Just one week after Jugnauth and Bérenger forced through their draconian law, the much contested “LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT”, which abolishes elected Village Councils and prepares for taxing houses of people in the countryside, however poor they may be, it now appears that the existing District Council members have been tricked by the Government into going along with this terrible piece of legislation.
In L’Express 16th July, 2003, the Macciavelian nature of the Government’s trick becomes clear. The brutal squeeze being put on District Council members, often MSM and MMM agents, is clear from an article which L’Express readers could easily miss. It is on page 7 under the confusing title: “Redevance des operateurs: Remous sur le transfert du ‘Licence Fee’ au tourisme”.
What is happening, much faster than even LALIT had dreaded would happen, is that the District Councils are being bankrupted. They will be obliged to tax the rural poor, because they no longer get income from the rural rich i.e. hotels and restaurants. The District Councils have already voted their budgets knowing that over 50% of their revenue comes from tourist-related income, that is, taxes paid to them by hotels, restaurants, boats, etc. But this money will NO LONGER go to regional government at all. The Central Government will collect it through the Tourism Authority.
This had led to an outcry from, amongst others, some of the very stooges who supported the Local Government Act.
L’Express quotes Chan Sitaram, for example saying “Il y a trop de pauvrete dans l’Ouest pour penser a nrecuperer cet argent a travers la taxe immobiliere.’ It is a pity he speaks so late. Prakash Bhunsee from Moka Flacq says: “On a coup notre élan”. Ved Golam and Preetam Sundaram of Moka and Quartier Militaire also show that they are shocked to have been tricked out of this revenue.
On the union side, Mr.Balram Appadoo of the Local Authority Employees Union says Government has pretended to give autonomy to local authorities while in fact “amputating” them. “On a cree la Road Authority, la Beach Authority et la Tourism Authority. Bientot on viendra avec la Solid Waste Authority pour demembrer les adminstrations regionales.”
And not only has the Government tricked District Councils into not opposing the Local Government Act, but a spokeperson for the Ministry of Tourism now says: “Les conseillers auraient du prendre leurs precautions parce qui’ils etaient au courant que ces redevances allaient etre transferees.”
Readers will recall that the main reasons LALIT opposed the new legislation was that it destroys village democracy (and threatens village cohesion); it gives an iron hand to apparachiks of the big corrupt political parties over regional government; it allows taxation without representation.