Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last Prime Ministerial Debate Starts in One Hour

For the UK elections of May 6. Gordon Brown will be facing off the two other leaders who want his job on the economy. That should be interesting given the beating the British economy has taken with the financial crisis.

Why can't the MBC arrange for a debate between Ramgoolam and Berenger so that they come and explain to us what they want to do with our economy?

Are you sure we're in 2010?

Mauritians Should Be Able To Vote Anywhere on Our Territory

See there are 5,000 of our citizens from Rodrigues who will be on the main island of our Republic but they will not be able to vote on May 5. Similarly if someone who lives in Mauritius happens to be in Rodrigues on Wednesday he will not be able to exercise his vote.

Is that normal? Don't think so. How complicated is it to get these people to vote? We should also allow advance voting for people who will be out of town on election day. We can look to the US for some good ideas on these issues.

And no, we don't need to get into an academic debate of whether we need a new Republic to do this.

Ordinary Citizens Shouldn't Pay For Bad Business Decisions

Sugar is a tiny industry where we're not competitive anymore. Now, if sugar barons want to invest their money in it they're free to do it but Government shouldn't bail them out with our money or depreciate our rupee to help them.

The fact that they may have invested a lot of money in it doesn't matter at all. That only tells us the size of their stupid bet.

Voting For L'Alliance Du Coeur is Voting For Rupee Depreciation

Of the systematic and unreasonable variety and that for at least a couple of reasons. The first one is that Bheenick will probably be told to leave the Central Bank. We shouldn't underestimate the benefit of having had Manou there for the past three years.

The second reason is they will probably replace him with someone like Basant Roi, Khushiram or some fellow with a strong depreciation bias. They could even have Sithanen as the new Governor because they haven't got over the way he was sidelined, have they?

Participate in Our First Survey

Unsurprisingly we're gonna start with one on voter behaviour.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Lucky Was Lutchmeenaraidoo

Quite if you look at the above graphic which depicts two important variables that could send the world economy into a recession: US interest rates. When Vishnu took over as Minister of Finance in March 1983 the Fed funds rate had swiftly fallen by almost 600 basis points from the level it was when SSR and buddies faced political mayhem. That's a slide of more than 50% from its June 1981 peak of 17.78%. And they stayed relatively low throughout his Ministerial stint.

The fellow who took over in September 1991 was also quite lucky because he got some of the lowest rates in  25 years.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To Pa Get Along Ek Rama?

That's what he gently asked when I turned around after feeling his hand on my shoulder. It's April 30, 2006 around 16h at Chebel and the Prime Minister has just finished paying his respect to the former Secretary-General of the Labour Party. He's asking this because the third edition of a newsletter I had started in September 2005 had been making some waves. It had even been published in a daily. In it I was essentially asking that Sithanen be replaced as Finance Minister because he had done nothing in the first 10% of the mandate that started on July 3, 2005.

"Se pa ki mo pa get along ar li. Li pe misread la sityasyon." I answered. "Par egzanp so Triple External Shocks la fos terib". "Ah bon?" a stunned Ramgoolam said. There was a little pause and then he asked me to "avway mwa enn papye lor la".

That was kind of easy to do because the next edition of the newsletter I happen to be working on dealt precisely with that fallacy. So I rapidly repackaged the ideas into a short letter and faxed it to the PM a few hours later.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Labour Party Fails To Beat Record

They released their electoral manifesto today which is 9 days before we go to vote. That's what they did in 2005 too. Which gives you an indication of the amount of respect they have for us voters.

Took a quick peek at it and as you would have guessed it has a fair dose of rubbish.

Remember, sniff but by all means don't swallow.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bheenick Not Dead

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that Manou will be heading back to the BOM. That doesn't come as a surprise to anybody given that he has been an excellent governor and his resolve in the face of pathological requests for rupee depreciation has been decisive in keeping Ramgoolam's chances of staying on as Prime Minister after May 5 very alive.

To Be Sniffed But Not Swallowed

I guess Abraham Brillof's recommendation that we handle financial statements like fine perfume apply to electoral manifestos. I am saying this because the one for the MMM is available since today which I painfully managed to download after several tries a little while ago.

