Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly: Editorial, 9 April 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on April 30, 2010

Un fauteuil pour deux

by Touria Prayag

We are not in the habit of idealizing people any more than we are of demonizing them. Neither extravagant praise nor excoriating criticism court reality. And we would like our readers to remain attuned with reality.

Rama Sithanen may have taken some unpopular measures. That is what having such a portfolio is all about. He may have taken some ill-advised decisions. That is what being human is all about. Removing the subsidy on fl our and rice were such examples. Replacing them with an allowance for hard up families did not necessarily put bread in the child’s school bag or rice on his plate in the evening. He had to backpedal. That is to his credit. Some people he appointed on the Board of the Bank of Mauritius may have tarnished its image and slowed down its work through their petty behaviour and lack of decorum. That is what life is all about. A learning journey.

However, one has to be of very bad faith not to acknowledge that he is one of the best fi nance ministers this country has seen. When all is said and done, he will be remembered for having tided us through the worst crisis the world has seen since the Great Depression of the1930’s with such deftness that the tsunami felt in other countries was more like eddies here. The confidence he maintained, especially with the Stimulus Package, kept investment up in such a way that the country is expected back on the trend growth path this year.

Of course, he did not do it alone. He had a team of advisers some local, others nationals brought over from abroad and still others foreign. We agree. He had the unfl inching support of the P.M. and Cabinet. We concede. We are reproached with not saying it enough. It is because it is obvious to everyone. And at the end of the day, a good Finance Minister is one who knows what to bring to Cabinet and how to advise the Prime Minister. Rama Sithanen did that. With rare skill and ability.

Not allowing him to keep his portfolio would be sending the wrong message to the electorate. The message that competence does not matter, that hard work is immaterial, that meritocracy is a vain concept. Worse, the perception, right or wrong, is that this post might be taken away from Rama Sithanen to be given to Pravind Jugnauth because that is one of the conditions the latter imposed for the coalition. I find that hard to believe, but if the perception persists, and if Pravind Jugnauth does, indeed, step into Sithanen’s shoes, he may fi nd them far too big for him and they may well keep slipping off. Besides, it might also be embarrassing for him to continue with policies he has criticized for five years.

The electorate may interpret Pravind Jugnauth’s insistence on taking away Rama Sithanen’s portfolio as smacking of vindictiveness, dating back to the time the latter deserted him at the eleventh hour just before the 2000 election. It is too long for a human being to continue begrudging another that ‘betrayal’. Above are only a few of the 1001 reasons why efforts should be made to keep Sithanen as Minister of Finance. He has done a good job, recognized and supported by the Prime Minister. He should be advised to ignore some pouknis’ fake sympathy and be allowed to carry on. No one is indispensible but resources are scarce. Very scarce!

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