rs 582 pre-COVID era – Rs 100 more per month! (It looks like you will have to add another Rs 100 for VAT purpose regardless of how they will be siphoned). All that because since then the US$ has soared from the pre-March 2020 levels of Rs 36.50 to above the Rs 40 mark at present.

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The World Bank has started classifying Mauritius in the ‘High Income’ category in July 2020 – the slide of our Rupee has boosted the number of Rupees that the World Bank’s arbitrary threshold would give you. But did that make your life more comfortable than before? To explain this, the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) is handy: though imperfect but closer to our reality, it is a means of weighting how much people make by the cost of living or to compare the pricing of similar things across countries with different currencies.
Sadly, it’s exactly what is being systematically omitted from all expert opinions being doled out left-right-centre on mainstream media. Let alone, the ever-widening gap between the darlings of our “devlopma” and the rest. Since our livelihoods massively depend on imports paid in US$ and Euro (now about 17% more expensive than a few months ago), we have continuously been hit by a brick called self-inflicted depreciation. Only the brick is now much heavier.

Over the last 30 years, the Singaporeans have seen their PPP slide by about 0.1x only, as compared to our only African list mate Seychelles on World Bank’s ranking, which slid by 0.5x. What about our Motherland? Brace yourself: ours slid by 16.5x, no less.  At PPP basis, there has been an irrepressible tendency to make the uphill climb steeper for a majority of us. Adding zeroes to peoples’ payslip gives an illusion of progress – despite all the gated communities (never mind the conspicuous electric fence) and the debt spiral. We are all feeling the increasingly numerous signs of impending implosion: road rage, incivility, and vile acts against our society’s more vulnerable ones.

Of course, there is a veneer offered by the shiny accolades from abroad. There must be a limit to how much incompetence and corruption at the top that can be tolerated. The recent peaceful protest in Port Louis has sown the seeds of hope for the many. Yet, the opposition alliance to « save the country » may provide a temporary relief from the « inclusive » disaster but, without a comprehensive rewiring and plan, it will never respond to our helplessness in the midst of a collapsing system.


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