Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CSO Chief Should Be Asked to Stay On

You may not be aware that our Central Statistical Office will be losing its boss this November. Indeed Harish Bundhoo will soon be reaching the milestone which decades ago would have made him an old person. That was then.

The snag now is that Mauritius needs Bundhoo more than Bundhoo needs Mauritius. Beyond being a great professional he has demonstrated a quality that has practically disappeared in Mauritius: independence. And he's shown that on more occasions than one.

The Prime Minister would therefore be well-advised to make sure that he stays on so that we don't lose the the little sanity that we still have.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Ramgoolam is Making Mauritius Greener

Last year some 44.1% of our electricity was produced with coal. That's up from 26.8% in 2005 and more than seven times its 1998 level of 6.1%. In the meantime Ramgoolam has come up with his grand vision of Maurice Ile Durable. Turns out it's just another empty slogan or like we say in kreol: enn lot palab.

Sithanen Story Spurious

The number of unemployed people increased by 7,300 to a record 66,600 in 2007 the year he called an early harvest. While it's true that it fell by 6,400 in 2008 it is quite a stretch of the imagination to see a bumper crop in there. Indeed, 60,200 of our citizens didn't have a job at the end of 2008 which translates into the double-digit unemployment rate of 10.4%. Or if you prefer 3,700 more people were jobless than at the end of 2005.

One Great Myth

That Berenger turned our economy around starting June 1982. He is supposed to have done that in 9 short months by implementing IMF and World Bank policies. What exactly did he do and what results can we precisely trace back to those actions?

While we're at it I think that the MMM-PSM alliance would not have won all the seats if it had been possible to hold the 1982 general elections six months later given that the world economy was about to rebound.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Problem Civil Society Has to Solve Rapidly

How to send a few representatives to our National Assembly when we go to vote the next time so that the majority of citizens of this country have a genuine voice in there. Alternative voices were able to gather about 3,000 people in Beau-Bassin last May and this without the all-inclusive package available at the other political rallies. That's a very promising start.

It's unlikely to happen you say. Well, wouldn't this have looked something silly to say twelve months after 1935 and 1967?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why You Can Safely Ignore Sithanen's Growth Target

Of 5-6% in 2010. Well simply because it means almost nothing. He could get that just by depreciating our currency like he did in 2006. The other thing is that his growth numbers are not only going to be the worst in decades but most of the growth we've clocked since July 2005 has gone to a chosen few.

The good news is that we're soon going to get an opportunity to say loud and clear to Sithanen and Ramgoolam what we think of their totally mindless policies.

Why Ramgoolam Could Lose Power in 2010

One of the reasons is because the MMM and the MSM could go together and make the electoral life of the current PM difficult enough for him to be ousted or return with a paper thin majority.

Two others are obviously the huge poverty that Ramgoolam has created over the last 4 years and the rewriting of history that he has been indulging himself in. Indeed, some of the Nazi-style programs that the MBC has thrown our way didn't seem to have gone too well with a lot of people. So that he'll be perfectly right to regret bad policies and bad communication when the polls reveal their secrets.

Alternative Gurus

"Greed has been with human beings forever. We have a number of things in our species that you would call the dark side, and greed is one of them. If you don't put certain structures in place or restrictions on those parts of our being that come from that dark place, then it gets out of control. Capitalism does the opposite of that. It not only doesn't really put any structure or restriction on it. It encourages it, it rewards it."

The above excerpt may, or may not, prompt you to read (or listen to) Naomi "Shock Doctrine" Klein's interview with Michael Moore as he launches yet another polemical documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kozelidir Now on Facebook

Yep, yep, yep. We're there since yesterday. So click here to come and say hi.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time We Got Ourselves an Economic Constitution

Which would specify some basic principles for running government. Here are a few thoughts.

Article 1. Keep inflation low and within a narrow band. Tax system should have an appropriate dose of progressiveness. Otherwise you create poverty and inequality and might eventually need an armored vehicle when going shopping. No, the CPI is fine. We don't need a GPI (gato pima index).

Article 2. If you believe there-is-no-alternative (TINA) but to consistently depreciate our rupee you should either resign or go work for one of the two Bretton Woods loan sharks because you probably don't have a single sexy idea in that thing you call your head. Or recycle yourself as a revisionist. Please contact Navin Ramgoolam or Paul Berenger for a full-time position immediately. Nobody's picking up the phone? Call the Sun Trust and ask for Pravind.

Article 3: Public funds should be used to solve major national problems like traffic congestion. Provision should be made to have a sufficiently comfortable public transportation system. No money should be doled out to sunset industries. And make sure our soil produces enough to eat for all of us for as long as possible. No, sugar doesn't count as a balanced diet.

