Greetings to Marvellous Mauritius from Amazing Thailand, the Land of Smiles.
On the eve of the election, this article isn’t going to tell you who to vote for, but hopefully it will help you make your own, better choice. If you are blindly devoted to a party do not read on. You are not going to like what is written.
Compare and Contrast
Thailand is surprisingly similar to Mauritius. The economy relies on tourism. Protecting fragile ecosystems is a challenge. Small farmers struggle to make a decent living. Children from poor backgrounds have a significantly inferior education and hence fewer opportunities to improve their lives. Even the Thai language, with its simple grammar, parallels Mauritian Kreol.
But there are also a few key differences. This article is being written at the magnificent Royal Varuna Yacht Club and the Thai Royal Navy is headquartered not far away. Thailand has an independent monarchy, it has a powerful military and this yacht club welcomes people of colour.
Like Mauritius, Thailand has had more than its fair share of corrupt politicians. But unlike Mauritius, the people can count on the King to intervene through the military and remove governments when corruption becomes intolerable. Mauritius doesn’t have a monarch. It has a politically appointed and too often puppet president. The closest Mauritius has to a military is the Special Mobile Force, trained and committed to putting their country first even if that means sacrificing their own lives.
Which of our politicians would come close to that? None. Most of our politicians are a bunch of self-serving thieves who rise to power on the backs of self-serving thieves – the political agents who get rewarded with over-paid positions in parastatals that their pet dogs would be better qualified to lead.
Is that too harsh? Not according to le Mauricien of September 2 2018. Both heads of the main political dynasties are amongst the top ten richest people in Mauritius with almost 1 billion rupees a piece. How is this possible? It is almost 250 times the Prime Minister’s current annual salary. And speaking of salaries check how much they pay themselves: almost four times the salary of the Prime Minister of Thailand and he presides over a country of 70 million people. This means that on average, each citizen of Mauritius contributes 200 times more than a Thai citizen to pay the salary of their respective Prime Ministers.
What we Deserve
Why is our country like this? French philosopher Joseph de Maistre is famous for his theory that every nation gets the government it deserves. Why do we continually elect thieves? Because they are a reflection of ourselves. Who doesn’t know a family that curries favour with a politician or political agent to get backing for a job for their child or some other unmerited favour? We are self-serving in our electoral choices and vote for those who we trust to give us something in return: those who are in politics to serve their own interests whether it be for money, power or prestige.
To have a better government we must be better people. Like our best SMF officers, we must strive to put our nation first and not seek our own advantage at the expense of others. Are there any politicians that set this example? If you know any please vote for them. If you know none then different criteria will be necessary.
None of the party manifestos address all of the critical concerns that our nation will face in the next 10 years, specifically, how we will:
- Develop ethical, sustainable, value-adding industries that take the environment into account to create employment with decent salaries.
- Transform the education system so that parents don’t need to invest in private tuition and students don’t have to lose their childhood studying outside classes because they learn too little in schools.
- Improve the national health service so that free public hospitals become the first choice for all citizens, where additional payments are made for superior rooms rather than better care and private hospitals can reorient themselves towards cosmetic treatments and medical tourism.
- Develop a fair pensions system that respects intergenerational justice and does not impose an unsustainable burden on a shrinking workforce as our population ages.
- Repurpose our agricultural land to create food security, plant based-pharmaceuticals, substitutes for plastics and residues that provide year round electricity without burning coal.
- Restore our ecosystems so that they once more deliver vital services, like coastal protection that we will depend upon as temperatures warm and sea levels rise.
- Enforce good governance, eliminate corruption and clientelism and promote meritocracy, transparency and accountability.
To navigate these turbulent times we will need politicians who are humble, who don’t pretend to know it all, who look to industry and academic experts rather than political agents posing as special advisors. We will need politicians who listen to the people, who look for solutions that have proven to work elsewhere and are prepared to experiment with ideas that might work here.
These are the politicians you should vote for. They will not be the most prominent. They will not flatter you with false promises and they will not pretend to give you and your tribe better treatment than the rest of us. They will look like normal people and not pose as paternalistic preachers. You will be able to approach them, question them, challenge them and rebuke them and they will be prepared to admit that sometimes they don’t know, apologise for mistakes they make and slowly improve,
We will need to take the soft soil that our tiny island serves us for politicians and mould them into our image with a united vision of how we all want Mauritius to be. Democracy is about the decisions of the people not the dictates of demigods. Public participation doesn’t end the day after the election; it is a partnership that should endure the full parliamentary term.
In this election vote for fresh malleable clay and don’t fall for the same old stinking bullshit.