Touria Prayag's Blog

Weekly editorial (September 20 2012)

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 23, 2012

Riots and economic illiteracy

The violent events which took place over the weekend in Roche-Bois are a textbook example of economic illiteracy. And the sentiments they revealed are very ugly.

No, we have not become followers of Marine Le Pen. Not yet. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. A quick glance back at our history would create some sobriety. Our ancestors are descendants of immigrants and we are proud of our history.

That of slaves and indentured labourers who worked hard and sacrificed everything they had so that their progeny would have a better chance in life. Yet, this week has been the darkest week since the hebdomas horribilis when we sent ten coffins out to Bangladesh. Ten coffins of youth and vigour murdered by our roads. It is another dark and disturbing spot in our history.|

One has to be grateful for life’s little mercies. Incidents like these are isolated and do not translate the feelings of the majority of Mauritians. Also, the police acted promptly, efficiently, even heavy-handedly, and the worst was avoided. But the Roche-Bois incidents brought to the forefront the plight of immigrant workers. Once more. It is not the first time we have come face to face with the reality we want to brush aside. This time, we have been forced to stare it right in the face.

And it is not very pretty. The growing resentment against foreign workers is unjustifi able. Admittedly, in hard times when jobs are scarce the world over, it is easy to see the foreign worker as a scapegoat. This is a very short-sighted view resulting from economic illiteracy. It therefore has to be nipped in the bud.

From the economic point of view, foreign workers do not “steal” anyone’s job. This cheap anti-immigrant rhetoric should be left to the neo-Nazis to ramp up when they need votes from those who are as ignorant as they are. Foreign workers, in fact, keep our industries afl oat and create wealth. And where there is wealth, there are jobs. The Indian, Malagasy, Bangladeshi and Chinese workers, among others, do the jobs which we do not want to do or we are incapable of doing.

Jobs with long and unsociable working hours in bakeries jobs in unpleasant environments in fi sh canning hard jobs in construction jobs where overtime is required to meet deadlines like in textile. How can they be accused of stealing something we have spat on?

And let’s also get rid of the fallacy that it is cheaper for the employer to employ foreign workers. How can it be cheaper for any employer to import labour when you add the cost of accommodation, no matter how pathetic the hostels are, that of upkeep, even for the poor quality food served to our foreign workers and plane fares?

There is no running away from one fact: with the rate of our aging and increasingly long-lived population and a birth rate that is below the replacement rate, the foreign workers we are rioting against today will be the ones paying for the growing rolls of our pensions tomorrow. Just as the Mauritian Diaspora are paying for the pensions of Australians, French, British and other citizens in the rest of the world. So, let’s have a heart for them today. They’ll have a buck for us tomorrow.

 

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