Feedback: Daft MID Strategy

Overview

MID was launched in 2008 in Paris and 2009 in Mauritius, promising to fundamentally change Mauritian society and its impact on Nature in four major spheres: economic, social, political and environmental. A visioning exercise was conducted in 2010 to capture the population’s dreams for the future of the Republic. However, the output has been ignored and this has been rightly criticised by the Truth and Justice Commission. Instead of a co-created, inspiring blue-print for the future, the MID Vision is a bland statement of a few generic elements of sustainable development within a framework that is far from comprehensive. There is little in the MID Vision that permits one to visualise the future and indeed there is nothing in it that is specific to Mauritius – it could just as easily apply to France.

The Working Groups were unnecessarily constrained by the same framework as the MID Vision, and as a result critical areas of sustainability were not given the priority they merit, including: land-use planning, food security, water security and political reform; neither were the long term prospects for the major pillars of our economy properly analysed, in particular: sugar, textiles, tourism, financial services and fishing. Nor was any consideration given to new sectors that could be developed.

It was interesting to note that in the first workshop, the MID consultants seemed to propose a new framework based on 12 (now 13) Priority Areas. Mention was also made of the seemingly taboo subject of demographics: natural growth, (wealthy, white) immigration, the “brain drain” and the consequences of an increasing number of retirees. However, the Draft Strategy has been structured on the 5E’s framework, albeit with the addition of a few cross-cutting issues. Is this the best approach?

At a more fundamental level, what is the purpose of the MID Strategy? Is it to provide a roadmap to attain a future State that the population desires and that multiple factors compel us to achieve, not least of which are our responsibilities to future generations? Or is it a guide for government by which public sector policies are brought in line with the principles of sustainable development? If one compares it with the output of the National Long Term Perspective Study, it is far from the former. However, if it is the latter, how can sustainability be achieved without congruent strategies for both the private sector and civil society?

While I consider the MID process to be fatally flawed, and hence should be restarted from scratch, much of the underlying work is relevant for a comprehensive National Strategy for a genuinely Sustainable Mauritius. Since I was a member of the Energy Working Group I will limit my detailed comments to the topics covered by this group along with the cross-cutting issues.

Energy

The Daft MID Strategy for Energy is not a strategy at all, but rather an intention to develop a strategy. This is disappointing because the country already has an energy strategy of sorts and the Working Group made a gallant attempt to improve it. The vagueness of the MID Strategy is exemplified by the sparseness of concrete targets and the manifest lack of intelligence that conceived them. The two that have been proposed will be considered in turn:

  1. “To deliver a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced of X% by 2030.” This is a meaningless target since there is no definition of “unit of energy produced”; does this refer to electrical energy, heat energy or mechanical work? If it refers to electricity production then what about transport, a major energy consumer? How can a target possibly be defined, let alone achieved, given that no viable substitutes for fossil fuels have been proposed? If coal, as currently proposed, is to increase its domination as the main fuel for electricity, then, given the 30+ year lifetime of such power stations, won’t CO2 emissions inexorably rise for decades?
  2. “To achieve energy economy at all levels, including households, delivering a reduction of energy consumed per capita of X% by 2030.” This is another meaningless target as much depends on the evolution of economic sectors in Mauritius. For instance, if some proposed energy intensive industries are established here, notably petroleum refining and cement making, then per capita consumption will increase significantly. Conversely, if manufacturing industries are replaced by service ones then consumption will decline in spite of an expected increase in the use of domestic air conditioning. What economies must the tourist sector make if arrivals are to double from less than 1 million to the (fantasy) target of 2 million?

In fact, work has already been done to develop an energy strategy and indeed a roadmap for energy self-sufficiency, including domestic transport, is freely available on-line (drmu.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/renewable-energy). A summary has also been published in le Mauricien (lemauricien.com/article/freedom-fossils-fuelling-future).

