Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Unstoppable Jonah Lomu Dead at 40

I am no Rugby fan. I don't even know the rules of the game. I think there are two halves just like in football. The only thing I know about this sport is Jonah Lomu. And that too because he seemed to be on the front page of every major newspaper at one point in time. He had a rugby ball safely tucked between one hand and his chest. The other hand was probably busy getting an opponent out his way. While he was trying not to step on another one he had knocked down half a second earlier. It was an impressive sight. Just like when I watched games of basketball back in 1993 and noticed one guy that seems to be hanging in the air a little longer than everyone else.

So when I watched bits of World Cup matches recently I looked out for him in the All Blacks team. I saw one Dan Carter but no Jonah. And then the world heard the news of his sudden death. Kind of sad. RIP big guy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Waiting Better Than Massive Bat Culling

Our flying fox had been red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because its population was expected to decline by about a third in the next twenty one years. Culling 18,000 bats is equivalent to exterminating 20% of the species -- in a few weeks -- if you think there are 90,000 of them. Additional pressure that the endemic bats might find impossible to bear. But wait. Not everybody agrees there are 90k bats: the IUCN puts the actual figure closer to 50,000. Which would mean that the operation under way will be eliminating a third of Zorro Volador Negro de Mauricio.

Projections of the IUCN may also be too optimistic as meteorological data appears to have become increasingly shaky: cyclones and hurricanes have been showing up in places great-grandmothers never thought possible. Plus we've seen several cyclones lining up in our neck of the ocean in the not-so-distant past.

The upshot of all this uncertainty is that we need to tread super cautiously. For sure there seems to be more bats now -- Mauritius has been spared by strong cyclones for several years -- but more people are netting their trees. Which should give government pause to consider other mitigating measures that have been tried elsewhere. Especially given that bats are not the only fruit predators in town. And in any case many of them will not survive a major cyclone.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

SAJ's Comments on Electoral Reform Refreshing

Rightly calling PR a komeraz. Who wouldn't? After seeing what happened to election results in Rodrigues. It's the same feeling one got when going through the dumb and dangerous Sithanen electoral galimatia: a heap of rubbish that doesn't take more than a couple of minutes to demolish. A bit like his 2005 promise that a flat tax would generate average robust growth rates of 8% forever after: 2015 will be the 5th consecutive year growth rates will be less than half of that.

Besides PR is so unLabour: Phillippe Rozemont was expelled from the Labour Party when he voted in favour of it. And roughly six decades later Navin Ramgoolam lost power and his seat after he flirted with PR. When an overwhelming number of Mauritians -- using an attractive feature of our wonderful FPTP system but one that Sithanen wants to get rid of with party lists -- said no to an electoral proposal that is vote wise and outcome foolish. There is no need to use a bazooka to get rid of a very mild headache.

Refreshing indeed. Reminded me of what another of our PMs said back in May 2010: "Ki zot tile? Pran zot dan godi dir ayo papa Euro! Euro! donn zot bibron? Pa Pwena! Devaliasyon zame tienn solisyon. Nu bizin vinn pli konpetitif".

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Klopp Pretty Sure of Grabbing EPL Within 4 Years

Or else he's off to Switzerland. It's the first time I've listened to him. Made a good impression. Seems to be disinterested enough to produce the good results that Anfield has been longing for. Like he did with Borussia Dortmund. We'll find out soon as The Reds meet in-form clubs over the next five matches.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tamasha To Hit Movie Theatres November 27

It's feeling like a cross between the critically-acclaimed Rockstar -- also directed by Imtiaz Ali and scored by A.R. Rahman -- and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the 2013 blockbuster movie that starred the former lovebirds.

We'll find out in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2014: The Year in Review (Q4)

2014: The Year in Review (Q3)

July: How to live 3 years more. Why Sithanen should be dumped again. World Cup won by almost a third of host countries.

August: Stray dogs to work for food. Mrs. Doubtfire is deadLocal FB pages with most likes. Ramgoolam has no match, for now.

September: Apple returns to Flint, 30 years after. Loch Ness Monster may need new travel documents. Granny 1, Leopard 0. Labour/MMM alliance dangerous.