Article 4: Opaque stimulus packages are not allowed. Better use the money to lower internet or energy prices for everyone. By the way, when you have an APM at the STC and still want to play with financial derivatives that's called speculation.

Article 5: Make sure we satisfy a big chunk of our energy needs from green sources: wind, sun and water. Go ahead, prove to us that we can do better than Maurice Ile Palabres.

Article 6: Absolutely necessary to make sure that there is enough competition in our major industries. That should mean lower prices and better service not higher prices and confidential contracts.

Article 7: Summer time doesn't work here. Unless polar bears are sighted again in Riverwalk.

Article 8: No, we don't need two more articles even if you think that The 10 Articles sounds more marketable.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why Federation 2 Lost Power in 2005

I think it's a combination of the following factors:

1. One part of Obeegadoo's educational 'reform' didn't go too well with the voters: discrimination with respect to place of residence which ended up as discrimination with respect to religious beliefs.

2. Mean-testing our senior citizens. That even stressed one of our older folks to death.

3. Strong increase in the cost of living while not buying into Berenger's explanation that only external factors were to blame. Particularly the huge increases in the price of electricity.

4. The big job losses in the export-oriented industries between 2001 and 2004: about 23,000.

5. The outrageous IPP contracts with their confidential clauses.

6. The maja-karo seen with the organisation of the SIDS conference. Absolutely insane limousines were purchased not once but twice thanks to the well-known monopoly of the MMM over competence. Some were even fitted with DVDs so that the militan koltars could reinvigorate themselves listening to soldat lalit militant while being stuck in traffic.

7. The foreign policy of Mauritius was literally transformed into a job search.

8. Illovo deal.

Maybe I should add two more so that I can transform it into a top ten list.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mauritius Rich Enough to Solve Traffic Problem

If we assume for just one second -- though I fully understand that this could be a leap of faith for most of you -- that the Rs25-30 billion rupees Sithanen says we need to fix the traffic problems are correct then we don't need to borrow one cent from abroad because we are rich enough to do it with our own cash.

In fact if government had started to put money to solve this important problem back in 2005 our traffic problems would certainly have been reduced to more reasonable levels. See, the audit report tells us that about Rs5 billion is wasted every year or Rs25 billion over a 5-year period. So that if we had managed to cut a quarter of that waste and add the Rs5 billion gift that Sithanen wasted on the dead sugar industry and the Rs3 billion that were mysteriously lost at the STC that would have provided us with about half the amount he's looking for. Government could then have budgeted an equal amount in its capital budget spread over 5 years. After all, Sithanen did brag about putting Rs14 billion in an opaque and useless stimulus package, right?

Of course as the traffic would have become more fluid we would have saved on petrol consumption and pollution while seriously improving living standards of almost everyone at the same time.

But almost absolutely nothing was done to make this problem any smaller in spite of what a fiery Ramgoolam promised exactly a week before the last time we voted him into power. Berenger is certainly not any better. He promised us that a metro was on its way for five whole years. Talk is cheap. We need new leaders.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Global Recession Less Harmful than Sithanen

So far. That's what more and more voters of Belle-Rose/Quatre-Bornes are concluding. And they are perfectly right. I mean can the Finance Minister tell us what's the link between toxic financial assets almost breaking the US economy and the STC losing Rs3 billion on hedging exposures they don't even have?

Just like MK can't really blame factors beyond its control for its trouble. They got themselves in a mess because of a flawed commercial policy and because too many board members don't know what board members are supposed to do. And nothing much is going to change because they're not doing anything different.

Hard to Believe

That SSR would have set himself ablaze if the coalition he led had lost the 1967 general elections as Burty David said yesterday at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. I can't even imagine that he even said that. Why? Because Seewoosagur was an extraordinary leader and extraordinary leaders simply don't burn themselves down because there's a hump in the road. No, they don't. They persevere until they succeed. And they certainly don't attribute stuff their dad had little to do with to their father.

It also doesn't tally with his personality: he enjoyed life way too much to even think about taking his with a gallon of whatever. People who knew the Old Man better than me are also very skeptical that he would have said such a thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doing Business Rankings Oversold

No one will disagree that when it comes to red tape less is better than more. Which is what the World Bank's Doing Business (DB) survey was supposed to measure and nothing else. A tagline -- measuring business regulations -- was even added presumably to avoid intellectually dishonest souls from marketing it as something it simply isn't.