I took a quick look at it and I must say I'm not impressed. Will wait for that of their opponent before launching hostilities.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Political Leaders Show Little Respect For Our Democracy

Manifestos are still not out less than 12 days before Mauritius goes to vote. In 2005, I think Labour released it 9 days before July 3rd. Technically, they can still beat this poor record if it becomes available in the week-end. I don't think the MMM did any better.

And of course Ramgoolam and Berenger will not face off in any televised live debate and grilled by a discerning audience. Unlike what's going on in the UK these days.

The Only Signal Ramgoolam Sent

Sithanen failed so he dumped him. Because if things were so great, he would never have contracted an alliance with Pravind Jugnauth or renewed the contract of SAJ as President.

The only thing everybody is angry about is why the PM didn't do that way earlier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bean-Counting Victim Shares Plight

She called in during the Radio+ program this afternoon to share her story: when the 50% SC/HSC subsidies were abolished by the Sithanen-Mansoor duet she didn't get to write her HSC exams because her dad had only enough money to pay for the SC fees of her younger brother.

Isn't that ironic? Here's one guy who keeps telling us that he didn't go to school for two years because he was poor and who, as soon as he's in the driver's seat, starts playing Russian roulette with the future of the kids of this country.

Don't think he's gonna be missed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Bihar Overcame The Jungle Raj

We know that growth rates should be taken with a big grain of salt. Still, when an Indian state like Bihar -- not exactly the poster child for economic development -- clips an average growth rate of 11% over the past years 5 years it is worth finding out how they did it.

Turns out they changed little things and that had a huge impact. By the way, 11% that's two-and-a-half times our growth rate since July 2005.

Trade Deficit Highlights Sithanen's Failure

We've been paying for imports we really don't need by selling our land. That's as unsustainable as the combination of flat-tax with worst growth rates in decades. Besides growth rate isn't a comprehensive enough performance metric. That's why we need a sea change in our economic policies. And we need it fast.

Poll Recommends Women Run as Independent

Only 41% of the 31 voters thought women should ask for a quota of female candidates. Organisations like Women in Networking (WIN) may then have partly missed an opportunity to make the best of the 100 or so candidates they had prepared for the May 5 elections. I say partly because people like Aline Wong who have been involved with WIN and its political arm is standing as candidate.

Of course it matters little whether there are 100% men or 0% men in parliament. What our country is crying for is basic problem-solving ability.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poll Find Berenger Brings More Instability Than Sithanen

58% of the 41 people who voted thought that Berenger brought more instability to a government than Sithanen. It's true that the current leader of the opposition has been sacked by not one but two Prime Ministers in the past. Once in 1983 after 9 months by SAJ and the other by Navin Ramgoolam in 1997.

And if I not mistaken he was also sacked by SAJ between 1991 and 1995.

Lacking Arguments Berenger Resorts To Creating Ethnic Tensions

According to today's Le Mauricien Berenger said that Ramgoolam by sidelining Sithanen has provoked the Tamils. And he's now saying that he didn't agree with the Finance Minister's policies.

An overwhelming majority of people I talked to -- and that include Tamils -- find that Sithanen has failed as Finance Minister and should have been sacked a long time ago. They furthermore tend to agree that one of Ramgoolam's biggest mistakes was not to accept Rama's resignation when he offered it in February 2007.

They also conclude that Sithanen has been abusing his modest origins for far too long instead of solving problems he was elected to solve. And that he should have quietly resigned when he learned that Ramgoolam told him there was no guarantee at all that he would keep the Finance portfolio.

These cheap and dangerous statements made by a person aspiring to become Prime Minister of our country should be condemned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lufthansa and KLM Fly Through Ash Cloud

Minister Tends Resignation After 2 Meetings

Yep, the Minister of State For External Affairs, Shashi Taroor, met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two times today to discuss the IPL controversy. He remitted his letter of resignation after he was summoned to the PM's residence the second time.

Meanwhile and closer to us someone is getting ready to meet our Prime Minister for the eight time...

