Yesterday morning in Beau Bassin, LALIT member Rajni Lallah spoke on the future of the Public Service in Mauritius at a State and Other Employees Federation one-day seminar held on this theme.
It was interesting that Mr. Kris Ponnusamy, Former Chief executive in the Ministry of Civil Service who spoke before her talked about the formation of the public service in history: catering for Dutch, French and British colonial forces and colonial settlements before independence. He made an important point about how politics influences the role of the Public Service when describing how the role of the public service changed with independence. He said that it was important to address this question as well. Radakrishna Sadien of the SEF had previously talked about the historic action of the Mauritian State to decolonise the Chagos and reunify Mauritius, part of the independence process that is continuing.
Rajni Lallah talked about the post-independence changes – at first a public service geared towards an economy based on sugar production that nonetheless provided employment, foreign currency for basic imports, and through taxes on sugar, funds for social services and infrastructure. And now, with changes brought on by the big world political and economic upheavals in the last 20 years and the international and national economic crisis, she talked of the new role of the public service to “facilitate business” using the last budget as an example. She spoke of how the most productive parts of the civil service has been and is still threatened with privatisation at a time when the capitalist class because of its crisis, needs new sectors to make profit. The new role of the public service, she said is also typified by the activities of the BOI: a great part of the Board of Investment, part of the public service, is to facilitate permits for agricultural land destruction by real estate businesses to sell it off. She showed the “mapping” of this land destruction that LALIT has plotted (see http://www.lalitmauritius.org/modules/documents/files/LalitMauritius-d395771085aab05244a4fb8fd91bf4ee.pdf as part of our letter to MP's in the National Assembly) to GSA members who many, after her presentation, asked copies of.
She concluded with how production depends on land and sea and there are many ways to use these resources that independence has given us more control over for production and development that is in the interests of the people. She talked of how land could be used for food production and transformation and how the public service would need to employ far more employees to cater for this kind of production.This would also mean that the public service would become more of a “public” service. Demands for more democratic control over land and sea need to be made by public sector unions to ensure that the public sector is not privatised and the little of it remaining geared towards private sector “needs”.
SEF legal counsel Ajay Daby and Mr. Durbarry, Director General of the Civil Service College also spoke in the seminar. SEF members were to use these presentations to guide workshop discussions and a plenary session in the afternoon.