However the recent report by the WB's own Independent Evaluation Group finds that the list is fraught with problems: too few informants, lack of transparency and high volatility of ranking. More importantly, it cannot be used on its own so that you'd better combine our 24th place in its 2009 ranking with our 132nd spot in the Logistics Performance Index to get a better picture. Which means that you have to heavily discount most of the stuff you hear about the DB survey.

Doing Business is Junk says World Bank

Pourquoi Doing Business Est l'indice Préféré Des Abrutis

Bracing for the Future

"The Metro is Dubai's socio-economic future".

This is how Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, defines the city-state's freshly-launched metro system. The network is not only set to modify the public transport culture, by reducing traffic congestion, it will also contribute to enhance Dubai's competitiveness significantly, and inter alia:
  • improve overall flow;
  • reduce fuel consumption;
  • cut carbon emission;
  • create a greener environment;
  • lower rate of road accidents;
  • balance national accounts.
All in all, a vision contrasting sharply with Dodoland's propensity to ego-massaging with unproductive mega-projects and draining our money into the consultancy industry while, on an even more tragic note, impeding on its potential to transform itself, from a pussy cat that sleeps at four, into a vibrant metropolis.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Heavy Trucks Should Be Better Monitored

In view of the high number of road deaths that they have been involved with recently and their potential to inflict heavy damage and paralyse traffic for a good couple of hours monitoring of these heavy vehicles has to be stepped up immediately. And given that many of them travel when they have the roads all by themselves the police should make sure that the drivers feel that they are constantly being watched. Other road users should also do their bit by sharing the information with the authorities in real time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Thick Line Between Bla Bla Bla and Efficiency

Read the following this morning in The Strait Times:

"The Singapore economy became more energy efficient last year, squeezing more value from every dollar spent on electricity, even as it cost more.

In other words, it took less electricity to generate every dollar of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year - 13 percentage points less than in 1999.

It is significant that the country's energy efficiency went up in a year of spiralling fuel prices. Fuel costs, which make up half the cost of generating electricity here, rose by 418 per cent since 1999..."

Monday, September 7, 2009

How Can a Casino Lose Money?

I don't have an answer to that. What I do note though is some kind of give-your-public-institution-a-bad-name-and-hang-it disease that has been afflicting our country for too long. Take the CEB for example. It was declared absolutely dependent on private capital about a decade ago and found guilty of all kinds of sins one of which apparently seemed to have found its way back into the 12th report the NESC has just released.

A craving which eventually translated into higher electricity prices for us and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seriously degrade the competitiveness of Mauritius Inc. That situation was so ridiculous that it even got a gullible Ramgoolam to do his chess-thumping routine nearly two years ago. What he termed a historic agreement then has still to make iota of difference for a super majority of voters.

Same issue at the CNT. How can it not be profitable? Well if you had a look at the types of buses that they've been putting on the roads for ages compared to the types of cars that they've been allowed to purchase you could be getting closer to a hint.

We know for a fact that the private sector doesn't have a monopoly over common sense or good management for that matter. We've seen proof of that again with the recent and controversial stimulus package: it seemed to be such a marvellous thing as long as it remained opaque. But the private sector can take some comfort in not having designed such an absurd scheme.

What's next? The privatisation of the anti-drug and smuggling unit?

Minister Proves He Can Do Better Than Forgetting Rodrigues

After Rodrigues was completely left out in one of his budget speech and most of the citizens of Mauritius in the others, Sithanen has now pushed out the limits of absurdity by discriminating against our fellow citizens who live in Rodrigues.

Indeed it cost a third cheaper to fly to there from Plaisance than if you begin your journey in Plaine Corail. Plus there are all kinds of stupid restrictions. Does that make any sense to you? Does it make more sense than the super high pump prices he's fleecing us with?

Thank God we're going to vote soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

MMM Publishes List of Candidates in Lieu of Plan for Mauritius

A partial list to be more precise. But that was controversial enough for it to lose the PMSD and Pravind is already working at patching up with his uncle. Which means that the MMM could finally go to the polls as it said it would: alone.

That's unlikely though. What's more likely to happen is that negotiations for Federation III will soon start irrespective of whether Ashock finds his way back to the Sun Trust. Unless Ramgoolam moves rapidly with the coup de grace which is about the only way he'll get more than 35 seats in the next electoral rendez-vous.

As you would have noticed none of our three major parties really have a serious plan for Mauritius. Cry Mauritius, cry.

Aster PM Pe Truve Ki Krwasans Se Pa Tu

Pendan 4 banane linn rod fer nu kwar ki bel farata linn krazer ek so to krwasans. Ler guete so to krwasans mwayen pu pli move to ki moris finn konne depi ki Sithanen inn rant dan politik ek fin kumans servi nu so ban politik ekonomik kuma bann badia mal frir la.

