Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 10 December 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on December 17, 2010

weekly 10 december

Born to be
indispensible

It has become an expected pattern: the body politic denounces
‘jobs for the boys’ while politicians speak of meritocracy,
equal opportunity, good governance…please tell me
more…And for every such position going, there are droves
of sycophants and all manner of other courtesans lining up and
making themselves obsequiously visible, crawling and charming
in the hope of being rewarded. The message sent to our youth is
‘if you are not well-connected, arret rever kamarad!’
Even seen against this backdrop, the whiff of one nomination announced
this week is jaw-dropping as it collides against all the principled
beliefs you could ever have held.
You perhaps thought that no one was indispensible. Well, think
again. Krishna Muni Reddy is back from oblivion. We already knew
that he was ‘born to stay ahead’. We now know that he was also born to
be indispensible; so indispensible in fact that he has been called back…
to run the State Bank of Mauritius! No Mauritian, apparently, fits the
bill. That of being a non-executive part-time chairman of a bank staffed
with professionals doing the job any way.
Before anyone drags the debate onto some facile xenophobic
grounds, let us remind our readers that we have always been staunch
proponents of opening up to the world and attracting foreign talent.
We have never shied from advocating the recruitment of foreigners
to bring their experience and expertise to contribution whenever and
wherever that is needed.
Mr. Reddy’ situation is a totally different kettle of fish. Here we have
a foreign retiree being called back to fill a position which notoriously
serves the purpose of rewarding friendship and loyalty.
And let no one talk about some unique competence. The banks in
this country have all benefited from a buoyant and robust economy
in the roaring ‘90s and, as the aphorism aptly goes, ‘a rising tide lifts
all boats’. Attributing the ‘success’ of SBM to one person would be
egregiously simplistic. Attributing it to a single foreigner is unfair to
the legions of managers and staff who have toiled hard to make SBM
successful. For the record, the biggest bank in this country, which incidentally
is also one of the oldest surviving banks in the world, is entirely
staffed and run by Mauritians.
While Mr. Reddy is called upon to favour the nation with the privilege
of chairing the Board, the chairman’s remuneration is a matter of
legitimate public interest. SBM is a public company, listed on the stock
exchange, in which the Government, directly and indirectly, has an
aggregate controlling interest. We learn from the bank’s annual reports
that the non-executive directors were paid a whopping Rs 67 million in
2008, Rs 18 million in 2009 & Rs 19 million in 2010! Surprisingly for
a bank that professes adherence to the highest standards of corporate
governance, in these reports, it is stated that “Remuneration of directors
has not been disclosed on an individual basis due to commercial sensitivity”!!!
Why such opacity? Could the truth be that this information
is too politically sensitive? It is telling that SBM’s competitors do not
patently harbour the same paranoia, as they have no difficulty in publishing
in detail individual directors’ fees.
It is common knowledge that the Chairman normally pockets the
lion’s share of Board fees. Add to this the usual humongous per diems
and other perks and you will understand why Mr. Reddy must be quite
ecstatic to interrupt his golden retirement after years of serving SBM as
Chief Executive and then Chairman to return as…Messiah Chairman
to rescue the bank!
Meritocracy, transparency, equal opportunity… Carry on,
I am sooo interested!

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