Footage of Slain Reuters Staff

Gregoire is Not La Cause Creole's Best Friend

That's what I am concluding when I look back at the statements he's been making over the last couple of years. See, he once gave an interview where he said that the future is in Finance and offshore etc and that the creoles are going to have a hard time because they are not prepared for these kind of jobs. That's about the last thing you want to say to the people whose lives you want to improve. Besides the facts tell another story.

He also wanted a quota of 35% for creoles in the public sector. Guess we should ban all entry qualifications and just hire people based on their ethnicity. And what do we do about people of mixed parentage? Do we flip a coin to decide? A 35% quota may also be impracticable if creoles in their overwhelming majority prefer to work in the private sector. And do we send me instead of Stephan Buckland for the 100-metre dash if a corresponding quota for creoles in sports is used up?

And he said he was sad the kind of treatment that Sithanen was getting because the guy is competent and has showed his mettle during the tough times the country went through. With all due respect Jocelyn, I think you should stick to your prayers.

Finally he claims that the Federation des Creoles Mauriciens (FCM) is an apolitical movement. Really? Then why do you go around and making statements like the bleu-blanc-rouge alliance is not in the interest of the minorities? Or that you will not give any voting directives to your members but that the electoral program of the MMM has a lot in common with the FCM's own manifesto?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Quick Look At MMM's 7 Priorities

Fight poverty. Good idea. But how are they going to do this? Let's wait for their program.

Bring back the tripartite system. That's the same system whose negotiations Berenger refused to attend as Minister of Finance between 2000 and 2003.

Repeal the National Residential Property Tax (NRPT). Rs118 millions were collected in 2008 on a budget of about Rs60 billions.

Abolish the tax on interest income. Government took in about Rs130 million in 2008 on that item. Very unpopular and unfair tax.

Cancel the 15% tax on cooperatives. Don't think that's a large amount.

Restore the tax exemption on the first 60 tons of sugar. Wonder how many people are affected by this.

Reintroduce subsidies on the HSC/SC exams. That's should cost government an extra Rs50-80 million.

Renga Would Have Turned 100

That's short for Renganaden Seeneevassen. He was a lawyer, politician and our country's first Minister of Education. He would have turned 100 on April 11 last. He died way too soon on June 6th 1958 at the age of 48. Although I never got the honour to meet him, his name popped-up in conversations grown-ups would have in the 1970s.

If you want to find more about this great man you can visit his official website. You may also read the piece SKJ wrote the day he passed away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why A Ministry For Social Integration Doesn't Make Any Sense

Like Ramgoolam has promised yesterday if he wins the May 5 polls. Well for the same reasons it was ridiculous to brutally disempower people with inequality-creating and opportunities-reducing policies from morning till evening and then come up with a funny contraption called the empowerment fund.

If your policies are right you're not going to leave a lot of people by the wayside.

Sithanen and 5 Colleagues From Cabinet Sidelined

So we learned this afternoon when Ramgoolam announced the names of his 59 fellow candidates. The five ministers not on l'Alliance de L'avenir's list are Asraf Dulull, Indranee Seebun, Dharam Gokhool, Mahen Gowresoo and Sylvio Tang.

There are 13 women candidates (21.6%) on that list with riding no.4 having only female candidates. Berenger's alliance have picked 8 women (13.3%) or 5 less.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Democratisation of the Economy: Cader vs. Kee Chong

I listened through most of that debate on Radio + this afternoon and thought Kee Chong scored many political points against Cader. The latter was his usual self beating around the bush. He had little to present forward given that he did almost nothing during the last five years. Guess he will definitely need those 800 years to get something done.

Kee Chong also kept insisting that Sithanen has been very unfairly treated. Is he thinking that Sithanen did a great job and should have kept his job?

That would be quite a change from what he said a short couple of months ago.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Amnesty: Ethnicity Has No Bearing on Economic Performance

The local section of the human rights organisation issued a communique condemning the statements of some ethnic-based groups saying that Sithanen should stay on as Finance Minister because he was a member of their group. Amnesty encourages Mauritians to instead discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Minister's policies.

