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Letter to Minister Cuttaree about WTO secrecy


LALIT this afternoon delivered a letter to Mr. Jayne Cuttaree, Minister of International Trade to request him to make public recent negotiations his Ministry has been involved in at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. In particular, as you will note, we have criticized the cloak of secrecy around what trade negotiators are (or have already) “offered” up as being “for sale”. We are concerned about social rights (water, electricity, education, health services) being “offered” to Trans-National Corporations, for them to make profit out of.

Here is the copy of our letter to the Minister.

“Dear Sir,

We write to you in concern about the secrecy surrounding your trade officers’ negotiations in the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

In particular, since the Doha meeting, we are most concerned about any possible secret “offers” that are being made through your Ministry, inviting multi-national corporations to take-over part of the social services of the people of the country. We fear that education services, water, electricity, health-care services, pensions are amongst those being secretly offered “for sale” by your Ministry behind the backs of the people.

Please would you make a public statement in order to dissipate these fears. We call for a complete public declaration of all the “offers” already made or being prepared for the Cancun meeting of the WTO in Mexico next month.

Do you want to be the Minister who signs away the long fought-for social rights that have been acquired slowly since slavery, through indenture, in the struggle for workers’ rights particularly in 1937 and 1943, and for Independence, and in the Post-Independence years? History will not easily forgive such an action.

We remind you that the MSM-MMM had no mention in its electoral Manifesto about privatizing social rights nor about selling them off to the international private sector.

We also remind you that pressure from the people was so strong against privatization during the electoral campaign of 2000 that the Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, on the night of the proclamation of election results, went so far as to promise that water would, in fact, NOT be sold off.

We know that you have criticized the WTO recently (rather late and rather little). However, we feel that you have not informed the people of Mauritius nor even your own electors of the fact that once “offers” are made through the WTO for foreign private sector companies to come and “buy” social services (education, water, health, pensions, etc) under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (so-called GATS), that there is a strong element of “irreversibility” in the offer. One would literally need a revolution to reverse it.

Once a service, say education, (or even part of a service, say “higher education”) has been offered up for negotiations with multinational corporations, then if a democratic mandate from the people of Mauritius later says “No! Education is a right, not a mere commodity”, then the Mauritian state will nevertheless owe “compensation” to international businessmen, because of the reckless offer made by some previous Minister. And if the State does not want to pay the “compensation” in money, the price in blood is even higher: another social service (health-care or water, maybe) has to be offered up to the international private sector as compensation.

We are particularly concerned by the implication of the article in L’Express of 6th Augusrt, 2003 about Government priming everything so that the Bond University of Australia can come and “invest” in the higher education business in Mauritius. This despite the havoc wreaked in South Africa by an Australian University, coming and demanding the same subsidies as government gives South African Universities, and pleading the WTO “National Treatment” clauses.

We remind you that Mauritius has since 1976 been a signatory to the UN Convention on Social and Economic Rights, which means the State has a duty to protect as fundamental human rights, citizens’ right to water, to education, to health care, to pensions, to all social amenities. And these rights are supposed to involve the continual ongoing commitment of the State, and an increasing commitment. Since that time, there has been massive increase in the productivity of labour, world-wide, as well as in Mauritius. Any thinking being would conclude that the State should be able to offer more and better universal social services.

We have asked you to come forward and make a public statement on any offers you have made in the name of the Mauritian State, through your trade negotiators. We also request a formal meeting with you, in order for you to explain in detail how you intend to protect the Mauritian people against the horrors of totally undemocratic privatisation of social services.

Yours sincerely,

Lindsey Collen
Copy to Press”.