Touria Prayag's Blog

The bureaucratic orphan 30 January 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

The nastier-than-thou bidding war
between the Ministry of Local Administration
and the Municipality of
Port Louis is a badge of shame for
local governance. The indignation
which a simple increase in the trade
fee has aroused in the inhabitants of
the capital has pushed the minister of
local government, Hervé Aimée, and
the mayor of Port Louis to jump at
each other’s throats, each trying to
pass the buck. In the middle of this
unbecoming row and the meticulously
crafted pseudo-denials which have
shrouded the whole episode, a gaping
hole has been left for everyone to see.
First, the Port Louis mayor hotfooted
her way to the press offering her side
of the story: that she had nothing to
do with the trade fee increase and
Aimée should take all the blame! Yet,
the law is clear to anyone who bothers
to ask. According to the Local Government
Act introduced in 2011 –
which came to be known as the Aimée
Law – the Municipalities are totally
independent and free to decide on the
quantum of the trade fee they want to
raise. Their role is to decide how they
want to raise funds, come up with
regulations and then pass them onto
the ministry for advice – advice they
are totally free to reject, by the way.
The only role the ministry has, according
to the law, is to gazette those
regulations and put them into effect.
Does the minister of local government
have any legal right to amend the fee
or intervene in any way? The answer
is no.
So what is the mayor’s contention
then? It changes from day to day. First,
it was not her idea to have such an
increase. A simple look at the Local
Government Act reveals that this is an
intellectually dishonest argument: if
the responsibility for raising funds for
the Municipality falls squarely on the
mayor of the town, who else can come
up with the regulation? Then came
the argument of not being agreeable
to a uniform trade fee – a legitimate
argument to a certain extent: Municipalities
should have the option of
keeping different rates to encourage
businesses to set up shops in towns
where there is commercial decline. But
if the municipalities and district authorities
resent having a uniform trade
fee, why did they voluntarily acquiesce
to the policy only to then attack and
disown it the next day. Municipalities,
after all, do have the option to reject
any recommendation from the minister
of local government. If they chose
not to exercise their right in this particular
instance, the complaint which
followed is either of bad faith or an
instance of shirking their responsibility
and playing politics!
All these sterile arguments take us
away from the real problem the Municipality
should be tackling and
which it – or the Ministry for that
matter – has not been able to tackle:
that of ridding the traders of the unfair
competition to allow them to make a
profit and be happy to pay the trade
fee. Ah, but that’s a sacred cow no one
wants to meddle with!
weekly@lasentinelle.mu

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