On 20th July 2017, browsing through the thread of updates, I came across an article posted by Mauritius International Financial Centre, entitled “It’s Economic Development, Stupid”. Authored by the one endowed with godly powers, capable of simultaneously heading a myriad of public institutions on his own – Gerard Sanspeur.
Obviously, what drew my attention was the word “Stupid” being used in the article posted by a public institution, which can easily be interpreted as a subtle taunt at all those voicing out concerns over the setting up of the Economic Development Board (EDB). As a matter of principle, I would have refrained from responding to the article, had it been published on his personal profile and addressed to fanatic followers. Like most of you, I might have enjoyed the right to remain silent. Then again, isn’t it this very “SILENCE” which nurtures the rampant impunity drowning us into the abyss of mistrust in which we now find ourselves? The appealing need to counter the untruths spewed by those cronies trenched in the dark board rooms of our institutions, calls for an outright brutal retaliation.
Seriously, something is dead rotten in our republic! The hype of many so called intellectuals who stand convinced, the wearing of a masonic apron is an instant ticket to the hall of fame, alongside the great Mahé de La Bourdonnais or even a complimentary voucher of intellect. Moreso, those stacking to listen to the melodious recitals of Robin Sharma, author of “The monk who sold his Ferrari” and ultimately end up acting like “Monkeys selling our country” rests beyond the understanding of a sound mind. The stench of rottenness spreads further with those sad soul facebookers who become overnight friends to those wielding power and seem to click a “Like”, even before posts are being published. An attitude of vassals, spurn from the relics of our dark middle age.
So let’s fight those loaded with obfuscations and out on a truth carnage spree, with some stripped naked facts.
What is to be feared from Sanspeur?
Gerard Sanspeur sprung to fame back in October 2016 when he pulled out of his hat, a strangely convenient report, which ended the absurd project of Heritage City, speared by Roshi Badhain. If that’s the version distilled by the main stream media, the blatant fact remains, in the very budget presented in July 2016, Pravind Jugnauth had already scrapped the project in favour of his long-time dream of Highlands City. The move by Gerard Sanspeur was only intended to cut down to size Roshi Badhain, a then growing threat to the leadership of MSM and provide a face saving device to the government. However ludicrous the Heritage City project might have been, winning over a team mate with such deceit, carries no whatsoever virtue. As a matter of fact, the project has only been rebranded and shipped elsewhere under the aegis of Gerard Sanspeur.
Curiosity led me to dig into the past of such a “genius” costing us half a million per month and I came across people having a totally different outlook from what is generally portrayed by the main stream media. Some did narrate the long standing dogged commitment to M. Mookteswar Baboolall Ramdanee, known as Sir Kailash Ramdanee. While, others recall the scars from his years of management, at the Mauritius Freeport Authority, which are yet to heal. The bitterness left by his passage at the Currimjee Group, leaves us more confused on the real capabilities of the “genius” who claims he earned MUR 800 000 in the private sector. Should we be grateful to him for giving up MUR 300 000 (over twice the salary of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India) ? Is he the long awaited Moses who would guide us to greener pastures? Or is he one of those who make 1976 Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman, look like a fool? The ultra-liberal thinker who once coined at the biennial conference of the Irish trade union movement, the expression “there is no free lunch”, should be pinching himself down in his grave, as the political cronies munch greedily at the lavish feasts tabled at our expense.
How come such blistering intelligence may have gone unnoticed for so long. Maybe it was one of those deliberate strategies to wade off any attempt of abduction by aliens. Precisely, on the issue of disappearance, we now come to one of the ingenious inventions of Gerard Sanspeur – The Mauritiusfinance.com platform. The so called “People Budget Transparency Portal” raking thousands of likes on its FB page, was built out of public funds and steered solely by the “genius” himself. Browsing the pages we can note some of the objectives of the project. Namely : “From a direct role in delivery, Governments are now beginning to act as facilitators. At the same time, citizens are demonstrating a far greater interest in public affairs and committing themselves to contributing more actively to the socio-economic development of their country. Furthermore, the changing role of government and rising expectations on the part of citizens are giving way to a new dynamic order to address citizens’ needs. ….Therefore, new and additional public participation mechanisms and institutions for citizens to engage in policymaking and share their inputs relating to decisions that will have an impact on their immediate future are necessary for they are a reflection of mature democracy.” This was back until July 2016. Since then, the thousands of submissions made by the public and as well as the administrator of the portal have gone missing. As for 2017, may be the “mature democracy dropped down in its infancy stages.