Read the review for Q1, Q2 and Q4.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

10 Years of Blogging

Completed yesterday. The first post was a note on a statement -- Setting the Stage For Robust Growth  -- made by the then Minister of Finance. The whole thing actually started a short while after a friend did two things: she first asked me why I didn't blog -- given that I was so opinionated -- and then provided me with the url for a couple of blogging services. I eventually settled for blogger and wrote a few relatively long pieces on The Jag!.

As these -- which were essentially a series of short posts combined together -- were taking way too long to my liking I eventually set up Kozelidir with a couple of friends for shorter ones. All kinds of strict guidelines were enforced and these did cause some friction leading some of the initial collaborators to eventually set up their own blogs. Some who were invited never contributed anything and eventually confessed that 'pa fasil sa nivo angle la'.

Many of the posts were also published in the Forum page of Le Mauricien: who said that journalists can't have good taste? Or be addicted to writing that's not too poor?

It's been a lot of work. But definitely a lot of fun too. And the learning has never stopped.

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why Labour Lost The Last Municipal Elections

Because it didn't take part in them. Although Arvin Boolell did tell us at one point in time that a list of candidates was almost ready. That was just before Navin Ramgoolam stormed into a critical meeting that would eventually have given voters -- especially labourites -- a lot more choice on the ballot paper. Ramgoolam essentially said that the governing parties had set a trap and Labour should avoid it. Understand by that that Arvin doesn't have the right profile. Mamou Ramgoolam also argued that the Labour Party didn't have the money to go into these elections as it didn't have access to its bank accounts.

That's kind of strange when you realise, for example, that the number of years that Dr. Boolell and Dr. Ramgoolam have been in politics add up to more than 50 years. Besides supporters of the Labour Party would certainly have pitched in one way or another to back any good ideas as they have been doing for almost eight decades now. Talking about a trap is also kind of hilarious when you recall what Ramgoolam, Berenger and Sithanen tried to do last December with an electoral reform that was both stupid -- as Mr. 40% + 40% = 80% confessed -- and dangerous. Mr. Bean who is celebrating his silver jubilee this year should definitely watch out for the competition.

And why did Labour lose the 2014 General Elections? Too much money? Profiles that are too perfect? Math skills that are otherworldly?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Kozelidir Turns 007

Yep, it's 7 years since we published our first post. 1,272 have appeared since then -- this one included. Along with 4,142 comments. August 23, by the way, is the date when Mount Vesuvius started rumbling and eventually destroyed Pompeii. It is also the start of the battle of Stalingrad: one very bloody war.

It's been a lot fun blogging in here. And reading your comments. Which have helped to connect a lot of interesting dots.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Journalist Belittles 10-Billion-Rupee Economy

So our Rs10 billion 1982-economy would be about the size of some companies in the latest Top 100 list? And that would be proof that the economy was not going well at all? Or? One problem with this argument is that we're talking about 1982 rupees here. If we assume that average inflation has been about 5% since then Rs10 billion in 1982 would now be worth about Rs50 billion. Assume that inflation has been 7% instead and you get a Rs93 billion economy in aaj ki paisa. Which is three times more than the turnover of the current leader of the Top 100 companies.

16% unemployment is also not so bad given the devastating effects of cyclones in the 1970s -- Claudette for instance sent Mauritius into a depression -- and that we were a left-for-dead country.

Monday, August 17, 2015

5-Year Olds To Start School With Assessment

To see if they're ready. And if they're not the school will wait for them to be ready. That's what the Minister of Education told a radio station she plans of doing soon. There are at least two problems with this idea. One is how long is the school going to wait? And two parents -- knowing that there is an evaluation -- will start preparing their children for it. Probably a good one to one-and-half years before the test. So we're looking at toddlers taking private tuition.

Not good. Because our school system already takes away way too much of the light that each person is born with. And produces way too many obese parrots.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four Reasons Top Taxes Are Too Low

One is obviously the low growth rates that Mauritius has clipped for the past few years: indeed 2015 is looking to be the 5th consecutive year that it will be under 4%. I don't think this has ever happened. At least not since independence. I am sure you remember that one bean-counter promised Bretton Woods-inspired robust average growth of 8% back in 2005. Which was the reason the tax structure was flattened.

Two is that tax receipts have literally stayed flat in real terms over the last 12 months. Indeed the MRA disclosed that it collected only 4% more in the last fiscal year. Which roughly matches the increase in the general level of prices. We've alluded to that before.

