The 1st of May is the celebration of the workforce in most countries, including Mauritius. Despite what it stands for, in Mauritius it’s a misnomer for the event that actually takes place. Politicians gather their most vociferous adherents in a public square and roast their opponents in the cheapest kind of way, thereby ignoring what the holiday stands for and appropriating it to further their own political agendas.
Instead of meaningful policies to better the lives of workers on the island and to aid in the development of the country, we’re served the most ludicrous, stupid jokes on a silver platter. This is what our politicians propose-to serve us the bread and circus that will make us forget the hard reality of what it is to be a worker in Mauritius.
While the country’s economy is on an upward path, the lifeblood of the economy-the workers-have increasingly become marginalized. Recently, Palmar Ltd, a factory in the textile industry, ceased operations and 1300 workers became unemployed overnight. While the state has expended Rs 45 million as a severance package to give financial help to those who’d lost their jobs after Palmar Ltd closed, it hasn’t addressed a very difficult truth. Textile operations are no longer profitable in Mauritius as we’re losing the clout we once held in European markets. As more producers are shifting operations to countries where cheap labour is readily available, the demise of the Textile industry in Mauritius is imminent.
Not only is the Textile industry going the way of the dodo, it’s dragging many other industries on its trail. Tourist arrivals in Mauritius have dwindled in 2019, as opposed to previous years when statistics hit an all-time high. The only industries that offer immediate employment are offshore companies that send their profits back to the mother country. We’ve made sure to reform the education system by asking students to earn 5 credits to have access to their higher education certificate, but to what end? So they can work in a company that schleps its profits back to the mother country?
Mauritians are massive consumers and poor producers. We rely on imports more than exports and we’ve stopped producing some of the most rudimentary commodities, such as salt and sugar. Take a walk down the aisle in a supermarket and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We used to make our own salt, but now we import our salt from China and India. We used to boast about how fruitful sugarcane production had been, but now we import our sugar from Brazil. Surely, all of this is more important than politicians hurling jibes at each other in a public square.
What the public needs to know is how we’re going to face the inevitable demise of the textile industry, not how funny politicians can be. It’s Labour day, not Roast-Your-Opponent day.