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Mauritius Media at a Glance: 15 July 2007


L"EXPRESS and the rising cost of living

In his frequent ideological attacks against Minister Jeetah, on the issue of price control, the Editor-in-Chief of the L'Express daily newspaper has repeated ad nauseam that people have to be prepared to pay the real cost of commodities. But faced with the avalanche of price increases, specially of basic commodities like milk, cooking oil, chemical fertiliser, and petrol, our Editor-in-Chief has suddenly been shaken out of his usual "feel good factor". In fact he is feeling so bad that he has managed to produce an Editorial in the Thursday 12 July edition, entitled "La pression inflationniste" in which he advocates measures that are likely to bring prices down. But like the good ultraliberal ideologue that he is, his only proposition is to look for cheaper alternatives for imported commodities (perhaps he has in mind things like Amul milk powder!). But then most people will remember his virulent campaign around the Amul episode.

But the same inflationnist pressure has thrown up amazing contradictions in the Sunday 15 July edition of L'Express. The Director of Publication writes an Editorial in which she says that the only solution to galloping inflation is: "Il n'y a pas mille mesures. Face a la hausse des prix, le gouvernment doit accelerer ses actions de reforme." She does not seem to realise that the main Sithanen "reform" that has produced "results" in terms of economic figures is precisely what has brought about the massive increases in imported commodity prices.
The 'reprise" and "feel good factor" titles that often feature on the front pages of the L'Express paper has been achieved through the impoverishment of the masses of the people, and massive profit increases for all industries that have foreign exchange revenue, through a deliberate government policy of rapid depreciation of the rupee (24 percent over the past year). But then perhaps the Director of Publication did not, before she wrote her own little piece, have the time to read a good dossier written by two of her jounalists in the same Sunday 15 July. The dossier "Ce que cachent les prix" is very clear about the main source of the inflation we are suffering: "Pire, pour doper artificiellement la competitivite des exportations, la Banque de Maurice, avec la benediction du gouvernment, a poursuivi une politique de roupie faible. Signifiant certes des recettes d'exportations en amelioration, mais aussi et surtout une facture d'importation qui explose pour le pays." Perhaps the one inaccurate aspect of the previous quote is that deliberate depreciation of the rupee does not cause a "facture d'importation qui explose pour le pays', but rather prices that plummet for the consumer, and VAT and import duty revenue that increase for Sithanen.

We are convinced that the price increases which will soon start causing unbearable hardships to the population are the direct result of the ultraliberal measures taken by government, in its mistaken "reform strategy" to deal with the systemic crisis that affects all aspects of society today. Until the editorial writers of the L'Express newspaper face up to that fact, instead of wallowing in their purely ideological discourses, that newspaper will continue to throw up the kind of contradictions that we have pointed out above.