Now let me turn to our economic prospects and our high aspirations.
We are living in troubled and testing times. Several questions arise. Will we be agile enough to meet the severe tests ahead? What kind of growth should we seek? Should it not be more inclusive? And more equitable? We are trying hard to move into niche markets but is this enough? What else must we do to escape the middle-income trap, to be amongst the best small economies, not just in Africa, but in the wider world where our main competitors are to be found?
We have seen the likes of Malta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland and others raising the bar to achieve GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, more than twice the levels we have achieved despite our continued economic growth. Can we make the breakthrough? Are we prepared to do what it takes to do so?
I believe it is absolutely vital for the future of Mauritius that not only government but business as well give greater weight to innovation, quality, inclusiveness and equity. We could perhaps borrow a leaf from the book of Bhutan. How does Bhutan come in the picture, some of you may well ask? This small Himalayan Kingdom leads the world in the index of Gross National Happiness.
And, while we are about it, we must also introduce a fresh dimension in our assessment of progress: the protection of our environmental capital must be included in the equation for measuring development, and not zero-valued as in the past. This is essential to ensure that any fresh spurt of economic growth is channeled into a sustainable path and does not end in further land and human degradation.
Otherwise, we shall hand over to our children a country whose famed natural beauty has been sadly overwhelmed by infrastructure and blighted by urbanisation. Do we hear the silent cries of those lovely ―flamboyant trees — planted by our forefathers, now coming into full flaming bloom, and adding to the season’s festive cheer — as they are brought down by chain-saws to make way for road-widening schemes? Or do we really wish to become like Malta, developed most certainly, but to our mind, featureless, waterless, soulless and nothing but concrete from shore to shore?
We shall never tire of saying that our people is our greatest asset. We must nurture an entrepreneurial culture. We have not fully capitalized on skills enhancement in our human resource. And we have failed to encourage R&D to turn it into a platform for creativity and innovation. We largely bring home what is fashion overseas. In sum, we are missing some of the critical ingredients of the recipe to add greater value and to move to the next stage of development. We certainly have the doers. But do we have the forward thinkers, the visionaries, the dreamers? We are in danger of falling in a pedestrian rut. We have just not dreamt big enough.
It is a scene reminiscent of Einstein’s definition of insanity, which he saw as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
I am afraid that if we stick to the beaten path, we would soon be writing our global epitaph:
Mauritius – The Home of the Dodo
Three major ideas spring to mind here: the regional service hub, innovation and excellence. The service centre or hub notion has been bandied around for years: indeed we have so many hubs thrown at us that I am beginning to lose count of the number of wheels on the wagon. The other two are vital ingredients which we largely lack: innovation and excellence. But what is really missing is an overarching vision of where we want to go and how we are to get there. Now the vision does not have to come from Government: there is a great opportunity for the private sector and the NGOs to pick up where we left off with Vision 2020 some fifteen years ago.
[Full text source: Bank of Mauritius]
A video of the speech is available from the BBC (the Bank’s Broadcasting Corporation:) Inspiring
Along with a video of the Governor of the Bank of Nigeria (who also doubles as the national washing machine;) Awesome