Which is essentially what we've been doing here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

WIN Should Take One Extra Step

Woman in networking have apparently trained 100 women to become candidates in the general elections. That's a very laudable initiative. The only error they're making is to place their political future in the hands of our macho politicians: they want our main parties to allocate 1/3 of the candidates to them.

That ain't going to happen and  I believe they have missed an opportunity to register themselves as a new party. Their only alternative now is to have enough of their members stand as independent candidates. Otherwise their good efforts of preparing so many potential candidates will go to waste. And they might as well start waiting for Godot.

Beijing To Let Yuan Appreciate Mildly

That's what the Chinese authorities are expected to announce in the next few days. The move to a more flexible currency is being contemplated for at least two reasons: fighting inflation and making the average Chinese richer.

Won't this mean a less competitive China? Nope because the Middle Kingdom has secured other sources of competitiveness: better infrastructure.

Will our cry babies learn anything from this? Aren't you asking too much?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Managing Dissent: A Teenager's Souvenir

So there I was on an afternoon towards the end of the 70s doing the only thing that mattered in the universe: practising sapsiwaye with my no 5. football. I suddenly noticed a big black car parking on the sidewalk near our gate. I recognised the taillight of BR111, a Series 7 BMW. It was an easy guess as there weren't more than a handful of them around in those days. I kept on bouncing my football while expecting a policeman or government official to spring out of it with some important papers for my dad. The usual kind of stuff.

I was slightly surprised when I saw SSR himself emerging from his car and walking up alone the 25 or so metres of tarred alley that separated us. All kinds of thoughts raced through my mind. What is he doing here at this time of the day? Would he care for a game of pike-bare? The other thing I was wondering was how I should greet the Prime Minister in what was turning out to be a one-on-one encounter. Should I go for the regular 'uncle' or should I favour the kind of stiff walking I'd seen the chief of protocol do on TV? And I had stopped bouncing the ball because I wasn't sure if it was OK to bounce a football within a few metres of the Prime Minister's face.

I don't remember exactly how I finally greeted him but I do remember what he asked me: to papa kote? To which I answered that he's not well today and he's resting in my room. And I told him to wait where he was for a minute while I open the big sliding doors of our living room. He told me that this would be unnecessary and he preferred to follow me.

So he did and I walked a few feet in front of him at his pace and with my ball in one hand. Given that I also had to tell my dad that he was going to have a visitor I ran up the flight of stairs so as to distance the old man enough. I got into the room and with some trepidation told my dad who, you would have guessed, was not in an Armani suit: "Ramgoolam inn vinn get twa". He was surprised and asked me where the guy was. "Li pe monte leskalyer li pe vini la". He had just enough time to pull the bedsheet over him and a few seconds later SSR got into the room and greeted him with a "Kher, to pann vinn travaye zordi?". 

I was asked to get a chair for our visitor and left them chatting wondering why my dad didn't go to work when he seemed to be in an olympic form.

Kee Chong Disgusted At How Sithanen Has Been Treated

That's how he ended his short interview with Deepa Bhookun this morning. He also reminded Rama that there are other things in life that one can do and to take some time to think things over.

I am however having a hard time understanding why he thinks Sithanen's has been treated in a inhumane fashion. The way many people look at it is Rama screwed up big time as Minister of Finance and Ramgoolam found -- rather belatedly I must say -- someone to replace him.

I also wonder what Kee Chong thought of Rama's second-guessing the Prime Minister's prerogatives in public last Sunday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Top 10 Most Popular Posts in March 2010

Sithanen Puts Messi To Shame by Breaking New Record

Almost. Rama now holds the record for the shortest press conference. That of yesterday lasted less than 1 minute according to L'express. Other records he holds include the shortest time to shift parties during a general elections campaign -- less than 24 hours in 2000. That incidentally made him the only person to have his name simultaneously appear on posters of opposing political factions.

We shouldn't forget that he holds the record for the biggest political anaconda ever swallowed: Manou Bheenick in 2007 and the largest boa constrictor ever chewed: Pravind Jugnauth last week.

