153 Main Road, Grand River North West
Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius.
13th August, 2003
Member of the National Assembly,
We write to you in concern that the National Assembly is not being kept informed about the Ministry of International Trade’s putting up for auction the provision of the country’s social services. We hope that you, as an elected person, will prevent the Government continuing its rather worrying tendency to sign up to neo-liberal treaties and then to beg for little exemptions here and there because of being a “small island state”.
The World Trade Organization has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception in 1994. Not even elected representatives of the people have debated the important implications of the WTO. In particular, since the Doha meeting, we believe that you, as Parliamentarians, ought to be concerned about any possible secret “offers” that are being prepared or that have even been made through the Ministry of International Trade. Soon this Ministry will be inviting multi-national corporations to take-over part of the social services of the people of the country.
Do you realize that you will have been an elected member of the National Assembly at a time when education services, water, electricity, health-care services, pensions may be amongst those being secretly offered “for sale” by the Government behind the backs of the people? Have you taken your responsibility seriously enough as an elected representative of the interests of the people?
In LALIT we have written to Minister Cuttaree to express our concern. We have called on him to make a complete public declaration of all the “offers” and “demands” already made or being prepared for the Cancun meeting of the WTO in Mexico next month.
We are sure you will not like to go down in history as a Parliamentarian who did nothing to prevent the “signing away” of 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 inaction.
We remind you that the MSM-MMM had no mention in its Electoral Manifesto about privatizing social rights nor about selling social services to the private sector.
We also remind you that pressure from the people of the country was so strong against privatization during the electoral campaign of 2000 that Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, on the night of the proclamation of election results, promised that water would NOT be sold off.
Have you, as an elected MP, informed people in your constituency that once “offers” are made through the WTO for foreign private sector companies to come and “buy up” the provision of social services (education, water, health, pensions, etc) under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (so-called GATS), that this is “irreversible”?
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 demands change, so a future Minister 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, then another social service (of the choice of the multinational company’s country) has to be opened up for the international private sector to take over.
We are particularly concerned by the implication of the article in L’Express of 6th August, 2003 about Government arranging for the Bond University of Australia to come and “invest” in the higher education business in Mauritius. This encouragement is despite the havoc wreaked in South Africa by an Australian University demanding the same subsidies as government gives South African Universities, and pleading the WTO “National Treatment” clauses. This kind of process will very soon be a “virus” that leads to fee-paying in secondary education as well as in tertiary. Already a private “university” in Mauritius has started to dispense secondary education.
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 person would conclude that the State should be able to offer more and better universal social services. Minister Cuttaree should not be putting social service provision up for sale to the private sector.
Lindsey Collen, for LALIT.
[Copy to President, Minister Cuttaree, Press]