Hardly its publication along with the Budget 2017-2018, the Vision 2030 is presently being revised in view of accommodating new development initiatives which were not envisaged at the time of its conception. It is true that long-term perspective planning is fraught with a lot of uncertainties, but nonetheless warrants in-depth critical thinking and analysis. As such, the task is not an easy one and cannot be accomplished within a short span of time. The formulation of such a vision demands a highly professional approach with the support of a full-fledged dedicated team.
Critics consider it a big political blunder to have dismantled the former Ministry of Economic Planning & Development (MEPD) and merged it with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to implement the Programme-based Budgeting (PBB) as it has not produced the desired outcome, taking on board that each entity has its own area of specialization. Through its course of time, MEPD has garnered the necessary institutional capacity in charting the way forward, relying heavily on its sector specialists, whereas MOF, with its focus on budget preparation and enforcement of fiscal discipline, falls short of the appropriate planning capability. It should be highlighted that the Strategic Policy Unit which was set up under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office to come up with a new economic vision also failed to deliver due to lack of strong leadership at the head.
Much concern is now being expressed relating to poor planning, bad decisions and realistic vision.
The absence of cross-sectoral diagnosis is felt at all levels. Poor consultation and too much political intervention are major hurdles. Had MEPD still been there and allowed to operate autonomously, as in the time of Mr R. Bheenick, a number of bottlenecks could have been sorted out. It is true that there has never been any economic miracle (this was purely a political slogan), but rather a set of favourable conditions that ignited the economic boom.
The main thrust of Vision 2030 is to enable the country to move away from the middle income trap and to graduate into a high income economy, generating an annual real growth rate of around 6 per cent. At present, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is around Rs 460 billion and growth rate has stagnated at slightly less than 4 per cent, but is expected to rise significantly with the implementation of sizable projects, spearheaded by the construction sector. But it is unlikely that we will attain an annual real growth rate of 6 per cent. Another area of serious concern is the low rate of private investment forecasted at some 6 per cent of GDP. Another worrying feature is that social dimension of development has suffered a bit of neglect in the overall macro-economic development framework.
In the past, it was about making Mauritius a trillion-GDP economy by 2020 and transforming it into a duty-free island but none has materialized on account of total lack of Mauritian specificities and realities. This was again an empty political slogan and routine “effets d’annonces budgétaires”.
The methodology to revise Vision 2030 needs an overall revamping. On basis of Vision 2020, the following approach needs to be envisaged:
- the elaboration of Vision 2030 should transcend political barriers and be reflective of national initiative, involving the participation of all relevant social partners/stakeholders/actors through intensive consultation and interaction;
- the need to set up Thematic Committees chaired by persons including retired public officers fully conversant with the concerned sector and issues. The thematic committees should be multidisciplinary and comprise sector specialists;
- Line ministries have to be reinforced with appropriate capacity building;
- putting the right person in the right place;
- the thematic committee should be free from political interference in the decision-making process;
- seeking external technical assistance in specific areas where local expertise is lacking;
- organisation of a national seminar to validate the draft report prior to submission to cabinet;
- setting up of a High-Powered Committee for follow-up actions to ensure that progress is on track and propose remedial and corrective measures when required;
- proposals should not be in terms of purely motherhood statements and descriptive but rather critical in nature, result-oriented and supported with key performance indicators;
- publication of economic review on a regular basis to assess progress of objectives aimed at.
Actually, the planning process looks fragmented and dispersed and lacks coordination resulting in total chaos. Even, there are strong reservations as regards the mandate of the Economic Development Board (EDB). Will it be up to expectations and bridge the gap? History will tell us.
Former Economist and Analyst