Transport

Although it hardly seems possible, the daft strategy for transport is even more vague than the one for energy (electricity production?) There are neither concrete proposals nor targets. One wonders whether the Working Group’s report was consulted at all. Sustainable transport depends on finding substitutes for fossil fuels, lifestyle changes and appropriate land-use planning. The importance of the latter cannot be over-stated and hence its absence as a separate, let alone the pre-eminent element of the MID Strategy is unforgiveable. The National Development Strategy provided a clear blue-print for the physical development of Mauritius. The fact that it was ignored reveals that the real barriers to achieving sustainability are in the political domain.

Once again, up-to-date, comprehensive proposals to address our transport needs and solutions have been published in le Mauricien (lemauricien.com/article/escaping-gridlock-transport-today-and-tomorrow).

Governance

Openness, transparency and accountability are not words that one would naturally associate with the political process in Mauritius. While a reform of the politial dimension of society was promised at the inception of MID, the initiative (such as it is) has since been recaptured by the leaders of the two main political parties. The only input from civil society has been limited to a regurgitated PhD thesis of a regularly out-of-work bean counter and two constutional challenges questioning the legality of politcal parties themselves and the so-called “Best Loser System”. Without fundamental political and not simply electoral reform, past experience suggests that influential lobbies will always subvert any genunine attempt to achieve sustainaiblity.

In the absence of reform, the proposals of the consultants for structuring MID are purely academic, however, they will be addressed for their humour value:

  1. The MID Commission will fail to drive the Strategy because the political heavy weights have demonstrated no commitment to sustainability and one questions whether they actually understand it. Hence the Commission will either be impotent or incompetent and quite probably both.
  2. The Consultative Group, if elected, will be politically dominated because the voting public has no awareness of anything outside partisan politics and self-interest groups. The votes of those who do not blindly follow dictates of political agents and socio-cultural leaders can generally be bought by a beer and biriani at the beach. The few worthy citizens who exhibit genuine care for people and the environment, for example Jack Bizlall and Vasssen Kaupaymuthoo, are politically unacceptable.
  3. The Bi-Partisan Parliamentary Committee will be dysfunctional because politicians are incapable of addressing real issues. Most bipartisan interactions consist of personal insults or abdication of responsibility for failure by referring to predecessors who were worse.
  4. The National Audit Office, while doing a good job at highlighting the ineffectiveness and wastefulness of government is absolutely powerless to call people to account and instigate change.

Mauritius has plenty of world-class laws for protecting the environment. The problem is that political interference subverts the rule of law. Strategies promoting sustainability and laws enforcing it will never be followed. Mauritius is a democracy in name only. There is no equality in society – friends, family and freemasons are favoured to the detriment of ordinary citizens in the public sector, the private sector and even civil society organisations.

Suggestions for fundamental reform have been published in le Mauricien (lemauricien.com/article/reform-or-revolution-republic-20).

Research and Innovation

It is assumed that this was included as a joke. The Mauritian government has developed an education system that (purposely?) eliminates all creativity and critical thinking in students. Any exceptions are exiled as laureates. This ensures that the population never questions the suitability of the political “elite” to govern the country.

Climate change

This is another element that was crucially overlooked at the stage of the Working Groups. However, given its relatively long term nature, it was probably assumed that society would collapse because of other sustainability issues – food, energy and the economy – well before rising sea-levels sweep us away.

Conclusion

In comparison with the National Long Term Perspective Study (Vision 2020), MID is a disaster. If state-owned companies, for example Air Mauritius, can call upon the capabilities of world-class strategic consulting firms like Mckinsey & Co, spending undisclosed sums to obtain brilliant strategies (that were never implemented), then why can’t the goverment do likewise for its “apex stratgy”? If such a firm had been appointed at the start of the process then MID might have been a success. Instead we have a bunch of second rate consultants from a civil engineering firm, brought in at the tail end of a fatally flawed process, trying to make the best of a mixed bag outputs that have accumlated along the way.

When you pay peanuts, you can only expect to hire monkeys and when they are working with bananas, it’s probably time to split. As the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius stated at the Annual Dinner in Honour of Economic Operators in December 2011 in the context of the nation’s future:

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.

Let’s hope the private sector was listening.

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