Three the MCCI said that more than a third of the businesses it surveyed recently are complaining that Government is not doing enough to improve their businesses. Well, with the silly flat tax Government has ensured that it would have less resources -- and the private sector would have more -- to drive the economy. If nothing much has happened and is going to happen Government should raise top taxes to move Mauritius forward. If we don't want to keep on waiting for Godot.

Finally the flat tax has increased inequality tremendously. You just need to compare the number of people thrown into poverty after Navin Ramgoolam's first and second mandate. We can also have a look at how real disposable income has changed for the richest and poorest 10% of our households for the same periods. That's pretty bad for our social fabric and for better economic growth.

There is of course another reason why top taxes should increase.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ex-Pak Agent Says 26/11 Hatched in Pakistan

Tariq Khosa, former head of the Pakistani Federal Investigating Agency, made this explosive revelation and provided detailed facts to support it a few days ago. 164 people died in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks including our own CEO of SBM, Chaitlall Gunness. Mr. Khosa ends his article by asking if Pakistanis were "as a nation prepared to muster the courage to face uncomfortable truths and combat the demons of militancy that haunt our land? That is the question!"

Good question when one recalls the recent Peshawar massacre where 132 schoolchildren lost their lives.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

US Companies To Disclose Pay Ratios in 2017

So has decided the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. There is some flexibility in the way this can be computed but you will have to agree that the thrust is good given how pay packets have become disconnected from actual performance and talent.

The Indian Ocean Tiger should jump on the bandwagon. ASAP.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Did Etihad Airways Receive Subsidies?

No according to a former CEO of MK who works for the Gulf airline. Yes according to a group of American airlines who put governmental help dished out to Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad at $42 billion. Essentially by adding interest-free loans, capital injections, benefits of government guarantees, absorption of fuel-hedging losses and low airport charges.

A couple of months ago The Wall Street Journal mentioned that Eithad had sent a report to the US authorities acknowledging help of a little over $14 billion from its government. Some of that help was reported by the Australian Financial Review back in May 2014.

So I guess -- for our national strategic interest -- we should be very careful not to get mesmerized a bit too quickly. Air Mauritius has a brilliant future if it is allowed to operate on strong bases of meritocracy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Top 10 Reasons why Mauritius IS the Best Managed Country in the World

No. 10. “Soit li ‘carry on’ dans la serenite, soit li pran so decision… d’ici la fin la semaine” – but no ultimatum was given – and everyone in the cabinet had an intellect level with known limits, except one.

No. 9. “Ca ministere-la ti capave faire 10 fois, 100 fois plis” – Does it not mean that the PM is satisfied between 1% and 10% by the work carried out by this particular ministry? Can we please have his level of satisfaction for the other ministries?

No. 8. “Zotte mange dans ene l’assiette et zotte faire malpropre dans ca meme l’assiette-la...” -- Surgeon General’s warning: Adding more terms to this sequence or reversing its order may cause serious damage to your health. Please do not try this at home without adult supervision.

No. 7. Dragons to replace koalas as the world’s cutest animals. And Mauritius subscribes to the one-koala policy.

No. 6. In an unconfirmed report, there are apparently plans for Le Reduit to be transformed into a giant nursery to recoup the cost of the renovation.

No. 5. 2 ships bang into one another in the harbour and you learn about it from the Prime Minister and neither from our coast guards nor port master – and people have the nerve to say that our institutions are not working!!!

No. 4. “Chef d’oeuvre de budget” to be hung at the Louvre instead of La Joconde.

No. 3. “The Medpoint accord was crafted in the interest of the country” – No kidding, I thought it was crafted in the interest of 3 people with 2 from the same family.

No. 2. The nation is divided as to whether the PM would disguise himself as a drag queen if he were to be invited to an evening hosted by the local gay community.

And the No. 1 reason why Mauritius is the best managed country in the world is

No. 1. July. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months for Mr. Berenger to organise General Elections. The others are June, January, September, April, November, May, March, October, December, August and February – with apologies from Mark Twain.

This was written end of May 2005. Recall that there were general elections the following July 3rd. You will need to beam yourself back to this period to understand a few of the reasons. Don't think this ever got published.

