Since the collapse of sugar prices, and the projected continued collapse, and with the end of any sort of protected market now that the WTO reigns supreme, for the first time in Mauritian history, the industry called “King Sugar” has undergone two changes: first is now “King Cane”, meaning not just sugar but also ethanol and bagasse, and second the sugar bosses are now “real estate” dealers. In fact, almost all the capitalist empires in Mauritius, even the biggest media outlet, La Sentinelle, which runs L’Express Properties are now also in real estate. We single out the L’Express press empire for mention because it would be difficult to imagine any sort of critical perspectives, in its media outlets, of this so-called “development”, which is none other than “destruction”, short term, media term and long term destruction of the whole country.
Yes, the whole country has seen the continuation of the process begun for the millennium of covering this beautiful land with concrete – not just the cities, towns and villages being concreted without proper collective thought about the effects on drainage or even on something as elementary as places for children to circulate freely and safely – entire beaches, even islands, rolling hills and even mountains are now being covered in concrete, or when not concrete, in ugly golf courses nurturing a rich men’s pastime instead of nurturing the people of the land. Land is just being sold off and ruined. Worse still, a new kind of colonization has begun, without people having noticed let alone debated it. It is all going on behind closed gates, as it were.
The whole of the South and West is now being attacked from the mountains by IRS projects, RES projects, PDS projects, so-called Smart Cities (vamped up IRSs), tourist hotels, and rich peoples’ villas.
The destruction is immense.
Whole “gated communities” have been formed and are continuing being formed – around beaches, around marinas, around hunting lodges, around hills, around golf-courses – and hidden from the public eye. There are now innumerable little colonies of rich people from Europe, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and so on. They have got permanent residence, and in new projects stand to get citizenship, in exchange for money. And these little colonies, exactly like the Israeli-organized colonies in Palestine, are connected one to the other by motorways, and also to Shopping Malls.
Here it is worth opening up a bracket on the land issue: It is as though humans are less and less taken into account today, and we are back to the colonial days of “terra nulla” for colonialists and their local lackeys. Terra nulla is a Latin expression meaning land without anyone or anything “civilized” on it. It was an expression used to try and justify colonization. Amerindians and Aborigines were either made invisible or seen as a nuisance. We are returning to that extreme form of inequality. In fact, just to get the record straight, right up to 1960 Amerindians could not vote in Canada, and in Colorado, USA voting rights were only secured in 1970, while it was only in 1965 in Australia that Aboriginal peoples got voting rights. So, in just a generation or two we return to the kinds of line about how wonderful her holiday in the West Indies was when Princess Margaret said: “There is nobody there!” That was in the 1970s.
To continue with the “projects and counter-projects” of the Government and bosses: with “Tourism Industry Services” having been the first the Mauritian State offered up to the WTO for investment to all capitalists at same-as-Mauritian-capitalists’ status, we are now beginning to feel the full effect. The Federation of Pleasure Craft Operators is now having to challenge all the new laws around this, laws that make peoples’ little businesses, like taking tourists out to sea, so fragile that they are all having to close down in the face of massive competition from big hotel groups. Karl Lamarque is leading this challenge.
At the same time, everyone on the coast now knows that it is increasingly difficult for a fisherman to become registered at all. Fishermen are more-or-less being wiped out.
And pleasure boats that Mauritians had are no longer allowed to be moored in the lagoon at all.
And next year, meanwhile, there will be 10 of those massive luxury liners docking for a short stay and spilling its people out on to Port Louis.
When the Opposition talks about how slow some projects are at being concretized, we can only say that, if it is this kind of destruction disguised as development, the slower the better.
Other State Projects
And the Government has its other projects. Many of course are not yet off the ground, which is often a mixed blessing, or even good thing. There is the Metro Express that has published its list of 20 stations (a “real estate” opportunity, no doubt) and the project to re-build the Victoria Bus Station, the Bridge between Coromandel and Soreze, and the new roundabout planned for Jumbo-Phoenix (all involving real estate possibilities).
No support for agriculture and allied industries
There is no support at all for people producing agricultural products or fishing, nor for the preservation and transformation of food products in processing plants, with all the value-added possibilities and no help with either marketing nor research to support such industries. There is sometimes verbiage, but no support. Any successful food producers are successful despite being left entirely to their own devices, while all tax money is spent on supporting the cane industry, on the one hand, and tourism, including recolonization, on the other hand.
Kreepalloo Sunghoon, who was supposed to be a progressive planter and could have been an ally in the progressive struggle for food production, is now head of the bosses’ organization called Syndicat du Sucre, that sells sugar for the estates, and is waving the banner of “the cane industry”. He has joined, if he was ever not in the band, the happy band of people in favour of keeping Mauritius locked into cane, at the expense of the population not being assured either jobs or food security.
There is not just a shortage of tea in Mauritius, but tea is in the news for another reason: there is to be investment to the tune of Rs200 million from China into the tea industry. We do not know how much State help surrounds this investment.
Encircling the poor on the Coast
Industrialist Francois Woo is doubling or trebling his fish farms in the lagoons around Mahebourg. The people of that part of the South are being hemmed in by private fish farms that keep them out of the sea, on the one-hand, and sugar estate private land developments for millionaire playboys that keep them off the land, on the other hand. So, while sugar estates have sacked 90% of their workers, and free zone factories have closed in droves, people have been reduced to casual jobs, which rely on falling back for survival on some fishing from the sea, or from some hunting and gathering from the hills behind their homes. All this goes on while, jobs are viewed by the State and the bosses alike, as an optional add-on, if any.
This article is based on a LALIT Central Committee fortnightly discussion on news of the economy.