Identical observations can be noted at every step undertaken by Gerard Sanspeur. His political aspirations by setting up a party (ENSAM) which intended challenge the odds during legislative elections of 2014, was set aside overnight when he along with his jolly mates joined the band wagon of MSM. Some of the fundamentals justifying the setting up of Landscope Mauritius were : the need for Good Governance, Optimisation of resources and efficiency. By recruiting the daughter of the speaker, through an exercise which shares strange resemblance with a lucky draw and granting her a responsibility allowance of MUR 70 000, amounting to 2/3 of her basic salary, we can only conclude there is an abyssal gap between the objectives and practices.
Unlike Roshi Badhain, I would not describe Gerard Sanspeur as a boy running errands at each ring of the kitchen bell. Nor would I show any disrespect by going to the extremes of interpreting such « instability » as a cause of what is termed as « Splitting » in Psychology, often diagnosed in people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Still, it is reasonable to believe he symbolises inconsistency at its best.
When common sense is no longer common
What a shame it is, to brag about EDB as a fabulous revolutionary idea, when Singapore had set up its own EDB back in 1960. Nearer to our shores, Madagascar with the help of our own countryman launched its EDB in 2006.
Here we need to question the soundness of the minds of those clapping foolishly at every launch ceremony as if it is a godly miracle. Was it not this very government which revamped the FSPA and set up many other institutions now crammed with cronies? Going further down the line, was it not the Jugnauth led government which presented the Mauritius Industrial Development Authority Act back in July 1984, which shared most of the objectives listed out in the new EDB act? Was it not, the Jugnauth led government which introduced the Investment Promotion Act in December 2000, which led to the creation of BOI? The same government, with Pravind Jugnauth as member of cabinet, which modified the recommendations of Commonwealth Secretariat consultant, Lorne D.R. Dyke, who in October 2003, following consultations with all key stakeholders, pertaining to the design of an Institutional Framework for Mauritius’s Industrial Sector, recommended the setting up of a National Industry Services Organisation. A carbon copy of EDB, which was partly implemented with the setting up of Enterprise Mauritius (Merger of MIDA, EPZDA and SubexM) in order to satisfy political cronies of then MSM led government. Mustering of resources as to optimise efficiency is an age old mantra, now even taught to school kids.
Describing the adoption of the EDB bill as a feat is greater insult to the intellect of our people. Given, my doubts as to what most of our honourable MPs having voted for the bill, would have understood by “The rationale behind the creation of the EDB is to initiate a reengineering curve to build strong institutional capacity, to instill innovation and creativity, to synergize and cross-fertilize functions, to optimize and coalesce resources towards fulfilling the ambition of our country through high performance and result-oriented driven economic planning”. WOW ! That surely must be some impressive task. Many of us would rather shoot ourselves in the head rather than listening to Vice Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun’s interpretation of this clause. Afterall, may be that’s what is meant by mind-blowing experience?
“It is high time to create the required institutional convergence that will drive the nation’s vision, ensure prompt implementation of economic measures, spark off private and public initiatives and create enablers to fulfill our national ambition”, says Gerard Sanspeur in his article. Unless he intends to run a parallel despotic government, all state projects do have to sprout out of policies, debated and agreed upon by the legislative and executive powers. As at date the government of Gerard Sanspeur has only excelled in lip service and backtracking on all its own priority projects. As evidence I would state, the Bicycle and Motorcycle manufacturing plant which would have led to the creation of significant number of jobs, announced in the budget 2016. Similarly on all major projects, we have simply been taken for a ride.