10 More Reasons why Mauritius IS the Best Managed Country in the World

No. 10. We are very aware that the last Mega-Tsunami occurred next door (Reunion Island) some 4,000 years ago.

No. 9. It’s OK to learn about cyclones on TV or Radio – it’s definitely not to learn about deadly Tsunamis from CNN.

No. 8. The SIDS conference took place as initially planned between August 30th and September 3rd 2004.

No. 7. The first three (militant?) budgets of the current government were unfortunately not understood by many because the presentations were not subtitled.

No. 6. Smart ideas and vision replaced by hollow statements such as “mood ek ambiance extraaaaaaaaaordinaire”.

No. 5. Meritocracy has been replaced by something way better – Mediocracy.

No. 4. Stray dogs are helping as much as they can with takeoffs and landings at Plaisance Airport.

No. 3. Traffic towards Port-Louis was wonderfully fluid (especially if you don’t have a TV/DVD in your car) on the first day of the SIDS conference. It’s however a mystery to many why school resumption was postponed by a whole week.

No. 2. “Riot panne fer pu donne biberon”. Ok fine. What about changing diapers?

And the No. 1 reason why Mauritius is the best managed country in the world is

No. 1. According to an unconfirmed report the endangered species have suggested that the controversial highway go through the nonsense hub (a recently renovated building in Port-Louis) instead. It has not yet been determined what percentage of these species are fanatics.

This was actually written in January 2005 which was a mere couple of weeks after the deadly South Asian Tsunami. You can forget about this fact if you want to feel as if you just ate funny mushrooms. Click the "Best managed country in the world" label for more context.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Judging the Overall Quality of A Country's Policies

A shortcut is to chart the value of its currency over a couple of decades. And if we compare the latter to the level of exports -- let's say for Mauritius and Singapore -- we get an indication of the strength of the local entrepreneurial fibre. Of course we can use our good old policy matrix. Or have a look at the land use. Or the type of bets that are made and at what cost. Traffic congestion is also a pretty good indicator (Istanbul has the world's worst traffic). And how can we forget fiscal policy?

So I guess we can gauge the DNA of a country pretty fast, eh?

Will Fassbender Make A Good Steve Jobs?

Because the Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle has picked him for the iBio-based movie which comes out on October 9. Mr. Fassbender might be a good actor but he doesn't look like the Californian hi-tech swami. At all. When I was watching the trailer I thought Boyle might as well have picked Arnold Schwarzenegger. Which was one of the choices on gizmodo.

I would personally have picked Noah Wyle -- he did a pretty good job playing Steve before -- or Keanu Reeves. An edgy actor like Bale would have been good too but he backed down. Daniel Day-Lewis would have been a great choice.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

3 Icons Die in Their Nineties

The first one is Patrick Macnee who played the suave character of John Steed in The Avengers which aired for the first time in the early 1960s. And was very popular in Mauritius in the 1970s. Mr. Macnee passed away on June 25 in California at 93.

Our second icon is none other than -- please watch with a fog light, garlic or a cross coz u never know -- Count Dracula aka Christopher Lee. Man, did he look scary on TV! Mr. Lee who also played Saruman -- and was told to consider playing 007 -- in the Lord of the Rings died on June 7th at 93 too.

Finally our last nonagenerian is Edmond Malinvaud a household name for anyone who has done a fair bit of econometrics. His magnum opus, Methodes statistiques de l'econometrie, was not the easiest book to read but many considered the time spent mastering at least a few parts of it a valuable investment. That was especially true when the book came out in the 1960s. Mr. Malinvaud whom I had the good fortune of meeting passed away on March 7 at 91.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What Will Municipal Voters Do?

Vote for the MMM because Lepep ended up with about 10 MPs more than what was necessary? Or stick with Lepep based on what they've achieved in the first five months of their mandate? The plus points are mostly the increase in pension payments and fully subsidising the SC/HSC exams. The appointment of Ms. Fakim as head of state is definitely a history-making event but that doesn't really change the lot of the victims of the neocons.