By getting the MSM on board Ramgoolam may also have unwittingly aborted Sithanen's carefully crafted mission: to be the only politician to have led a government to an unambiguous 60-0 defeat each time he has been its Minister of Finance (1995 and 2010).

President Takes Cheap Shots at Old Comrades

We surely didn't need SAJ shooting down Berenger in an interview with Gordon-Gentil last week. It would have been ok for him to say what he said during his very long political career or after he steps down as our President. But these are not the kind of cheap statements we expect from the Head of State.

Especially during a political campaign.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Did Sithanen Do Anything Positive During The Last 5 Years?

That was the question put to me by someone 5 minutes ago. And he was surprised when I immediately answered in the affirmative.

Well, sort of. I thought Rama was going to resign with a minimum of class when he heard about L'Alliance de L'Avenir and acknowledge the harm that he's done to Mauritius with his ultra-toxic policies. That would have definitely given me an opportunity to salute a somewhat honourable exit.

But no, he instead preferred to take the whole nation on a guilt trip and second guess the Prime Minister's prerogatives one more time on Sunday.

And this robbed me of a darn good opportunity to say something positive.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Je Suis Perplexe

I just asked Google for some help about Transparency Mauritius and it provided me with some links including the website for the parent organisation as well as one for the local chapter. So I browsed a little bit and landed on the press release page for the Mauritian office.

I was quite surprised to note that the latest press release dates back to July 2004 or almost 6 years ago. Maybe there's another website? Strange though because the website address for the Mauritian chapter posted on the parent's website points back to the same page.

De quoi rendre perplexe.

Here's One Place Transparency Mauritius Can Help

It should concentrate on finding out how the hell the STC lost Rs3 billion on hedging. Because more than a year has gone by and we're still in the dark as to how so much of our money was lost. Besides the STC doesn't have to undertake any hedging because it passes whatever it paid for petroleum products to us, along with a margin, through the Automatic Pricing Mechanism.

And I don't remember hearing de Navacelle when some people were saying that the public ought not to know who was getting money from the very controversial stimulus package Mauritius didn't need. Shouldn't he have been the first one to speak out and ask for a little bit of... transparency?

Poll Finds Brain Drain Problem Very Serious

No less than 78% of the 57 people who voted deemed that Mauritius had a very serious brain drain problem. That's something The Economist had mentioned years back and more recently a colleague of mine thought that the numbers for our country appeared to be extraordinarily high.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ramgoolam To Cross Bridge Without Sithanen

Guess he's not too happy with the economic performance of the last 5 years. And he has contracted an alliance with the MSM so as not to take unnecessary risks. Indeed, if things were as rosy as the few beneficiaries of crony capitalism would have us believe then Navin would have kept the bean-counter-in-chief, right? That's something we had decoded back in September.

He must also have gotten quite tired of Rama second-guessing his prerogatives every now and then.

The Use of One's Modest Origins in Politics

With the kind of history that Mauritius has had many of the most remarkable politicians our country has known have come from relatively modest families. We've learned out about this when they took a little time out of their busy schedule to tell us about it. And they did that in a very dignified fashion.

The priority for them was to make the country work for as many of us as possible and whenever we think of them their selfless dedication to bettering Mauritius springs to mind.

It must then have been quite shocking for a majority of us to listen to that pathetic use of one's modest origins for the umpteenth time this morning to try influence our Prime Minister.

Why Mongolia Should Interest You

First for the extraordinary landscapes. Second because it happens to be in good company with a host of countries like Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

What do all of these African countries have in common? Well, they all posted a growth rate of between 4.3% and 7.5% in 2009, a year of global turbulence. And they did that without you know whom.

You can also have a peek at the whole list.

How Much Sithanen Weighs Politically

So he's been harping that the MSM weighs only 4% and shouldn't decide who's gonna be the next Finance Minister. Who should? Rama Sithanen? How much does he weigh politically anyway? You may have to get yourself one of these extremely sensitive electronic scales that jewellers use to find out.

And we've seen how competent he is.

Political Arithmetic

Dumping Sithanen makes winning the general elections much easier for Ramgoolam.

