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Stop Land Sales to the Rich from Abroad! For Peoples’ Control over Land - for work, housing & food


 Below is a translation into English of the leaflet and Magazine Editorial for July, 2016:

 The new Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth will be presenting his Budget in a couple of weeks. The annual Government Budget is one of the ways a Government imposes some form of policy on the capitalist class. So we can all judge how much work, for example, Minister Jugnauth intends to get created. Over the past 30 years, the sugar industry has not only sacked 40,000 workers, but closed down the same number of jobs. Yet, the industry has kept control over all the good arable land. And the bosses refuse to diversify all this land. They refuse to grow food crops. They refuse to create jobs. And they just clutch on to their cane and their sugar, even as the protected markets have disappeared with the WTO. Now they intend to make their profits elsewhere: selling off good agricultural land for speculation, parcelling land up to sell to millionaires from abroad, who then live in “gated communities” behind walls guarded by armed men. A new kind of colonization is already upon us: not unlike that of Israel in Palestine.

What is important right now at this time in history, LALIT believes, is the land question. Who controls what’s done with land in a country? And, if we count the sea, too, who controls that part of the land, too?

The land issue is important for three inter-related reasons.

 Jobs on a massive scale

Land is essential for job creation. Instead of the sugar estates monopolizing all the land and not creating work, Finance Minister Jugnauth can find ways of forcing them to free up their cane land – even the cane that is regrowing as it does for 6 out of every 7 years – for inter-line cropping: beans, maize, peanuts and sunflowers for their oil, potatoes. He can put pressure on them to free up one-seventh – what they are in any case replanting – each year. So, in seven years, there will be inter-line cropping on all the land. With no loss for the bosses to the sugar. If the bosses refuse to take on workers to plant food crops, the Government must force them to lease the land to small planters. And this is not enough. The Budget must make the sugar estates set up food preserving and processing plants – from before the first food crop harvesting – to buy up the harvest. Different estates can co-ordinate to invest in different ways of preserving food: frozen, canned, pre-prepared food (a bit like Sarjua has already done), freeze-dried, sun-dried. And all  of this not just for local use, but for exports to the region. The bosses will need to take on people to work in agronomy, research in all related fields, marketing and transport, as well as on the land and in the processing factories. Dozens of thousands of jobs will be created, and for all kinds of skills.

But, until now what is the Government encouraging the bosses to do with their land? To sell it off to the highest bidder, to concrete it up, to ruin it, and to have it end up housing the very rich from abroad. Government is actually subsiding this. Here is a list of Government subsidies under the 2015 Smart Cities law:

- Giving permits for converting agricultural land into commercial and giving them with all tax waived.

- Giving parcelling permits, and this, too, with all tax waived.

- Cutting the Registration Duty that everyone else pays on land sales.

- Giving full waivers on VAT and Customs Duties for building materials for the very rich.

- Exempting them for 8 years from Income Tax.

So, the Government is not only giving policy guidelines in favour of this land speculation and selling off to the rich, but actually subsiding them. And this, without any aim to create jobs. Any jobs created are a side-effect, and they are all in the “servant” domain, like a flash-back to slavery.

 As it is unemployment is masked. Statistics Mauritius counts someone as in employment if they work for more than one hour per week. Naturally you’ll come up with a figure under 10%. Many social problems are the direct result of a lack of proper work. People find themselves in prison for petty theft and drug-use. This is often related to unemployment. Everyone knows that this is so. Much violence within the family is linked to the stress from not enough people in each family holding down a proper job. There is some informal work – but repayments on housing are not informal. Your house gets taken away from you when you miss repayments. Many young people go for panic emigration, so severe is the employment situation.

 Food Security

Land must also be controlled for food security. Times are dangerous. Threats come from ecological degradation and from war. If ever Mauritius, Rodrigues and Agalega are isolated from our sources of food, we are done. Our dependency is idiotic. The land and the sea must be used by Mauritius for stable sources of food.

 Housing and land-use

And land is needed so as to build houses for the 50,000 families that are in need of housing. Successive Governments have gone one and one about 90% of Mauritians being land-owners. But a LALIT study at the grassroots showed that the Statistics Mauritius definition once again produces figures that mask the problem. 90% of people in fact “do not pay rent”. Many live in overcrowded housing, nicknamed “heirs’ houses”. This kind of problem, and all those living in precarious housing, must be given land and houses, not millionaires from abroad. We need proper pavements and “bicycle paths” everywhere, and small playgrounds on every street. Not selling off land in this new form of colonization.

Millionaires from abroad who buy up Integrated Resort Scheme properties get “permanent residence”, while those who invest in Smart Cities get nationality! Citizenship is now sold. It is dangerous. And it is not for nothing that we compare it with what Israel does in Palestine: set up “gated communities” for “settlers” and link them by big roads. Recently the Government here said it was paying Rs600 million just for the road to link the Omnicane Smart City with the airport.

LALIT has launched a nation-wide campaign on land use. Land must be used for creating jobs on a massive scale, and for housing and food security.