The main negatives are the significant depreciation of our rupee while the BOM supposedly waited for the budget to set the tone, the joke of the Finance Minister claiming that his bland budget was a no-tax one, not passing on the collapse of oil prices and of course the BAI affair. The latter has embroiled Government into a thick cloud of confusion and suspicion that is not going away any time soon. Indeed the BAI saga is so far looking more like a political vendetta than a ponzi scheme. That's especially evident when you consider the kind of help our Governments have dished out to hubris-infected companies in the past. There have also been surprising statements by the President of the Bar Council and many are not happy with how the biometric ID project has evolved.

We'll find out on Monday how voters weighed the facts.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Woman At Le Reduit, Finally

Tomorrow Ameena Gurib-Fakim will make history by ending a long streak of male Presidents. Ramgoolam of course had three chances of putting a woman as head of state. But he didn't. Maybe it's because he was too busy turning our vibrant democracy into a plutocracy. Maybe he was suffering from a really bad case of kotomilitis. 

But women still have to grab the following important posts:
  1. Prime Minister
  2. Minister of Finance
  3. Chief Justice
  4. Commissioner of Police
  5. Commander (SMF)
  6. Governor, Bank of Mauritius
  7. Postmaster General
  8. Financial Secretary (doesn't matter if she's from another planet)
  9. Electoral Commissioner
  10. Leadership of major political parties
  11. Chief Executive Officer of our largest corporations
Go Women! Go!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Two Beautiful Minds Die in Taxi Crash

Probably because they were not wearing seat belts. The first beautiful mind is John Nash, Jr. whose breakthroughs in game theory earned him a Nobel while his work with partial differential equations was rewarded by nothing less than the prestigious Abel Prize only a few days ago. The other beautiful mind is his wife Alicia who cared for him long enough until he emerged from a very long encounter with schizophrenia.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kozelidir Quiz [1]

The above chart shows the weight of sugar in our economy over the last 39 years. Can you identify the three events?

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Rawats Hit Back

With Laina Rawat asking the commercial division of the Supreme Court to restrain the two receivers of Bramer Bank, Andre Bonieux and Mushtaq Oosman, in a number of ways. She claims the Bank of Mauritius acted in a way which is contrary to its own statutory obligations, natural justice and basic management principles. Ms. Rawat also believes that the receivers have a conflict of interest and are therefore not in a position to carry out their duties as per the law.

On his side Basant Roi has called the revocation of Bramer Bank's license on April 2 our Lehman moment. He obviously doesn't know what he's talking about.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Meet Indian Funnyman Kapil Sharma

Ramgoolam Granted Bail, A Second Time

But only after spending two nights at the Moka Detention Centre. Which now bring his total to three. And probably three too many. The ruling of the magistrate is quite interesting. As it may be -- if you're like me --  the first one from the BRC (Bail and Remand Court) you're reading. And because it hints at our excellent constitution.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gerrard Leaves Anfield Today

After fulfilling childhood dream of playing for Liverpool just once more than 700 times. He won 9 major pieces of silver including one completely crazy Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005. In a farewell press conference this week he said that one of his other great matches would have to be that time he scored a hat-trick against Everton. The biggest regret is of course not winning the League. Another huge goal is the cracker against Olympiakos which made Istanbul possible.

Thank you for the emotions Stevie G. And good luck!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Faugoo Committee Reviewing LP Constitution

I was kind of puzzled when I heard this the first time a few months ago. Because of the dangerous mess another Faugoo Committee had recommended. Plus we know what voters thought of all of that. I mean tampering with an excellent constitution. I haven't seen the constitution of the Labour Party yet but I suspect it deserves a lot of respect and shouldn't be subjected to sloppy work.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Should the State Buy the Tamarin Salt Pans?

Because Mauritians have a strong emotional connection with them? Maybe. We have to decide how much we want these 40 or so acres to keep on eliciting those special feelings in us. Each time we see them. Maybe 10 acres are enough to keep our souls happy. Maybe not. Just like we have to reflect on the quality of the decision to use so much coal on an island with one of the world's best air quality. Not very smart for the poster child of sustainability, eh? It's like running a central bank like a tabazi. While the owners of the salt pans have every right to find ways of optimising their assets we have to realise that in Mauritius our land use is not exactly world-beating. Maybe we got carried away with the toxic mantra of 'grot' at all costs?

