Santa’s sleigh of stolen gifts

8 juin 2023, 08:26


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There was an after-budget debate on one of the platforms the morning after Budget Day. Exactly 17 people were watching live. If you exclude friends and relatives of the two people engaged in going over the budget, we are left with almost zero viewers. That gives you an idea of the interest that Joe Public has in this hyped up exercise. Everyone by then had got to know what they were personally getting from the budget announcements and hardly anyone was interested in the implications of the measures announced on the country and its economy. 

Just to give you an idea, when former Mauritius Telecom CEO resigned and went on the various private radios to denounce why he did so, live views exceeded 100,000. That immediately went down when they realised there were no juicy revelations around the swimming pool and the kitchen and that the only thing Sherry Singh was interested in revealing was what came to be known as the “Sniffing Gate”, which involved alleged high treason. In other words, once the expectation of voyeurism was not met, the interest vanished. The same voyeurism drove up the interest in the raid of his house. 

This sad reality actually means that you can hand over the country to the enemy if you wanted, you can loot as much as you like and employ your relatives and cronies all over the place; you can hijack state institutions; you can make a mockery of elections; you can encourage or close your eyes to drugs and kill families…, as long as you serve the populace crude propaganda and some crumbs to feast on with some juicy entertainment to keep them busy. Let economic observers say what they want if they derive satisfaction from that. Let the opposition bark as much as they can. Let the press talk about the state of our democracy, the erosion of our institutions, the drug scourge, the near bankruptcy of our public purse, the resulting inflation, the blatant nepotism, the brain drain…That is of little interest to the masses. Go on social media and you will realise the dismal percentage of people involved in public debate and the scourges dogging this country. Most are posting photos of their dinner and their wardrobe. 

So congratulations Minister Padayachy for this budget. Brilliant! Carry on squandering public funds and spending hundreds of millions in foreign travel (more than half a billion – billion – since 2018 alone) and throw a little at the masses to keep them busy counting the few pennies coming their way. Insult the intelligence of the youth by giving jobs to your cronies and throwing a Rs20,000 birthday gift at them to use as they wish, including enriching the drug dealers even more. They don’t feel insulted at all; on the contrary, they are grateful. Give the others Rs1,000 and let them busy themselves working out what to do with it. Give the pensioners more money. They don’t know that you will make them pay for it tenfold through inflation and the consequent erosion of their purchasing power. They will remember you as Santa but they won’t know that the sleigh is full of gifts stolen from them and wrapped up in packaging that conceals their source. Let me also reassure you that a great number of people do not give a toss about equality, fairness, competence, meritocracy, ethics, integrity, autocracy, brain drain, inflation, money illusion, public debt…As for productivity, shhhhhht! 

Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” It is true that we haven’t found anything better yet. Until we do and until public opinion wakes up, let the illusions and the abuse will proceed unfettered. What a sad day!