Me se pa tou. Dernier senq an politik ekonomik Ramgoolam/Sithanen/Mansoor finn non selman kree buku povrete li finn usi kree inegalite extrem. Dimann nimport ki ekonomis ki kompran enn tigit kuma fiskalite fonksyoner li pu explik ou linpak enn flat tax. Ti kav fer Pol Krugman ou Tomas Piketi vinn moris explik sa ene ti kut. Selman, fode pa dimann oken ekonomis nimport explik u sa. En attendan u kav chek sa.

Donk PM pe kumans interess li ek krwasans kiltirel. Se sirman parski eleksyons deryer laport. Enfin. Si li envi montrer so bonn fwa li ti kav fer kreol fer so lentre dan parlman jaldi jaldi.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kreol Should Be Allowed in Parliament

And so should bhojpuri probably given the prevalence of these languages in our country. We just need a team of translators getting everything back to whatever languages are preferred by our MPs. That's a piece of cake to do. We can even send a group of people to the United Nations on a learning tour just in case we forgot that we like to brag that we are a multilingual country.

Allowing kreol in Parliament will immediately increase the democratic space because there are many citizens and MPs alike who are simply not comfortable enough in English or in French.

Bridge Crossing

Ramgoolam apparently doesn't know yet who is gonna be his Finance Minister in the next general elections and has refused to confirm that it will be Sithanen. That's bad news for the latter and seems to confirm that his economic policies are a big electoral liability for the current PM. Gone are the days when Sithanen was the first and only candidate to be guaranteed ministerial responsibilities by the same Ramgoolam when they were in the opposition before July 2005.

But that could be just another gimmick by Ramgoolam who is buying some time after seeing his political options dwindle as more and more people understand how Sithanen's policies have been bad for a majority of our fellow citizens. Still, I would not be surprised at all if Ramgoolam crossed that bridge with Sithanen on his back. The last bridge is of course always crossed by the voters who will then decide who if anyone of the two makes it to the other end.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Time For A Little Switch

For Ramgoolam. He should appoint Bheenick as Finance Minister if he wins the next general elections and Sithanen as Governor of our Central Bank. Bheenick will then pick a majority of directors on the Bank's board who know enough about the economy to give all the support Sithanen deserves. Here are four such people: Ashok Subron, Filip Fanchette, Samad Ramoly and Kee Chong Li Kwong Wing.

Of course Ramgoolam doesn't have to wait for fresh new elections to operate that switch. He can do that pretty quickly given that he's got so many ministers that are totally useless.

U Ki Pu Vinn Dir Mwa Ki Bis Bizin Met Lor Larut?

Se seki enn General Manager CNT ti aparaman dir so minis enn zur byen lontan de sela. General Manager u konn li: zordi zur li sekreter zeneral parti travays. Be etan donne ki job la inn revinn disponib eski pa ti kav remet Deva Virahsawmy laba pou enn ti letan pou li remet bis ki bizin lor nu larut. Si u rapel byen enn lepok nu ti ena bann bon bis lor nu sime. Zot ti sort zapon ek zot ti apel Hino ek Isuzu. Zot pa ti larg lafime kuma sa bann dinozor ki roule zordi zur la.

Parey kuma ler inn vinn pli respirab dan bann plas piblik avek interdiksyon sigaret, ti pu bon regler sa problem bis polyan enn fwa pour toute. En fet guvernman ti kav met ban konvertiser katalitik a so fre lor sa bann vehikil fimigen la parski li pu ekonomiz plis ki sa lor fre la sante bann sitoyens. Inpe kuma ti fer a Santiago o Sili.

Produit Intérieur Biaisé

De plus en plus de voix s'élèvent pour exprimer le scépticisme par rapport à la pertinence du PIB (produit intérieur brut) comme mesure de progrès et de bien-être d'une nation. Du moins, comme véhiculé par la rhétorique politicienne. Répondant aux questions de Alternatives Economiques, deux professeurs d'économie, notamment Jean Gadrey et Jean-Paul Fitoussi, assignés justement de proposer des alternatives par la commission Stiglitz , déclarent respectivement :
  • "les instruments actuels nous rendent quasiment aveugles devant des risques majeurs..."
  • "quand les gens ont l'impression que les mesures sont fausses, ils pensent que la démocratie est manipulée et ils perdent toute confiance dans les élites. Le fait qu'il existe un hiatus si fréquent entre les mesures et la perception par les populations concernées signale un problème, non pas subjectif, mais objectif. Le premier suspect est évidemment l'inégalité..."