ENDY JAY

In my last article on the Budget (Forum 10/6/20), I reminded, inter alia, what to expect during the debates in the National Assembly, a once-a-year scenario that puts some fire in an often drab, but now ‘loudspeaking’, space.

And it turned out, unsurprisingly so, to be exactly that. From one side, everything amiss in a profusion of pejorative qualifiers, while on the benches of the majority everything bold and innovative, but less playacting given the seated postures. And on that latter side of the House, someone even went to the point of underlining that the Minister of Finance has had the guts to do « ce que les autres ont eu peur de faire », including the immediate predecessor! In that Robin Hood stance, where was the boldness needed to have addressed the thorny universal Basic Retirement Pension as it should be* (as often recommended by the International Monetary Fund), instead of coming up with the new proposals nobody seems to be able to grasp the full and real bearing? Moreover, why tax the big salaries, which is right in the present context, while continue allowing even millionaires to qualify for BRP? What could be the lobby behind? But the ‘bouquet’ from that latter one was the plea for a ‘trêve’ because of the hard times we are through.
A truce while the debates are still on only to see another scandal surface, involving a jaw-dropping Rs.700 million.

If that scandal is proved true, it will be a major blot on the banner of Government that the latter will have the duty to rub clean even if it takes the caustic cleanser of public embarrassment. It appears this time ‘pa pou kapav zwe sove’. A scandal also to show the floodgates are still open for other ‘gates’ to surface with the consequence of the present Government possibly facing the risk of knowing a ‘ripe squirting cucumber’ fate before the present mandate ends. And how on earth a truce during that once-yearly exercise that impacts on the life of the whole nation not only for the coming financial year, but often well beyond?  All budgets, after all, have their dose of political overtones. But, be that as it may, before the end of the present month at latest, the Budget will have been approved, wrapped up into one bundle with its subsidiary legislations with no loose end hanging, as has always been the case.

And now with that misleading sense of security and relief ‘de liberté retrouvée’ with the extension of the easing of COVID-related restrictions effective Monday June 15, we may forget there is no evidence to suggest Mauritius is already COVID-free with only a fraction of the population tested, while also the World Health Organisation has still not lifted the pandemic alert. Far from that, the virus is still killing with casualties having attained in some countries five-digit numbers and with the United States topping 100,000 deaths. And our frontiers remain closed. And to add to our miseries, ‘St-Louis Gate’ to further complicate our stand as regard the EU’s blacklist, a scandal where the ‘whistleblower’, as it were, is no less than la ‘Banque Africaine de développement’! Will the PM this time go ‘jusqu’au bout’ as suggested by his nevertheless dubious ‘mo pa pou kouver personn’? A golden opportunity to get rid of a cumbersome ally, who right from the very start has been lugging mostly a group of ‘laryaz’ and for whom he sacrificed one from his own ranks, who must today be ‘laughing up one’s sleeve’. Immediate consequences may yet give second thoughts. But how to escape the dilemma? Attendons voir!

Still it is, the atmosphere is heavy with doubts and fears, with the spotlight moving from one event to another in quick succession. Have we entered a period of unprecedented tribulation? But a safe guess is that we are at some sort of crossroads!
Why not request a ‘trêve’ for St Louis Gate?

(*It is worth reminding a MSM-MMM Government, when SAJ was Prime Minister and Bérenger Finance Minister, a means test was introduced for BRP, during the 2000-2005 mandate).