No sooner was Pravind Jugnauth acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Medpoint conflict-of-interest case and no sooner was he taking up the post of Finance Minister meeting his advisers and press attachés, than he had to sit down and prepare the 2016-2017 Budget. Although Prime Minister Aneerood Jugnauth, having kept the Finance Ministry after Lutchmeenaraidoo’s move to Foreign Affairs, had already begun Budget preparations, it seems that Pravind Jugnauth started all over again from zero.
It was already phenomenal that in the first 16 months in power the Lepep Alliance had had three different Finance Ministers: the way this happened was already a sign of incoherence in the Government. Then the content of Pravind Jugnauth’s budget has confirmed this lack of coherence: in the previous Budget for 2015-2016, all the emphasis was on the development of “Smart Cities” and of the Port that was to have spanned Grand River North West to Baie du Tombeau. This has all disappeared. Pravind Jugnauth is back to the old IRS (Integrated Resort Schemes) projects that the Lepep Allilance had so rightly criticised, only now they are called PDS (Property Development Schemes). Not only is the PDS the very same kind of “development” based on selling off land and speculating on land values but the recent budget heralds a much bigger scale of the same destructive supposed “development”: there is no longer even a limit at all on the amount of land you can convert, “develop” and sell off to the highest billionaire bidder on the international market.
This means the Government is going further down this road that Prime Minister Jugnauth himself has admitted is mere real estate speculation and that it is not proper development at all because it does not increase production, nor create stable employment over time. Worse still, from LALIT’s point of view, it destroys good arable land that is essential to diversifying agriculture and developing an industry of food preservation and transformation.
In his Budget speech, Pravind Jugnauth announced the sum of Rs2.7 billion for the Heritage City Project (Minister Bhadain’s Smart City); this Rs2.7 billion was to have come out of the Rs12.7 billion that the Indian Government has given Mauritius in exchange for the elimination of almost all the advantages that Mauritian investments had in India via the Mauritian off-shore. It is true to say, in passing, that the Heritage City project was very unpopular, mainly for the right reasons.
Anyway, a week later, after a series of “pressures”, “plots” and alleged conspiracies, the Heritage City project was simply abandoned. Bhadain was so cross that his project was “out” that he went straight to the Central CID to give a statement against Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s special adviser!
But, at a deeper level, what we see when we look at the 2016-2017 Pravind Jugnauth Budget is a plan that ignores altogether all the problems that people are facing every day, whether it is housing, work or food security. Instead his Budget is digging the country deeper into the same route of pseudo-development that people threw the last Government out for.
So, it was of course the minority class of capitalists that welcomed the budget. Enough of them hope to make a one-off profit from land speculation to make them all applaud.
Straight after the Budget Speech, the Opposition Leader Paul Bérenger reacted, saying that he thought the budget “interesting”! Throughout the Budget debates, Bérenger went on and on flattering Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth, while at the same time criticizing Aneerood Jugnauth. The MMM stuck up posters all over the country criticizing all manner of Ministers: Heritage City (Bhadain), Trilochun (Bodha’s brother-in-law), Minister’s travelling abroad too much (Pravind Jugnauth said the same), the Minister of gold (Lutchmeenaraidoo), the Minister of “Bal kuler” (Dayal), Boygah (for Bambara), Soodhun (the private jet) and PPS Henri (to include a PMSD Minister). So, following a thoroughly negative Budget, the MMM did a poster campaign against all those Ministers, but not a word against the Finance Minister who had just presented this budget.
Maybe “Ti Kretin” was to be “Ti Kopin”.
Anyway, that pre-nuptual honeymoon did not last, to use the Press’s metaphor for such political alliances.
What is clear is that in the Lepep Alliance there are a series of internal conflicts that are threatening its existence; it is just as clear that the MMM will from time to time be setting in motion a “koz-koze” strategy towards Pravind Jugnauth, even if from a distance. It is also clear that the people cannot count on Bérenger’s MMM to oppose the Lepep Alliance’s pro-capitalist Government. And as for the other two Parliamentary Opposition parties, they are even more rotten.
So, it is our work to build a movement to oppose this Government, and at the same time propose a new kind of economy that is in favour of the working class, small planters, street merchants, ordinary civil servants and those at present unemployed and under-employed. This movement will obviously be outside of Parliament, and will be together with the more advanced workers in the union movement, the women’s movement and amongst the youth.
LALIT is already contributing to building this movement.
Ram Seegobin (translated from the Kreol original)