We welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the visions presented in the Maurice Ile Durable Green Paper. We Love Mauritius is the NGO mentioned on page xxxvi of the Green Paper that organised the MID video competition and we would be delighted to share the lessons learned from that project. Since our formation in 2008, we have been advocating for sustainability and raising awareness about specific issues.
Obviously, we fully support the initiative to develop a national policy (perhaps more correctly a meta-policy) for a sustainable Mauritius. We also recognise the immense effort that was put into its predecessor, the National Long Term Perspective Study (NLTPS or Vision 2020) and the importance that it gave to sustainability. Therefore, we ensured that Prof Odendaal was aware of its existence and sent him a copy of the abridged version. However, we were extremely surprised that he made no mention of it, neither in the consultation process nor in the Green Paper itself.
Standard set by Vision 2020
The abridged version of the NLTPS painted a detailed and inspiring picture of how Mauritians imagined their country would look in the year 2020. It did so in nine succinct paragraphs, followed by a further 36 describing the key enabling factors of the transformation. Almost every one of those paragraphs is focussed narrowly on a single aspect, easily identifiable as specifically relevant to Mauritius, many with reference to our place in the world.
The value of Vision 2020 can be determined by how relevant it still is today and by how easy it is to recognise what we have already accomplished and how far we still have to go. It has provided clear guidance in the development of many subsequent policies and it is obvious which current policies and practices are taking us in a different direction.
Visions or Vision Statements?
The visions presented in the Green Paper fall short of the standards set by Vision 2020 in the following critical ways:
- No time limit
- No measurable objectives
- Not particularly specific to Mauritius
- Little reference to the rest of the world
Moreover, their general lack of prescriptive detail means they cannot guide policy development in any substantive way. Hence, we conclude that the task of developing a meaningful and useful vision for a sustainable Mauritius is far from complete. The “visions” presented in the Green Paper are, at best, the national equivalent of corporate “vision statements”.
Alternative Vision Statement
Detailed critiques of the Green Paper’s two “visions” are provided in Appendices I and II. While we firmly believe that the formulation of a detailed vision is vital, we also recognise that a brief summary in the form of a vision statement has a place. A corporate vision statement can be made in one or two sentences. A nation is at least an order of magnitude more complex than a company and so will require rather more.
We offer the following as an example that builds on Vision 2020 and incorporates many of the issues raised by the consultation process.
By 2025, Mauritius will be a world leader in terms of quality of life.
Our economy will serve this goal by providing equal opportunities and fair rewards in return for contributing to our national well-being and supplying the highest quality goods and services to our regional and global partners.
Our culture will allow us to enjoy the fullest freedoms of religion, expression and relationships, while respecting the sensitivities of others and preserving and celebrating our diverse heritages.
Our government will be transparent, accountable and inclusive, rivalling those of traditional democracies and our legal system and human rights record will be second to none.
Our education, training and development will be the best in Africa, permitting each of us to explore ourselves, discover our talents and achieve our full potential in any field, at any age.
Our welfare system will be provide security for every citizen, including food, shelter, health and personal safety, and prepare us to cope with local and global crises and climate change.
We will be the Western Indian Ocean’s centre of excellence in the global effort to research, manage and regenerate the ecosystems on which we depend in order to optimise their productivity, adaptability and resilience.
We will cherish and protect all that is unique and beautiful in our local environment and, wherever practicable, restore it to its original pristine state, with every citizen and visitor enjoying equal rights of access and responsibility for its care.
We will lead other Small Island Developing States in every aspect of sustainability, call upon the rest of the world to follow our example and hence ensure that future generations enjoy a quality of life at least as great as our own.
We eagerly anticipate the evolution of the MID Vision.
Appendix I – Critique of the Draft Combined National Vision
This vision statement has six paragraphs, each one covering up to five themes, that are neither coherent nor well ordered and, in places, repetitive.
Paragraph 1 (Introduction, education and equality)
- The opening sentence sets a rather uninspiring tone for the rest of the vision statement.
- “We…want to live in a country that…”, expresses an aspiration rather than a concrete expectation.
- Overall, the impression is conveyed that responsibility for achieving results is on the shoulders of the Government rather than the population as a whole.
- The concept that “environmental, social and economic concerns are carefully balanced” assumes that they are in conflict rather than working together to achieve holistic goals.
- Many interpretations can be placed on “in a fair and just manner”, rendering it of low utility in guiding policy development.
- The importance of education, training and awareness raising is not questioned but this topic sits uncomfortably in the opening paragraph.
- Equality should not only be applied to the development of our human resource.
Paragraph 2 (Economy and natural resources)
- The expression “economic sector” is clumsy because the economy is a component of society and is comprised of a number of sectors.
- Natural resources should be effectively rather than “efficiently” protected.
- The phrase “we recognise” sits uncomfortably in a vision statement as it implies that something is acknowledged but necessarily carried out.
- Everyone should take on responsibility for managing natural resources, not just the “users”.
Paragraph 3 (Governance, culture, welfare and politics)
- “We dream…” implies that we are not confident that something is achievable and so should not be used in a vision statement.
- References to “unethical practices”, no-one being above “the rule of law” and “non-corrupt governance” are inappropriate for a vision statement because they emphasise what we are seeking to avoid rather than what we are aiming for.
- It is implicitly assumed that “political agendas” will be determined by the vision, it should not be necessary to state it explicitly.
- Paragraph 4 (Innovation, heritage, self-reliance and planning)
- “Innovative methods…developed…to foster…well-being” conveys no meaning. Creativity and innovation should be part of our culture.
- “Self-sufficiency” may not be achievable or even desirable in every field.
- “Accountable and transparent” are adjectives normally applied to organisations and governments, not nations.
- “The limits of our land” appears to ignore the reality that we have a vast exclusive economic zone.
- The phrase “plan our country well” is so vague that it provides no prescriptive guidance to policy development.
Paragraph 5 (Transport, leisure, access, energy, environment)
- The first sentence covers far too many issues and mixes them in a confusing manner.
- Repeating the phrase “eco-friendly transport facilities” in one sentence is an unforgivable error.
- Most of our “natural habitats” are far from “pristine” and need to be restored.
Paragraph 6 (Summary)
A vision statement has no need of a summary.
Appendix II – Critique of the Vision from the National Youth Summit
This vision statement is comprised of only three sentences. Even though it is much shorter than the combined version, it manages to add two important elements: collective responsibility and reference to the rest of the world. Unfortunately its brevity is its undoing as there is nothing in it that is specific to our nation, except perhaps “in all our islands”. Apart from that, “Mauritius” could be replaced with the name of any other country on the planet and it would be applicable.
The general construction of the sentences shares the same flaws as the longer version. The phrases “we…want”, “our…should be” and “we recognise” convey desire, recommendation and acknowledgement; firm expectation, critical to a vision statement, is entirely absent.