Forbes magazine and Nishan Degnarain came to our notice a year ago.
No sooner had the gigantic Japanese vessel the Wakashio hit the coral reef near Mahebourg than the narrative about the dramatic event was formed and spread like wild-fire by two different sources that then held sway as if in unison.
From inside the country, there was the much pumped-up coming out-of-nowhere maritime security company boss, trained by Israeli ex-IDF special forces’ men, Bruneau Laurette. He had been an MSM agent in 2014 and 2019 elections and, in exchange, did not get any contract from the Government politicians he had worked for to police the seas, nor did he even nail a nomination to head the Coast Guard. Anyway, he came up with various self-propelling stories, each more alarming than the previous: the shipwreck was an “act of war”, no less, an act of war that the Mauritian Government allowed to happen; that the Mauritian Government was essentially to blame for the shipwreck because of its negligence at every turn – this line was an alarming one because it seemed to imply that the Japanese Company and Authorities would not need to pay damages; he also had little arrows flying over screens in public meetings and on mobile phone showing which ships were where they should not have been and how suspicious it was; he even tried the line that the shipwreck was a botched Government job, importing illicit drugs – this line was silly considering every other fisherman knows that GPS technology means you can do a drop-off out at sea now and don’t need to go ramming a ship into the coral reef; and now more recently he has touted the line that the wreck was on purpose as part of an insurance scam by the Japanese vessel. Nerportekwa. No wonder he is now leading the anti-vax movement.
From outside the country
At the same time as his stories were whirling around inside the country, from outside the country the narrative was crafted essentially by Forbes magazine, a flashy United States publication not so well-known in Mauritius. It had rather more learned stories. They were submitted by a Mauritian contributor Nishan Degnarain. They flew around at the rate of knots on social media, intertwining with the Bruneau Laurette ones. The two narratives influenced each other, as if in counter-point.
So, now that everyone is again thinking about the wreck during the Court of Investigation hearings right now, let’s ask ourselves exactly what Forbes is, and who Nishan Degnarain is? This way, we can understand the past, and prepare to understand the future when Forbes or Degnarain again write about Mauritius.
Forbes is an old American business magazine, which sees itself as a publication for the capitalist class, itself, particularly for the biggest of the big amongst capitalists. It is famous, for example, for publishing a list of “the richest people in the world”, “the world’s billionaires”, “the richest celebrities” and so on, thus forever elevating richness to godliness, forever trying to make being rich seem like being god.
The media Company was set up by the rich Forbes family over 100 years ago, and is still edited today by a Forbes family member, former Republican candidate for President in 1996 and 2000, Steve Forbes. So, there you get a clear political indicator.
In 2014 the company was bought out by a Hong Kong company, but has remained a private company. Forbes also has editions that are produced under license (like Kentucky and McDonalds do with their franchises) all over the world – literally, in some 27 different countries. So, it is a kind of multi-national that cements together the warring top dogs of the world’s capitalist class into a firmly right-wing ideology, as right-wing as the mainstream US Republican Party.
Steve Forbes and his magazine’s writers offer investment advice, for example, on the weekly Fox News TV show “Forbes on Fox” and over “Forbes on Radio”. Fox News is, in fact, extreme-right rather than just right-wing. So, we can get an idea from that relationship, too.
And then, we can more carefully judge articles about Mauritius in Forbes, bearing all that in mind. And not forgetting that the USA has a serious “nay” or grudge against Mauritius because of the successful African union ICJ case on Chagos, because of the 116-6 vote in favour of Mauritius and against the UK-USA in a UN General Assembly Resolution, and because of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea case that Mauritius won in January 2021 on Chagos.
Many articles on Mauritius are written by a Forbes contributor called Nishan Degnarain.
So who is he? He was, according to his own profile on the Davos World Economic Forum page and in another few dozen places on the web, “with the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit”. The Strategy Unit was a key institution of the executive in Britain at that time. That was under notorious war-monger Tony Blair. That was when there was rendering and torture going on on Diego Garcia. That was when the rendering and torture was still being vehemently denied by Blair in the UK Parliament. He was “with” Tony Blair.
We can be sure that his articles have so far fitted that last description of him as being “with” the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. No sooner was he no longer “with” the British Prime Minister Tony Blair than he was nominated to be “with” someone else.
He was, in fact, named Senior Economic Advisor by Mauritius’ Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Xavier Duval, the leader of the Parti Mauricien Social Democrat, now in opposition.
And, now, Degnarain is a world-wide bosses’ “our man on investment in the oceans”. Yes, that is his status.
First he was a chosen by the world’s bosses at the World Economic Forum in Davos as a “Young Global Leader”, before setting up a series of bosses-led “solutions” to the ruination of the oceans, and becoming Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s own “Global Agenda Council” – on the opportunities to make money out of the climate crisis, especially as it effects the Oceans.
So, if you did not know, now you know.
On YouTube, you can see him pontificating in front of a banner reading: “Climate Finance: The Next Billion Dollar Fintech Opportunity”. Talk about a slogan about “making a quick buck” out of the wretchedness capitalism has created while it was bingeing on past “billion dollar opportunities”.
Talk about the low moral ground.
Anyway, after being advisor to Tony Blair, he was nominated, again by Finance Minister Xavier Duval, in 2012 to the Bank of Mauritius’ sensitive “Monitory Policy Committee”. As african.intelligence.com put it in 2012, “The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Xavier-Luc Duval is continuing to place his supporters throughout the government machine.”
In Hansard we can read a still-heated discussion on this nomination as long afterwards as 2019 between present Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and, by then, but now no longer, Opposition Leader Xavier Duval. They had the following spat:
Jugnauth: “Well, even the Monetary Policy Committee was not spared - you should remember. As Minister of Finance, he appointed his personal adviser [Degnarain] to sit on that ...”
Duval interrupts: “Madam Speaker, that is not accurate. There was no adviser appointed there. It would have been illegal. The hon. Prime Minister should check. ....”
Jugnauth replies: “Madam Speaker, I am informed that one Nishan Degnarain was appointed by the hon. Minister of Finance. ... But what is this, Madam Speaker? When you appoint your adviser on the Monetary Policy Committee ...?”
In fact, Nishan Degnarain was, as I say, Senior Economic Adviser to Xavier Duval, and Duval did appoint him on the Monitory Policy Committee. Degnarain was busy accompanying Duval, in that role as Adviser, to the annual World Bank Annual Meeting of Governors in 2013. L’Express, 14 March 2012 which announced Duval appointing him to the Monetary Policy Committee, and he was still on it in 2014.
So, while Bruneau Laurette’s analyses have been largely discredited on all fronts, it is also important to be able to evaluate “sources” outside of Mauritius. Who are they? What are their interests?
So, all this to say that, when we read what Nishan Degnarain has to say about Mauritius in the articles he submits to Forbes as one of their “contributors”, we must remember not just what Forbes is – in relation to the American bourgeoisie and American Republican Party politics, but also who he is – in relation to Duval and to Davos and to Tony Blair.