I was looking through my papers this week and I found an article from March 2011 which made me immensely proud. Some of you may remember that the UK’s Guardian newspaper published an article called: ‘The Mauritius Miracle – How to make a big success of a small economy’. The author referred to our island as “a small country that provides free education through to University; for all of its citizens”. He then went on to praise a variety of things and concluded by describing how Mauritius successfully built a “diverse economy, a democratic political system and a strong safety net”.
Decades before, in 1968, the first live transmission from space was made from Apollo 7, Frederick West had the first ever heart transplant done on him in London. Douglas Englebart, a computer scientist, demonstrated the first computer mouse and somewhere in the Indian Ocean, a small country called Mauritius took its first steps into a brave new world.
We all know our history. Even though we became independent after many years of discussions with British authorities, the country was still linked to Britain, retaining the Queen as Head of State and it was not until 1992 that Mauritius became a Republic. Progressive sovereignty, as the world knows it, was a chance for the country and for the nation to adjust as an independent entity. Hindsight has told us that unfortunately, this was not the case with many other African countries which leapt straight in as independent nations. Where the new leaders were not sufficiently well prepared and independence led to dictatorships.
Those first ten years saw Mauritius start to own up to its rights, the first socialist movement emerged and started advocated liberalism. The Export Processing Zone was created. The textiles sector started to develop and between 1971 and 1977, 64,000 jobs are created. The country progressed from the sugar-based monoculture of 50 years ago to a diversified economy that includes tourism, finance, textiles, and, if current plans bear fruit, advanced technology. In the years that followed, the offshore business sector and services like the Freeport and Stock Exchange were set up.
The Guardian journalist talked about how Mauritius has made tremendous achievements and evolved socially and culturally in the past 45 years. This is a great international statement and we should be proud of our reputation. Let us recognise and be thankful to all the hard working Mauritian men and women who have strived hard to make us who we are today. The young Mauritian woman left the kitchen to dive into the making of the country. We, as Mauritian women, cherish our independence yet have not forgotten the essence of the family.
As we approach the New Year, let us not rest on our laurels, let us continue to strive to be a leading African nation and be a shining example of excellence in business and education.
However, as well as pride in our nation and “Mauricianisme”, we need to look at the things where our leaders, societies and communities fall short. We have increasing crime and deviance around the island. Domestic violence is more prominent and murders are more frequent.
It is rather obvious that there is social unrest on the island and perhaps one of the main reasons is the rising income disparity within various sectors of our economy. In December 2013, a 10 year old girl murdered a 51 year old man. The latter was allegedly supporting the family of the young girl. There are many such families. There are still pockets of extreme poverty on the island which consist of people with little or no education and lacking basic skills. These are not the headlines of a strong and civilised society.
I pray that 2014 is the year that we take back control of our island in order to tackle the issues of insecurity. The government needs to think about a concrete and long term strategy to eradicate absolute poverty. The educational system should be consolidated in order to provide basic life and work skills to the 8% unemployed. There should be more attractive incentives provided in order to entice them back into the labour market. The key to a more successful nation was, is and always will be education. Only then will crime and poverty be reduced around the island. But for now, we should learn from all the tragedies that 2013 brought with it and hope that 2014 is a better year.
Shabana Raman, lecturer, feminist, activist and Secretary General of political party Ralliement citoyen pour la patrie. Writes and speaks up against social injustice. Interested mainly in politics, academic and gender issues.