It's never too late to do good though. Let's immediately liberalise the importation of sugar to help make it easier for us as a country to preserve important parts of our souls. We've been there before with La Vallee de Ferney. 10 years ago. Let's do it again!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

IMF Doesn't Trust Own Currency Valuations

As has been reported by the institution's Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) before. So if the currency models of the IMF have been found wanting I don't see how the Minister of Finance can use them to justify the sneaky double-digit depreciation orchestrated by the BoM. Here's a backgrounder to see clearer.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

IMO 2015 Starts July 10 in Chiang Mai

And ends a day later in the beautiful northern Thai city. IMO is the International Mathematical Olympiad which is an annual event -- it began in 1959 with 7 countries -- where high school students find out how they measure up by answering two sets of questions. More than a 100 countries participated in last year's edition which was held in Cape Town. And won by China. Which won it 13 times in the last 16 years -- it came second in the other three years. Mauritius has yet to participate in its first IMO. Unlike Tunisia and South Africa which have gone to 23 of them.

Participating in an IMO is quite straightforward. It's high time we get into this. And see if we can do better than a 56th place

Friday, April 3, 2015

BoM Revokes Licence of Bramer Bank

Cites seriously impaired capital, conducting business which is detrimental to depositors and systemic risk and inability to show it can fix its liquidity and capital problems. The Prime Minster also held a press conference about an hour ago where he announced that his government has uncovered a huge Ponzi scheme in excess of Rs25 billions and has consequently acted quickly as Bramer Bank and BAI Co. were going to crash. Two conservators of BAI Co have been appointed while one newsgroup mentions that arrests on departure and on arrival have been lodged.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Inflation Routinely Kills People

The first way is by making many people poor enough that their life expectancy falls because of degraded living conditions. Besides poor people have a lot less access to the kind of medical options that richer people have. For example because he had a Gulfstream V Steve Jobs was able to seek a liver over a much bigger distance -- wherever his plane could take him in 6 hours -- than someone without a jet.

Inflation is also a key driver of inequality. Especially that we now know that the inflation of the poor is about 3% higher than the headline number. Inequality will bring people to the streets -- like in the Arab Spring and elsewhere -- and clashes may cause loss of lives.

Of course if inflation is very high things can get very ugly. And that too on a horrendous scale. Like in 1930s Germany where hyperinflation helped put a little guy with a moustache in power. And the world eventually went to war: between 50 and 85 million people died in WWII.

No wonder then that Central Banks have been setting inflation targets for more than 25 years now -- roughly the period of time Lutchmeenaraidoo was not Finance Minister. With the blessings of their governments. As inflation is a major reason why politicians lose power. In fact we owe it to Governor Basant Roi for one of the best descriptions of inflation so far -- he likened it to radioactivity. Which makes it all the more interesting to check his inflation record. And compare it to Manou Bheenick's.

Monday, March 23, 2015

First Vishnu Budget in 25 Years Now Available

Given that it was supposed to be a 75-minute budget I listened to most of it. It's a lot more pleasant than those that were presented between 2005 and 2010. There are a number of interesting things like gaming houses leaving city centres and the ban of plastic bags. Which has been in force for over nine months in Rodrigues. And they have increased their lead having recently announced the sorting of garbage like some countries do. Promising to implement the report which looked at making banking practices fairer is also not a bad idea.

Of course it's not a no-tax budget. Government has already quietly depreciated our rupee -- 12.8% as of today's speech -- and kept petrol prices higher than they ought to have been. The steady depreciation will make sure that Mauritius doesn't benefit from the collapse in oil prices. Again.

There are also other problems with this budget. Like inequality is likely to persist. More on this later.

What did you think?

LKY Dead At 91 As Singapore Turns 50

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Build A Plutocracy in 2 Steps

  1. Reduce top tax rates -- rates paid by the richer segments of our population -- to get more political contributions. This may require more and larger safes to stash the cash away. It's even better to flatten the tax structure. This will provide even more enticing incentives for useful idiots to make the wishes of their financial masters come true. But will require even bigger safes.

