Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly 30 July 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on August 2, 2010

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Editorial

The African Peer Review Mechanism

As African leaders gather between the numerous rolling hills and lush wetlands of Kampala, in the country of President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, for the 15th summit of the African Peer Review Mechanism, Mauritius voluntarily submits itself to Africa’s home-grown governance monitoring endeavour. This summit is important in many ways, from opening up political space for debate, discussion and criticism, to legislative reforms and streamlining development efforts. The Country Review Report of Mauritius was therefore up for discussion. While the Prime minister recieves his first evaluation report card to bring back home to us, we cannot help but reflect on the country which has already celebrated the 40th anniversary of its independence.

Humility aside, we did not fare too badly – Mauritius has a number of achievements to its record. Our institutions, largely a bequest of our British ex-colonial masters, are sound. (Another reason, perhaps, why celebrating “la bataille du Vieux Grand Port” is a futile exercise). Our welfare state is second to none in Africa. Our health system is not perfect but it is free. We snub it when we are mildly sick but when we have life-threatening problems, we know it is our only option. And, considering the way we eat and drive, our life expectancy is surprisingly high.

We moan about our educational system but it has produced people who have made this country what it is today. And it is free. Our transport is far from being adequate and we may not agree with the policy of “free transport” but it is a benefit of immense value to those who could not otherwise manage without it.

The sumum of the welfare state remains the universal old age pension. Not enough to live on but it is non-contributory.

On the could-do-better side is the lack of equity towards certain social groups. Nothing we didn’t know: large chunks of our community are marginalized. The reasons vary from a culture of lack of effort, not enough emphasis on education to downright discrimination. Rodrigues is still the poor relative of Mauritius and is, therefore, a blemish in our report card.

On the has-not-made-sufficient-effort side, corruption stands out as a cancer eating our country from within. One has to be blind not to see its insidious effects. It has to be tackled in time so that it does not hinder the country’s economic development. The report concludes, “We are very proud of your success.”

However, as citizens, we have a long way to go. The APRM was based on a wide series of consultations with civil society, government, members of the opposition, different organizations and leaders of different interest groups but it used, as its focal point, the report produced by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). For the exercise to be meaningful, the NESC tried to involve a large chunk of the population. They conducted meetings, public lectures, television presentations, press advertisements etc. The disappointing verdict of its chairman is that Mauritians suffer from a great degree of apathy and that they only react when they are directly involved or when their pockets are affected. The result of this sad reality is that the NESC did not manage to galvanise the broad participation in the process of review it wished to do.

Be that as it may, the APRM presents a unique opportunity for us to build on our strengths and move ahead. We cannot afford to allow the traction of this commendable political mechanism to stall.

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