Further ahead, Gerard Sanspeur states, “Issues like Brexit, GST or OECD’s initiatives will be addressed in a proactive and anticipatory manner not only to manage and mitigate adverse effects but harness opportunities”. How can we expect proactiveness from a government or its institutions when, on 14th June 2016, one week prior to the referendum on Brexit, in reply to a Private Notice Question from then leader of opposition, on our country’s preparedness, we could hear a resounding “we cannot have a funeral before death”?
The following statement is even more hilarious. “Staffed with qualified, seasoned and motivated professionals with a commitment for the long-term prosperity of Mauritius, the EDB will be the driver unrolling our country’s economic master-plan”. Now this calls for a real deep breath. During the debate over the EDB, the Prime Minister himself gave assurance of safeguard of all jobs. Which obviously implies even the cronies would remain in post and some with enhanced powers coupled with privileges. Amongst others, we find : the same director to whom, a foreign company has confessed donating kickbacks, a person, who various foreign nationals have alleged is running a residential permit racket, directors lobbying for reputed international crooks, another blue eye boy whose only job is to ask disturbing questions pregnant ladies and one who barters the recruitment of his son in another state owned company against a contract for the said company’s HR director’s daughter. How can we forget, those experts in investment promotion, first row of conspirators, in the expropriation of the BAI? If the mission of the EDB is to loot the world, then certainly we do have a dream team. Lorne D.R. Dyke in his report underlined the need to review core capabilities of existing agencies and prune as necessary. The consultant had recommended “All positions should be advertised for competition to determine suitability of candidates and market rates for the needed skills”. Which is now understandable why the MSM led government was so selective in its implementation of Lorne Dyke recommendations. With the likes of Sanspeur himself ruling unaccounted over a kingdom, casts serious doubts on the ability of the organisation “to be agile enough to rise above and build a prosperous future”. Surely it would be interesting to see how will the old equilibria be displaced in the given circumstances.
The fundamental of failures encountered over the years by successive institutions, rests in the inability of decision makers of understanding the simple fact that economy is not merely about GDP, Income captured or growth. It is first and foremost the sum of grey matter, sweat and blood of the people toiling restlessly. The primary intent of economy remains, serving the overall interest of people at large and not restricting it, to a system run to fatten the happy few. Moreover bureaucrats and technocrats are unable to grasp the hard realities of entrepreneurs who can realistically become the backbone of a sustainable economy. I still recall the trauma of those planters who have during the last 20 years been asked to uproot cane from their fields to successively embark on cultivation of tea, then bananas, followed by strawberries and to finally revert back to tea. Each of these changes were backed by statistics, flashy power points and countless pseudo experts who now will be chalking future policies.
How can Gerard Sanspeur aspire to make the EDB a driver of social policy when it is bound to function in a vacuum? Policies will never unfold without the primary underpinning of democratic rule, which is Public Trust. Why does Sanpeur think in the latest trade fair participation in Europe, only 4 cadres of institutions were present? Not a single operator cared to participate? By changing the bottle and adding a new cork won’t add fizz to the stale champagne. Had Sanspeur and the other experts living off the public coffers been the genius they pretend to be, they ought to have succeeded in their own private businesses. Trust is dead and buried.
With democracy being poisoned at its roots and hypocrisy reigning at the highest levels of governance, the debacle of this government and its nominees is simply inevitable. For years now, truth has been repeatedly gang raped by the likes of Sanspeur who do offer a tainted view of reality and abuse of our trust by using public platforms as altars of auto glorification. He who is so fond of the “Mahabharata”, and theories of creative destruction, should be aware, Schumpeter’s gale will be a gentle breeze compared to the gusts blowing off soon, all cronies and masters.
On behalf of the “Stupid” people, to whom the cronies owe their pay check and perks.