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Setting expectations

As 2015 comes to an end and a New Year will begin in a few hours, it is appropriate that we look back on the country’s achievements and failures. It is also time to promise ourselves that we will do better next year. This year kicked off with a feel good factor as the new Alliance Lepep government installed itself. Numerous Mauritians felt some sort of relief that Dr. Navin Ramgoolam’s plan to set up the Second Republic, with the help of unrecognizable and naïve Mr. Paul Bérenger, was counteracted. New hopes prevailed. The freshly-elected Alliance Lepep government kept some of its main promises, namely the Basic Retirement Pension, the Basic Invalidity Pension and the Widow’s Basic Pension have been increased (from Rs 3,623, Rs 3,267 and Rs 3,267 respectively) to Rs 5,000; the driving license with the penalty point system has been reviewed and the speed cameras are no longer traps for drivers; the fight against corruption and ill-gotten wealth has been strengthened while the Asset Recovery Act has been amended and the Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Bill have been voted at the National Assembly; a commission of enquiry on drug trafficking has been set up. In addition, the government kept its promise to pay SC and HSC exams fees, which does constitute a real help to needy parents and even the middle income group. In the same breadth, the Nine Year Basic Continuous Education will become a reality as from 2017. Simultaneously, police enquiries were opened on the alleged wrong-doings of the previous government and that led to the multiple arrests of the former Prime Minister Dr. Navin Ramgoolam, followed by the arrest of some of his close aides like former Public Infrastructure Minister Mr. Anil Bachoo and former Governor of the Bank of Mauritius Mr. Rundheersing Bheenick. The arrest and subsequent release of Shakeel Mohamed is yet another tall tale. The image of the bundles of notes, both local and in foreign currency, pouring out from the coffers of Dr. Navin Ramgoolam is so strong that it will remain in the sub conscience of many for years to come. Similarly, the image of Dr. Ramgoolam, slovenly and untidy with his unbuttoned shirt, being taken away by the CCID from his Desforges Street residence, will haunt many for several years. For decades, Dr. Ramgoolam emerged as a powerful and unattainable political leader that it became unconceivable for numerous political pundits that he would fall so low. However, the Budget 2015/2016, presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mr. Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo on Monday 23March 2015, did not really yield the expected results, though it was a bold one with precise ambitions. During the electoral campaign prior to the December 10, 2014 general elections, Sir Anerood Jugnauth and Mr. Lutchmeenaraidoo were presented as the winning duo which created the first economic miracle in the eighties. Sadly the duo was rarely seen together after the new government was formed. But there was more to come. Probably realizing that the economic goals of his new government would never be attained, Sir Anerood Jugnauth came up, exactly five months later (on Saturday 22 August ,2015), with his economic mission statement titled “Achieving the Second Economic Miracle and Vision 2030”. A joint government/ private sector committee chaired by the Prime Minister is closely monitoring the various projects identified. Earlier, the Government Programme 2015/2019 titled “Shaping the Second Economic Miracle”, and read out by the then President of the Republic Mr. Kailash Purryag also did not have much effect. Boosting the economy, while creating new jobs, constitutes a major challenge for the Alliance Lepep government. Time is of essence although the Prime Minister has on many occasions urged the population to show some patience. There are also lots of expectations regarding construction of low-cost houses, poverty alleviation and the curbing down of fatal road accidents (138 since the beginning of the year). Too much time has been spent on cleansing. The handling of the BAI/ Bramer Bank files is also seen as a double-edged sword by many. In spite of his age (85), Sir Anerood Jugnauth has depicted rare sense of leadership. Furthermore, unexpectedly he has travelled quite a lot, each time trying to market the country and his Vision 2030. Nevertheless, some wrong decisions have marred the good start of the Alliance Lepep government. First, the lack of coherence in government’s action is very visible. The difference in opinion between Sir Anerood Jugnauth and his own son Mr. Pravind Jugnauth on touchy issues like Mr. Menon Murday’s nomination as Vice President and on the reintegration of MP Mrs Danielle Selvon within the MSM does not augur well for the government. The grapevine has it that some so- called conservatives within the MSM are creating hurdles in the way of Mr. Jean-Claude de l’Estrac regarding his nomination as Director General of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). On the other hand, nomination of close relatives or friends of some ministers to key posts without prior public advertisement and meritorious selection has given a taste of nepotism. The language used by some members of government depicted signs of arrogance. Although they had vowed not to speak at socio-cultural and religious ceremonies, leaders of the Alliance Lepep continued with the practice. Meanwhile, the MBC has become even worse during the time Mr. Dan Callikan was the Director General. Some of the plus points of the Alliance Lepep government are the nomination of Mrs. Maya Hanoomanjee as the first woman Speaker of the National Assembly and subsequently the election of Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim as President of the Republic, another notable first for the country. A third important nomination, that of former Judge Mrs. Vidya Narayen as Vice President of the Republic, was in the pipeline. The latter preferred to opt out amidst much controversy. It is worth noting that the President of the Republic chose to devote a large part of her first message to the nation to youth. She has also stressed on the importance of social harmony, peace and stability for the economic development of the country. All eyes will be riveted on Mr. Pravind Jugnauth in January. His appeal against the judgment delivered by magistrates Miss Niroshni Ramsoondur and Mr. Azam Neerooa on 29 June 2015 in the case of the purchase by the government of the MedPoint Clinic, will be heard on 12 and 13 January, 2016. Mr. Jugnauth was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. He subsequently resigned as Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation. The outcome of this case would definitely have a very strong consequence not only on the political career of Mr. Pravind Jugnauth but also on the Alliance Lepep government. In the event that his appeal is heard favourably, things would certainly move fast for Mr. Jugnauth. He would definitely be re-integrated in the cabinet of ministers. Some political pundits are predicting that he would be appointed as Prime Minister by the end of 2016, as Sir Anerood Jugnauth would retire as the Head of Government. That could pave the way for Mr. Mahen Jhugroo to be appointed as minister. In the worst case scenario, that is if his appeal is rejected, Mr. Pravind Jugnauth would have to appeal for leave for his case to be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That would mean that he would have to wait longer outside government, which could prove to be quite painful for a leader whose party is the majority partner in the government. Will there be a new configuration at the National Assembly when Parliament resumes on 29 March,2016, incidently, the birth date of Sir Anerood Jugnauth? As regards the opposition, although the MMM and its leader Mr. Paul Bérenger have made some considerable progress, they are yet to represent a real alternative to the current government. As usual, Mr. Bérenger is hell-bent on his communal calculations, which has propelled Mr. Pradeep Jeeha in the forefront. What about secretary general Mr. Ajay Gunness? If Mr. Alan Ganoo and of his comrades had not left the MMM to found the Mouvement Patriotique, the MMM would have recorded a more considerable progress. As for the Labour Party, only time will tell if Dr. Ramgoolam took the right decision in staying as leader. If Mrs. Nandanee Soornack returns to Mauritius and dons the mantle of star witness against him, he would certainly be in troubled waters.
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