Krish Ponnusamy, former Senior Chief Executive: Hopes for 2017

Despite all forms of obstacles, dangers and catastrophes, whether man-made or natural, men and women have over the centuries stoically believed in the existence of cycles and that there would always be better times after a cycle of hardships.

We, in Mauritius have witnessed different cycles of development which have brought us where we are presently. Looking at the progress achieved, we seem to be proud to tell our children and foreigners visiting us how our ancestors coming from different parts of the world have, by their sweat and tears, turned an island of little resources into a small paradise, welcoming more than a million tourists yearly.

Faith in our country

Faith in our country is a sine qua non condition for hopes towards a better future. Faith is linked with patriotism as all of are expected to behave like true patriots in all our dealings and dreams.

2016 has been rather difficult. It is legitimate to examine our achievements and failures at family and national levels before making new resolutions for 2017, but what happens if our faith waivers. What is the impact of this on our resolutions?

It is the responsibility of the media to convey to readers and viewers the reality on the ground. One part of the population may be satisfied with the government’s performance for the outgoing year but another part may be dissatisfied and disillusioned. If nothing is done to take care of the ‘dissatisfied’ ones, it goes without saying that their number will grow and may eventually engulf the ‘satisfied’ ones. Are we therefore creating hopes for the future and preventing our faith in our country from being eroded.

Our faith in our country rests on many factors. Some of them are:

a)      Political stability

b)      A vibrant economy

c)      Respect for Law and Order

d)      Harmonious communal relations

e)      Efficient functioning of all institutions both public and private

f)       Strict observance of the doctrine of separation of powers

g)      Gradual elimination of poverty and increasing care for the sick and less fortunate

h)      Equal opportunities and Meritocracy

We elected a new government in December 2014 and should normally expect it to deliver on its government programme within its mandate of five years. The Opposition acts as a watch dog, questions the government at each and every corner of the road and lays bare its inefficiencies. On the other hand, the government has repeatedly said that it needs time to implement its policies and projects. This means that it is banking on tangible results for the country in the next 2-3 years. Impatience is soaring at a fast rate and expectations are growing high. Will the government be able to live up to the expectations of the population ? To me, the crux of the matter is timely and successful implementation of policies and projects.

Timely implementation

Timely implementation of government projects depends on the enlightened leadership of the Executive and the capacity of the Public Sector to deliver. In both cases, the essential ingredient is the quality of people in the Executive and Public Sector. Let us examine closely how a democratic country after spending millions of rupees for an electoral campaign elects a government. I take the case of the 2014 elections. The Lepep alliance which was put up, hurriedly up, before the nomination date did not stand any chance in the face of the Labour/ MMM alliance. However capitalising on the blunders of the outgoing government and its numerous scandals, Lepep Alliance, through an effective communication strategy, gradually climbed the slope, then increased its speed and finally snatched an unexpectedly large victory.

Dilemma for government effectiveness

According to our Constitution, Cabinet is composed of only elected MPs, with the exception of the Attorney General. The leader of the ruling alliance had therefore to choose Ministers from the three parties forming of the alliance and in that process, he selected a good number of MPs who had absolutely no ministerial experience and yet they were expected to perform effectively. Some may be fast learners but others need constant nurturing. This constitutes a real handicap.

In some democracies, Cabinet Ministers may be appointed from prominent members of the Second Chamber of Parliament or from outside the political circle. This system ensures that the President or the PM has a wider selection ground and can pick up the finest elements for his Cabinet. No need to say that a strong Cabinet brings greater dividends for the country. This issue should be addressed before the next general elections if we want to improve our democratic system and make it more responsive to new realities.

What about the Public Sector?

I keep hearing in different quarters that the quality of the Public Sector has gone down. People complain daily on the radio and the newspapers. Is there a problem with the top team ?  The Public Service is headed by the Secretary to the Cabinet and is assisted by Senior Chief Executives and Permanent Secretaries in charge of Ministries, who are in turn supported by their Heads of departments and parastatal bodies.  Is coordination effected in the most efficient manner to produce maximum benefits? In the coming year, we shall be saddled with projects of unprecedented magnitude like the Metro Express which will cost billions of rupees and span over a few years. Who will champion such projects? Shall we rely entirely on foreign expertise and pay little attention to the capacity of local counterparts? When I was in Delhi in mission in 2006 in my capacity as SCE, discussing the famous light rail project with the Indian authorities, I was pleased to meet the champion of the Indian metro, the highly respected Dr E. Sreedharam, recipient of many prestigious awards. He explained to me how he built his different teams for metro projects in Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and other Indian capitals which were lining up. He told me how he could lean on the support of the Prime Minister and brush aside the harmful political interferences which would have reduced the pace of progress. Where are our champions?

Realistic programme of Implementation

It is important that the government establishes a realistic programme for the implementation of mega projects as not all of them can be crammed within a short span. Mauritius has a limited capacity to implement and monitor mega projects, necessitating multidisciplinary teams of the highest calibre. The Public Service will be put to the test. If implementation is faulty or if the projects are not successfully completed in time, then the government will have a major price to pay when it faces the general elections.

The hopes of the population are meant to be fulfilled by the government of the day. The population will wait some more time before judging whether its hopes have been translated into reality or shattered.

Capital Media

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