Touria Prayag's Blog

l’Express Weekly, 5 November 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on November 8, 2010

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The three-letter word

A few weeks to Budget Day and still no indication
as to when it will be or what it will be about.
Despite lobbies, tripartite and what not, there is a
harsh reality which nobody can afford to ignore:
the world is going through the biggest economic crisis since
the Great Depression of the 1930s, so much so that the
current crisis has merited its own defi ning name, the Great
Recession. The sooner we acknowledge that Mauritius is
no exception, the better for all of us.
Besides, just before the last General Elections, the country was
given to demagogical outbidding, with one alliance trying to topple the
other by offering more freebies. Admittedly, one alliance was heartily
leading but the other was not far behind. This resulted in a promise
to do away with the emotion-arousing National Residential Property
Tax. This intrinsically socially equitable tax could have been improved
in its scope and applicability; instead, its repeal panders to a small minority
of vocal and privileged constituents and depletes public coffers
of an important source of funding. Then followed the abolition of the
tax on bank deposit interest. Again, this tax could have been tweaked,
for example by introducing a tax-exempt franchise, rather than simply
and squarely abrogating it and inequitably letting fat cats off the hook.
As well as the loss of revenue, its abolition, incidentally, also deprives
the MRA of a valuable source of information.
Add to this the manna from heaven which invariably and selectively
falls on the lucky few irrespective of the state of the economy
and you will realize that we would be kidding ourselves if we, the population
at large, expected any largesse. Austerity is the name of the
game. Worldwide! We should get off our hammocks and look around
us. The UK government not only ordered a recruitment freeze but
also earmarked more than 100,000 civil service posts to be cut in an
attempt to reduce administration costs.
Of course, austerity measures do not make anyone cheerful, but
what makes the pill that much harder to swallow in our paradise is
the unfettered, brazen and cynical double standards. A large chunk of
public funds is squandered by parastatals and other bodies in scandalous
largesse of fat pay, perks, limousines and per diems for the lucky
few and, while the rest of us have to tighten our belts, they are sitting
pretty knowing that, come what may, their privileges will remain intact.
It is time government took action against these widespread abuses
and started by reducing the number of wasteful QUANGOS and
‘adviser’ positions. The Prime minister had announced a maximum
number of advisers each minister can have. Most of these positions in
any case only exist to provide ‘jobs for the boys’ who, as soon as they
are appointed, go to town. The generous per diems they feast on so
ravenously should be abolished and replaced by the proven ‘expense
account’ system that holds sway in the private sector. Such measures
would sweeten the pill we know we have no option but to swallow.
We hope that in the middle of his budgetary cogitations and ruminations,
Pravind Jugnauth is not thinking of the three-letter word:
VAT. If he is, we pray that he discards the thought of increasing the
rate, and thereby aggravating the burden of this regressive tax, which
hits the less well-off disproportionately hardest. We still remember
Pravind Jugnauth’s last stint in the Ministry of Finance. We hope, this
time round, he will leave better memories in the minds of the citizenry!


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