  2. Screw up our excellent constitution with an electoral galimatia to include party lists so that the link between voters and MPs is severed. Party lists will also allow political donors to enter parliament and cabinet -- to enact their own dangerous laws -- without voters really choosing them.
Top tax rates were reduced in 2006 before the tax structure was flattened. And then a wicked electoral reform was proposed with the blessing of Navin Ramgoolam at the start of 2012. But that was massively rejected last December. Now Mr. Lutchmeenaraidoo has an opportunity to strengthen our democracy on Monday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vishnu is Lucky, Again

To be Finance Minister these days. After almost a quarter of a century. Because that's after almost 10 years of the worst economic management -- Paglanomics -- our country has seen and started by Rama Sithanen with the help of Bretton Woods Ali. And of course with the blessing of Andrew Scott and one pseudo-socialist, Navin Ramgoolam. So improving things should not be that difficult. For example increasing pensions has helped compensate the lack of reasonable progress that the weakest groups of our fellow countrypersons have registered with the toxic bean-counters. And there are many more low-hanging fruits to pick.

But monetary policy was definitely not one of them. So it was quite surprising that Manou Bheenick was asked to leave. And replaced by depreciation-obsessed Basant Roi. Who unsurprisingly since returning to the BoM less than 80 days ago has presided over a double-digit depreciation -- 12% as of today -- of our national currency against the USD. After our central bank had issued a communique on January 30 informing the nation that there would be no MPC meeting in February because Lutchmeenraidoo's budget was due March 16. Or 45 days later.

Hopefully the Minister of Finance who keeps on insisting that he will deliver a 'second miracle' understands how to assess the quality of economic policies. Computing our real GDP growth in USD for the current quarter might be quite enlightening.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chinese Economy World's Largest, For 50 Years

After which it could be India's turn to grab the top spot. If we extrapolate the assumptions used in one article which appeared some four years ago. Of course forecasting over such long periods is usually fraught with errors. But that doesn't look too outlandish when we remember the size of the economy of 1960 China. Besides India had the world's largest economy for 1,700 of the past 2,000 years. And Lonely Planet reminds us that Pataliputra with a circumference of 33.8km was spaceship Earth's biggest city of the Mauryan empire. 2,500 years ago.

One bet looks safer than others. It's going to be Chindia for a long time. Which makes it all the more necessary for the two giants to sort out the problems on their 2,100-mile border.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lawyers Unhappy DPP Attached To AG's Office

As per a cabinet decision on Friday. Unhappy enough that an urgent meeting of the Bar Council has been called for Monday 16h. Essentially some members of the legal profession don't think that such a major change is a step forward because the framers of our excellent Constitution had thought it through and recommended that the process of prosecution be isolated from political influences. For obvious reasons. Like it doesn't make sense that the AG and the DPP share staff and budget. Besides healthy debate is essential when the spirit of our Constitution is challenged.

Incidentally, one of the framers of the supreme law of our land was none other than Stanley de Smith who is remembered as a scholar and legal writer of exceptional quality. So I guess it wasn't a big surprise when the beautiful people of Mauritius chose our current set up over the constitutional equivalent of a badia mal frir.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why Scrapping of Point System Looks Sloppy

Because it doesn't seem to be backed by a rigorous analysis of the impact the current system has had on the safety of our roads. Minister Bodha might want to replace it with a "simpler" system of 7-8 serious road offences but I think he is confusing a simplistic system with a simple one. And this could be bad news for all road users. Well, save one.

When people have looked at the effect of such a system elsewhere they found -- like in Spain -- that it saved 618 lives over the first 18 months of its implementation. That's a reduction of 14.5% of the number of road fatalities. Of course experiences will vary across countries which is why we need to know the hard facts of our own. Especially since we have about the same amount of people dying on our roads as Norway. Which has four times more people than us.

The last time Mauritius tried the "simpler" route for something fundamental was in 2006 when one toxic bean-counter -- in the name of robust growth rates -- flattened our tax structure to 15%.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

FM Warns Banks Not To Mess Up With Him

And to play a more active role supplying working-capital to the many SMEs that Government wants to see created. If they don't banks should expect problems from him. Banks have responded that they have helped the development of every sector in Mauritius. Mr. Lutchmeenaraidoo also said that banks were the only sector which makes money without working hard.

A few years ago Mauritius was deemed to be held back by some pretty bad interest rate spreads.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Taste Genius At 60 While Apple Expected To Upend Electric Car

Jobs would have turned 60 today. USPS had promised a stamp for him this year. Hopefully they will have it out today if it's not already. I wonder which pic they will use. I have a preference for the Steve Jobs at the time the Mac was initially launched. Mozambique already has a nice set of them since ...2011. Hungary too did something after he died in the last quarter of that year. Plus now there is an Erno Toth-designed statue in Budapest. Nothing on the Apple website right now. But this could change later today.

