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Thursday, November 30, 2023

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Budget 2022/2023 : Paul Bérenger Considers Efforts Insufficient

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The leader of the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) focused his speech on inflation. During the budget debates, although he acknowledged the efforts of the government to try to alleviate the population, he reiterated his dissatisfaction on these insufficient steps. Paul Bérenger also expanded on the theme of energy management.

Insufficient sums

“In this budget, efforts have been made but they are not enough. These efforts will soon be rendered obsolete due to further price hikes caused by a depreciation of our Mauritian rupee. In this sense, what has been given in the right hand will be taken back 5 or 10 times more from the left hand, and this is what we are already seeing”. The rupee, according to MMM’s calculations, “has lost 25 % of its value and 2 % in the last two months”, he announced.

He referred to the sum of Rs 1000 to employees which is “taken from the CSG fund”. He also referred to the pension of the over-60s “we have asked for Rs 2000 to restore the purchasing power as they had not received any increase in the last few years,” he said.

He however welcomed the step towards Disability Allowance for the disabled estimated at 40% incapacity “but it is still unfair and insufficient. The Rs 2500 is insufficient, I ask the government to look at a graduated system and take expert advice”. He proposed that the amount should be reduced to at least half of the full amount for the 39 % and below.

He also reiterated his call for a reduction in the tax on petroleum products. On the subject of the CEB and the Utility Regulatory Authority and the setting of tariffs which will be “dictated by the government”.

Camouflage by the GM

Paul Berenger felt that “the GM is covering up the reality of the country’s debt which is increasing year on year and will rise from $ 435 billion in 2022 to $ 450 billion in June 2023. For GDP Growth the IMF forecasts a growth of 6 % in 2022. For the budget deficit, according to our calculations, it will be more than 7 % considering the Special Funds. There is no longer a budget worthy of the name. There are in fact two budgets, the official budget which no longer means anything and the Special Funds which handle billions and billions of rupees. The Program Budgeting has been killed by the government” he denounced. He said that the Special Funds would spend Rs 23 billion for the benefit of the government but instead of the government for 2022/2023. The government has financed its spending by increasing the country’s debt, borrowing 30 billion from the African. Development Bank, the French Development Agency and the Japan International Corporation Agency. Then by depleting the billions that had been accumulated in reserves by the CEB, STC and MPA,” he said, outlining his concerns about the state of the country’s indebtedness, inflation and the continued depreciation of the rupee. He also described the Bank of Mauritius as a department of the Ministry of Finance and estimated a further downgrading by Moody’s which “will bring us to the level of Sri Lanka”.

Renewable Energy Mismanagement

The MMM leader also expressed his fears about energy management. He mentioned that coal provided 40% of our energy, bagasse is scarce and biomass is overdue. He recommended the government to get an “expert” in relation to their announced budgetary measures on 60% generation from renewable energy, i.e. by 2030 with a production of 435 megawatts, 200 megawatts by 2025, investment of Rs 20 billion from the private sectors over the next 3 years and a 20-megawatt Battery Storage System. But this will only stabilise the CEB grid as the share of renewable energy increases. Mauritius will have to revisit the whole issue of the less polluting Liquified Natural Gas plant. He also mentioned the creation of a Marine Protected Area, the status of the Mauritius-Seychelles Joint Commission, the upcoming expeditions, the Joint Extended Continental Shelf among others. “The government must respond to this exploit in the interest of Mauritius,” he said, hoping that this collaboration will not be jeopardized!

Municipal taxes, an injustice to traders

Paul Bérenger concluded by saying that he wished for the abolition of the municipal tax for businesses in the cities as it is already the case in rural areas where even the big shopping centres do not pay anything. The Minister has announced a compensation of Rs 300 million and this should be an opportunity to review all regional administrations. We demand that municipal elections be reinstated, public meetings and general elections as soon as possible, the sooner the better.

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