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When statistics tell lies: MCB perpetuates myth of Mauritian Home Ownership

25.04.2017

Finance Ministers have finally been cured of using the deceptive figures on home-ownership produced by Statistics Mauritius. LALIT had, with reason, for four years heaped ridicule on the definition used by Statistics Mauritius until eventually Ministers have no doubt been counselled by an armada of advisors to stop using the figure.


In L’Express 20 April, 2017 the MCB now uses it. MCB announces that it has conducted research based, they admit, solely on an exclusive survey by DCDM and Statistics Mauritius. MCB says, inter alia: “Environ 89 % des ménages possédaient leurs logements en 2011.


This is the famous “90% of Mauritius are home-owners”, or “9 out of 10 Mauritians are home-owners”, or 88.9% of Mauritians own their own houses”.


It is pure Government propaganda. It is taken up by the IMF-World Bank, whose officers know no better, and by an army of colluding academics and journalists.


It is taken to mean: In Mauritius there is no housing problem. Would it were so!


So sick of this far-fetched claim were we in LALIT, with our experience in Muvman Lakaz, that four years ago we, ourselves as a party, decided to conduct a series of enquiries house-by-house in six sample areas.


But, before embarking on this, we contacted Statistics Mauritius. We immediately saw the problem. “Do you pay rent?” the official survey asks. And the minute you say “No,” you are a “home-owner” – unless you are a squatter – according to the logic of the Authorities. This erroneous definition is the source of the lie.


Now what this statistic hides, and what makes it Government propaganda, is this: when people built or bought their houses (including Site EDC, NHDC, CHA houses) 30 or 40 years ago, there was a nuclear family living in the house. Parents and, say, four young children lived in a house that one or both parents owned. The four children have since grown up and each married, brought in a spouse and had two children. No longer a house, but just one room per family, now. The Government counts these 10 adults all as proud “home-owners”.


Things have got worse. We have seen examples exactly like this: the eight children from our example have grown up. got married and had a child each, and the family lives in a room added on, often no more than a lean-to. They all live in discomfort, precarity, and often in constant intra-familial conflict. People take turns in sleeping. Some wander around while others sleep, others seek only night work, so that they get a bed free during the day. The new eight grown-up grandchildren are also proud “home-owners”! Making a total of 18 adults in one very small house.


The Government’s conclusion is that, since they all “own” a house, therefore none of them has a housing problem. Therefore Mauritius is a paradise.


The MCB’s conclusion in its survey designed to find out who is interested in real estate, is that if these 18 people want to buy a house, they are interested in “investing in real estate”, therefore Mauritians love the real estate business. Nearly half Mauritians, they claim, want to buy real estate!


To get back to the reality: The original house owner, the grandfather, has often passed away. And it is impossible to put order into this embriglio, exacerbated by the Code Napoleonic not allowing wills for more than a small part of the property, which is often by definition too small to divide up.


The question Statistics Mauritius ought to ask, to avoid ridicule, is: “Is the house contract in your name?” And to double-check “Can you, should you so wish, secure a loan from a bank using it as collateral?” If  not, you are not a home-owner. You have a potential housing problem.


It is quite possible that by this definition, only some 50-60% of Mauritians are home-owners, i.e. people who don’t need Government help to get a roof over their heads. If so, it means nearly half of Mauritians are not home-owners.


The social problems that the masked over-crowding poses, and conflict it engenders, are unspeakable. And all the while, Government gives permits and tax gifts to sugar estates to sell off their land to billionaires. What kind of a land policy is that?


Lindsey Collen


for LALIT


25 April 2017