As it morphs from iconic towers, dancing fountains and a Bollywood amusement park into a world-class master-plan, two components remain the same: it’s going to be very expensive and much of it will be completed in haste by the end of 2018. To celebrate 50 years of independence, one would expect something of significance to be inaugurated on 12th March 2018. However, since no mention has been made of such a landmark moment, is it possible that there is Machiavellian method in this mega-project madness?
With general elections expected in 2019, the current government will likely be judged on its performance in 2018. Obviously, it’s re-election will not be won because civil servants relocate to luxurious homes and offices. But it will certainly be lost if a very important target is not attained. Our nation’s 50th anniversary is also the year that the statutory debt ceiling (not to be confused with national debt) must be reduced to 50% of GDP. Even if the World Bank’s optimistic prediction of 54.2% for 2015 is achieved, it is still going to require an economic miracle…or crafty financial trickery to get to the goal by the end of 2018.
In the unlikely event that manna from heaven is not in the making, here is a step-by-step guide to magical monetary manipulation for apprentice financial wizards:
1. Delay the deadline. Shift the end of the fiscal year from December to June to create a six month breathing space.
2. Decrease old debt. Sell State Land to private individuals as “off plan” houses and apartments in the guise of a government-owned “smart city” company and reduce the debt with the profits (taken as dividends).
3. Dodge new debt. Secure a long term Islamic “loan” from a Gulf State at concessionary rates in exchange for supporting its foreign policy and issue preferential shares with a fixed return (neither of which count towards the statutory debt ceiling) to finance the rest of the “smart city”.
4. Drive up the denominator. Catalyse a construction boom by building the “smart city” so quickly that it artificially boosts GDP growth and hence reduces the debt to GDP ratio.
5. Distract the discerning. Create controversy and confusion by relocating only some “core” ministries from Port Louis to the “smart city” under the pretence of creating an “e-government” (which, being on-line and IT driven, should dramatically reduce the need for officers and hence offices anyway).
Of course, there is no suggestion that our good-natured government would follow such a ridiculous recipe. Certainly our responsible representatives in the opposition would never permit it, since there would be nothing in it for them. Apart, that is, from the opportunity to occupy the beautiful buildings of Heritage City once it became clear that the government had a short-term master-plan to attain a target but no long-term masterful vision to develop a sustainable nation.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can’t fool all the people all the time.
Unfortunately, in our defective democracy of unaccountable institutions and opaque political parties, we often feel there is little that ordinary citizens can do to bring about change. But isn’t it essential to reform the way we govern ourselves so that we can collectively face the challenges of the 21st century, not least of which are the threats posed by climate change? Instead of old leaders and their sycophants squandering our money on memorials to their past, we need new leadership, structures and processes for investing with foresight for our common future. In other words: a New Republic.
Who will transform good governance “for the people, with the people” from an election slogan into reality?
And now we see the light,
We gonna stand up for our rights!
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