A clientelist budget
Eshan Dinally
Sat 08/06/2024 – 10:30

It was widely anticipated that Finance Minister Renganaden Padayachy would present a Budget aimed at appealing to as many voters as possible, especially the silent mass capable of influencing the outcome of elections. However, the exercise was carried out with subtlety. The Grand Argentier orchestrated it under the banner: “Investing in a better future for every Mauritian. » Yeah, yeah, of course, invest… Invest in votes above all!

This patronage exercise was carefully planned. The Minister of Finance juggled subsidies and allocations as if he were handing out sweets at a funfair. It almost seemed as if the government had organized a big fair during which every citizen was invited to help themselves from the public treasury.

The government sought to reach a wide audience by reducing the price of household gas by 12 kilos, already subsidized, from Rs 240 to Rs 190. In other words, it wanted every household to benefit from this measure which also benefits small restaurants, snack bars, as well as “roti”, “dholl pouri” and other “gato sale” sellers. Was it so that every household would feel blessed by some kind of governmental grace? An almost divine gesture, isn't it?

The government also targeted families by offering allowances for children, pregnant women and mothers. The question is whether this home-based approach will be enough to generate positive sentiment that could translate into votes for him in the next general election.

Less privileged and middle-class people were also targeted. The CSG allowance of no less than 500,000 employees receiving less than Rs 50,000 per month has been increased again. Among them are the 110,000 beneficiaries of the Guaranteed Minimum Income who will receive Rs 20,000 per month instead of Rs 18,500.

Households earning less than Rs 20,000 per month will benefit from an Equal Opportunities Allowance of Rs 2,000 per month. As for parents, they will all receive an Education Allowance of Rs 2,000 per month for each child aged three to 10 years. Measure which concerns 80,000 families. The government thus seems convinced that those concerned will be grateful to it for having raised their standard of living and that they will remember it in the voting booth when they vote.

The third targeted group is that of beneficiaries of social benefits, notably the elderly, who number around 300,000. The old age pension (from the age of 60) and the basic disability pension will increase to Rs 14 000 in July 2024 and Rs 15,000 in January 2025. In addition, an additional monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 has been introduced for around 5,000 children with disabilities aged below 18 years.

Since the 2014 elections, it is widely said that this section of the population has largely supported the government, which has continually increased these benefits which initially amounted to Rs 3,623. Does this mean that their loyalty to MSM is guaranteed?

It remains to be seen how the PTr-MMM-ND alliance intends to reverse this trend. The free “once-in-a-lifetime” stay on Reunion Island that Navin Ramgoolam had promised to elderly people may not be enough. The opposition alliance has every interest in proposing a more attractive package than that of the government.

The fourth group targeted in the Budget is new voters, particularly young people aged 18 to 25. They will benefit from a free monthly Internet package and a zero-interest loan from the Development Bank for the purchase of IT equipment. As for middle school girls in Grades 6 to 13, they will receive free sanitary napkins.

These young people alone represent around 100,000 votes. A question arises: will these “Digital Natives” or “Screenagers” be seduced by these gifts? Or are they more concerned about their future, their higher education and the lack of prospects in Mauritius?

In this fool's game that is politics, where every gesture is an electoral poker move, the government distributes gifts everywhere, hoping to attract additional votes to fill its electoral basket. But the PTr-MMM-ND alliance will surely not sit idly by. She will no doubt concoct her own strategy to counter her opponent's seduction tactics. Will the public applaud this display of generosity? Or will he whistle this well-practiced play? The answer will not take long to be heard.

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