And yeah the magicians at 1 Infinite Loop are apparently working on an electric car. Vroooommmmmm!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stray Dogs To Be Put To Sleep

The Ministry of Environment has identified 42 public beaches where these loose dogs are a problem. So they are going to catch them and euthanise them after three days if they are not adopted. Stray dogs are not only a problem on beaches. They are literally a problem everywhere in Mauritius.

But aren't there any alternatives to killing them so fast? Maybe not for those who have rabies. The rest could benefit from what has been done elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Government To Destroy Biometric Database

This piece of good news was announced yesterday in the 2015-2019 Programme Speech. Along with a number of laudable intentions like
  • making SC/HSC exams free;
  • an SME bank which will invest Rs10 billion over the next five years;
  • a minimum wage bill;
  • focus on job creation for Mauritians: 15,000 will be created every year with many in the public sector;
  • a football academy will be set up;
  • ensuring competitive energy prices;
  • setting up a vascular surgery unit to reduce the number of amputations;
  • and organising referendums on crucial national issues. 
There are also some very vague promises such as 'inflation will be kept under control'. Hmm. An inflation target is a must for two reasons: one to preserve the hard-won anti-inflation capital and two to keep depreciation-happy Basant Roi on a tight leash. Government also wants to include a dose of PR in our electoral system. That's a dangerous proposition that needs extensive debate and a referendum.

Let's see how well this plan is implemented.

Basant Roi Back, Rupee Down By 3%, Already

By yesterday our currency had lost 3.28% of its value against the dollar. In the mere 18 trading days since Basant Roi has been back at the BoM. He is known to have a strong and silly depreciation bias. In fact if you had to chart the number of times he has asked for a lower value for our rupee -- when he was not in a position to sink it himself -- you would literally have to use a log scale.

I hope Mr. Lutchmeenaraidoo's idea of a "second economic miracle" doesn't involve making Mauritius increasingly insignificant in the world. And keeping local pump prices artificially higher after oil prices collapsed is kind of contradictory about making SMEs the backbone of our economy. And is oblivious to the fact that he is presenting a budget in a few weeks. Besides we've been suffering from such a disconnect for way too long. And for very wrong reasons.

All has not been bad though. Swiftly increasing pensions to Rs5,000 will surely help restore some disposable income to those who need it the most. And that cannot do our economy any harm.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

World On Display in Milan, For Six Months

Beginning May 1st for the Universal Exposition. Over 130 countries are going to showcase their answer to the expo's theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". It's a hell of a great opportunity to brand a country -- or to get inspired how to do it.

Many Africans countries will be there -- including the Seychelles, Rwanda and Ziwbabwe -- but I didn't see Mauritius in the list. Too busy with the Mo Ibrahim index? Or is it the Doing Business index?

If you're not heading to Milan you might want to get busy trying one of these 123,506 recipes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fans Shocked Gerrard Leaving Liverpool

For sure at 34 he doesn't have the legs he used to when they won the 2005 Champions League in Istanbul. Carrying the Reds almost single-handedly for several seasons will wear you down. And I don't think it's reasonable to expect him to keep on doing that to compensate for weaknesses elsewhere in the team. They could have adjusted their game to keep him playing as a deep-lying midfielder like 35-year-old Andre Pirlo is for Juventus.

I'm not too impressed either by the recent signings of Brendan Rodgers. The Reds have been playing some really sloppy football recently. At times it seems they can't even manage some really basic passes.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What's the Deal About Pesticides?

We sometimes hear that way too much is used in Mauritius. And that doctors in Singapore know we are from that cute Indian Ocean island just by looking at our blood tests. Friends will often recommend that we don't buy vegetables which appear to have been photoshopped. Or that we wash them thoroughly. But is that all we can do?

I don't think so as we are aware that an overuse of these chemicals will have more people developing cancer. And ruin our habitat. It shouldn't be difficult to at least have an audit trail. And start producing great vegetables on an appropriate scale. That will not hurt our trade relationships with the rest of the world.

Any thoughts on this?