The Mauritian Miracle – then and now

Dear Professor Stiglitz

Sorry for taking so long to respond to your op-ed on Mauritius. Like many of your academic predecessors, the brevity of your visit earlier this year prevented you looking into the details of the state and history of Mauritius. Please permit me to fill some in.

Although free, universal education was introduced in 1976 in response to student protests, decent education is no longer free in Mauritius. Those who “have” send their children to private schools and those who “have less” pay for private tuition after school and at weekends. The children of those who “have nothing” are severely disadvantaged. Moreover, state tertiary education is largely failing to prepare students for work in call centres so forget about advanced technology.

The same is true of “universal” free, healthcare: those who “have” go to private hospitals, those who “have less” attend private surgeries and purchase medicines from pharmacies, avoiding, like the plague, the state run hospitals and their dubiously sourced pills for those who “have nothing”. For those who need expensive treatment overseas, there is a national lottery. Continue reading

Bagatelle – a thing of little importance

But not according to Prime Minister Ramgoolam. To him, the new commercial centre represents another reason for holiday-makers to visit our shores: shopping tourism. We do not share his optimism.

So who will come shopping here? Wealthy Europeans? Why should they when they can have a much greater choice and better prices at Dubai airport, transit hub for Emirates? Travellers not only enjoy one of the world’s top ten airlines (far surpassing Air Mauritius which doesn’t even provide first class seats), they also benefit from being picked up closer to home from regional airports. What about the nouveau riche from South East Asia? Well, they are spoilt for choice with 2 duty free shopping islands in Malaysia (not to mention its world class shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur) and the superb Singapore airport right on their doorstep.

So, globally speaking, Bagatelle is a thing of little importance. Except for Mauritians, to whom it represents another step closer to European living standards. As long as you have a car. However, the MID working groups, criticised the development of out-of-town shopping centres as contradictory to the principles of sustainability for the following reasons: Continue reading