The MMM getting Cassam Uteem to run will only make things worse for them. There is a quasi-unanimity that a former President should not go back to partisan politics. Something that Uteem told us he had finally understood after a long conversation with Berenger. Of course I still don't understand why the conversation had to be a long one.

Why Ramgoolam is Dumping Sithanen

Because it's a very logical thing to do. The guy is the most incompetent Finance Minister our country has known. He has delivered the worst economic growth in decades and tons of robust poverty, flattened our tax structure to create inequality by the truckload while unemployment has stayed in double-digits despite Mauritius receiving some Rs40 billion of FDI.

Worse, he has created serious structural problems for our economy by gifting billions to a dead industry. And we shouldn't forget the controversial stimulus package as well as the mega-skeletons.

And should we start talking about what has been going on at the Bank of Mauritius or the string of totally irresponsible statements he has uttered over the last five years?

Where Ramgoolam has failed is that he allowed the bean-counter to mess up Mauritius for so many years.

MMM Saying 2 Political Dynasties are OK, 3 Not

That's what you have to deduce from listening to yesterday's press conference. So they were finding it a problem that representatives of three political dynasties have gotten together in an alliance namely the Ramgoolam, Duval and Jugnauth.

But it would have been OK for the MMM to join two political dynasties. So what's going on here? Two is good and three is bad?

That's bizarre because both numbers are prime numbers. Maybe they think 3 is odd which is kind of true. And 2 not being a triangular number like 3 it would have been easy for them to apply their well-honed skills of political triangaz.

MBC's Poor Coverage of The Day's Events

I just checked the latest 19h30 news bulletin and was quite shocked to see that it was made up of only two press conferences: one for each of the two main political blocks in the forthcoming general elections. What kind of news coverage is this? Nothing happened in the world today?

Broadcasting 101 would have called for a 3-minute summary of the main points of each press conferences with the full-length versions aired after a decent news bulletin on the main channel or another one.

I was under the remote impression that we were in 2010.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Kozelidir's Simple Guide To Coping With The PM's Prerogatives

1. It is the Prime Minister who appoints the Governor of the Central Bank. If you don't like the person he has nominated you shouldn't cry for a whole week and/or threaten to resign. Likewise please don't use provisions of the Bank of Mauritius Act to obstruct the proper functioning of such a vital institution.

2. It is the Prime Minister who appoints Ministers. Even if you try little tricks to put some pressure on him.

Should I now come up with a simple guide to decoding the PM's not-so subtle messages?

Poll Says SSR Was The Best

Yep, 45% of our 84 voters thought SSR was the best PM our country has known. SAJ came in second at 30% while Berenger got 15%.Navin was last at 8%.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Worst Economic Management Ever Leaves Sithanen With Little Political Choice

For months now it was clear that Sithanen would probably have to leave his old riding of Belle-Rose/Quatre Bornes and migrate to riding no. 8 or no. 13. But since Wednesday his options have dwindled considerably with the announcement of a 'Bleu-blanc-rouge'  alliance. This is because the MSM got 18 tickets and its Leader will most likely take Rama's current no. 4 position in the next government if that alliance wins the May 5 polls. 

Things got even more complicated for Sithanen with Pravind Jugnauth standing as candidate in no. 8 and pushing one of his candidates with the same ethnic profile as the current Finance Minister in riding no. 18. So ridings 8 and 18 became out of reach for Sithanen and he was left with only one option: no 13.

The snag is this is the riding where Lutchmeenaraidoo will compete in and Sithanen's would not only face more than an uphill battle but will likely make life quite difficult for his running mates and for Ramgoolam at the national level. And apparently Ramgoolam has told Sithanen that he will not get the finance portfolio in his next government and the max he can do for him is a ticket in no. 13.

Considering that Rama Sithanen has always said that he's in politics only to be Finance Minister it looks like he doesn't have any reason to stay on now. He may announce he's quitting politics in a few hours.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

3/4 of Poll Not Happy With Berenger's Performance

41 of the 54 voters were not satisfied with Berenger as Leader of the Opposition since July 2005. That's kind of strange because if there has been a period since our independence when it has been easy to make a government look ridiculous it has been over the past 5 years.