WHY ?

Every new government talks about improving infrastructure as soon as they are sworn in. The previous government built a new airport at a whopping cost of Rs11 billion. That was in 2013. The old terminal was not big enough, so Navin Ramgoolam decided to build a new one to welcome 4.5 million passengers yearly.  Count another Rs 2.2 billion for the Terre-Rouge Verdun Motorway. That doesn’t include the many millions and counting spent afterwards for repairs.

The new government, not to be outdone, has decided to turn the island into a vast construction yard.  So, what are they building?

  • New access road from the M1 Motorway via Plaine Magnien to the airport in Plaisance. It is only 4.5 km long. Cost: Rs 602 million

 

  • Métro léger.  Cost: Rs 8.8 billion

 

  • Bridge from Belle-Etoile to Chebel. Cost: Rs 4.1 billion

That is not all. Check this out from this year’s budget. 

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The Budget makes provision of some Rs 4.9 billion to be spent on expanding the transport           network through various projects. These include:

  •  

Construction of both the Jumbo-Phoenix round-about and the A1M1 Bridge

  •  

A new road to connect La Vigie and La Brasserie and a direct link between the south and west through Beaux Songes

  •  

A second fly-over to connect directly the M1 to the Terre Rouge Verdun motorway

A series of measures have also been announced to address the infrastructural issues at               regional, local and national level. The National Development Unit will carry out various projects namely construction of drains and upgrading and reconstruction of bridges.

Provision is also being made for an exceptional capital grant of Rs 500 million to local authorities so that all councils can address long outstanding minor infrastructural works in their localities.

A further budget of Rs 3.3 billion would be used to partly finance all the major and medium projects comprising the following:

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Three new traffic centres at Piton, Ébène and Pointe aux Sables  

  •  

Rehabilitation of the Ste Marie bridge at Savanne, the Joli Bois Bridge at Mare Tabac, the 38 Choisy Bridge at Poste Lafayette and the upgrading of Radier St Martin at Bel Ombre as well as the construction of bridges at Richelieu and Cité La Cure  

  •  

Upgrading of 10 Community Health Centres and development of a New Health Care Centre at Coromandel

  •  

Three administrative headquarters for the Councils of Flacq, Pamplemousses and Savanne

  •  

Multi-purpose complexes at Plaine Verte and Rivière du Rempart, multi-sports complexes at Port Louis and Triolet, swimming pool at Curepipe and new leisure park at Quartier Militaire  

  •  

Renovation works in eight police stations around the country

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Meanwhile, public debt keeps piling up. This is how much you and I owe.  The cost of metro leger is not included.

 

 

Public Debt per Capita (Rs)

2006

2015

2016

   97,405.00

   198,695.00

   206,955.00

 

 

While all these improvements in infrastructure are happening, there have not been any major changes to two main public areas: education and healthcare.

Education is pretty much the same as the one inherited from the Brits as shown in my novel Gr.e.en. There have been some cosmetic changes but no major reform. We still see up to forty children in a classroom with one teacher. Private tuition continues to rob children of their childhood. The rate of failure is about 35% across the board. Parents are opting for paid private schools over free public schools. And they are not cheap.

Is public healthcare any better? The rate of young people dying is troubling. There is a lack of working medical equipment for better diagnosis. First-generation medication is still being prescribed. Diabetes and high-blood pressure are on the rise and there’s no significant investment in public education to counter their threat to the lives of Mauritians.  Consequently, private healthcare facilities are booming, often running at full capacity. And they are not cheap; people still flock to them in droves.   

That you and I and many others would pay for healthcare and private education for our children says a lot about the quality of these two public services. One would therefore find it logical to conclude that immediate investment to improve healthcare and education would be as much a priority as infrastructure development. Alas, it ain’t so; the logic is found elsewhere, perhaps in the answer to the question that follows.

Why successive governments are so gung-ho on big construction projects?  Yes, why?

Saoud Baccus

 

About the author

The writer of this blog is the author of Gr.e.en, The Life Story of Sid Oman and Amir Le Téméraire. He is currently finishing Thirty Days.

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