When the Prime Minister announced that he and Joël de Rosnay had conceived Maurice Ile Durable during a brief encounter in Paris, did he imagine that the gestation period would last 3 years 9 months? Finally, the long-awaited MID Strategy is about to be born… Or is it?

At the MID workshop last Thursday, some participants were calling for delivery to be postponed for another year. Had they peeked at the baby and seen the 4 limbs, head and body that they had carefully constructed in the 6 Working Groups, stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster? Alas it is worse than that. One participant summarised the overall conclusion to a long round of applause: “For the moment, the strategy we have looks more like Mauritius Green Washing than Maurice Ile Durable.”

Hidden agendas

While nobody thought it would be easy to implement a programme that promised to transform every sphere of our lives – social, economic, political and environmental – who would have guessed that formulating it would have been so difficult? One participant called upon the international MID-wives, the Mott-ley Crew, to reveal the names of all the lobbyists who secretly tried to influence them. One suspects the list would be long.

A public servant from the Ministry of Public Utilities insisted that the Government’s old Energy Strategy is not up for negotiation and that any MID improvements could only be cosmetic. Is it not precisely this kind of mentality that risks destroying our special relationship with India over changes to the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement? His obstinate advocacy in favour of coal led many to question whether his Ministry cares at all about climate change and the acute threat rising temperatures and sea levels pose to the future of our islands and the well-being of our grandchildren.

Another, this time from the Prime Minister’s Office, when asked how MID could be made non-partisan to ensure its continuity, gave a response that beggars belief: “In 3 years there will be an election and Government has a 3 year action plan, if we have done a good job by then, you know what to do.” Not exactly the epitome of political neutrality in a public servant is it? Yes, we know exactly what we will do!

The tentacles of the Ministry of Finance were obvious, seeking to grasp control of MID funds and hence priorities, through its inappropriate Programme-Based Budgeting. However, their tenacity was matched by the stubborn refusal of the participants to relinquish even more power to the ‘traitors’ who gave the Chinese a colony in Riche Terre. Unfortunately, we all know who will have the last word, concealed, no doubt, behind the veil of another confidentiality agreement.

So there we have it: despite all the hype about participatory democracy and leading the world in sustainability, MID has turned out to be business-as-usual in our brain-washed Republic. Or if you like analogies, a large deposit of bovine excrement thinly disguised with some sickly perfume and cheap make-up. Who would want to present that to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – in June? Will the audience be as gullible as our voting population?

Saving face

At the eleventh hour, can we preserve what precious little is left of our national reputation? We are already accused of being an opaque tax haven, having a massive drug problem, vast social chasms, and totally ruining the unique paradise that Nature entrusted to us. Will we be labelled as insincere about sustainability too?

On Saturday, Joël de Rosnay informed the French public that Mauritius has been Divinely blessed with more than enough accessible renewable energy to meet all our electricity needs by 2040. At Rio+20, will the Prime Minister present the Mauritius Roadmap for Energy Self-Sufficiency (for a summary see le Mauricien 30.03.2012 “FREEDOM FROM FOSSILS: Fuelling the Future“) or an MID Strategy that proclaims coal is still king?

At home, will the Prime Minister acknowledge that the emperor has no clothes: that we do not have a National Vision and that the blind are leading the blind to oblivion? We urgently need to go back to the drawing board. Does he know that Global Dialogues Mauritius has already started this process by holding focus groups that help us access our inner wisdom and suppressed aspirations?

Déjà vu

Once we share the inspiring dream of a sustainable future, we can work together on a coherent National Strategy to make it a reality. In the 1990’s, Manou Bheenick’s team at the Ministry of Economic Development and Regional Co-operation produced Vision 2020: the National Long-Term Perspective Study. At the request of the Governor of the Central Bank, an up-to-date version, ReVision 2020, is being prepared by We Love Mauritius, with assistance from the University of Oxford. But how can we ensure that it is implemented this time?

One option is to establish a Ministry of Strategic Planning and Change Management in the Prime Minister’s Office. A Director of Strategic Planning would be responsible for economic and market intelligence, scenario planning, and continuously improving the National Strategy with broad public participation. A Director of Change Management would be responsible for raising awareness and making it happen: implementing civil service and legal reforms, holding other ministries to account for any lack of progress and identifying and removing barriers to change. Both posts require competence, independence and incorruptibility, and hence need to be open to international candidates.

The new Ministry would have responsibility for all consultancy projects undertaken by state-owned companies, parastatal bodies and other ministries, out-sourcing only when necessary. It would also offer services to the private sector, for free to SME’s. It would recruit the most creative and critical thinkers within the Mauritian diaspora, providing attractive salaries but short-term contracts to ensure a circulation of talent to and from the private sector. The savings in external consultants’ fees would be enormous, outweighed only by the gain in human and intellectual capital. It would also model a new culture in governance: openness, transparency and accountability. Perhaps it could even serve our cousins in Madagascar and continental Africa.

A challenge

Will the Prime Minister accept that the MID Strategy has become so grotesquely deformed that it needs to be aborted and cremated? Will he empower a phoenix to rise from the ashes? It would be one small step for a man; one giant leap for the Nation. Will he take it? Our current system of government is clearly incapable of leading us to sustainability. Will he sow the seeds of reform? Or reap a harvest of revolution?