Viability v/s Sustainability – What costs for an average Mauritian?


Sustainability! What a daunting term!

While sustainability seems to be a very trendy and powerful term to utilize nowadays, we, in Mauritius, and especially at administrating levels, look like we still haven’t found the full grasp of the related fundamentals. Sustainability comes along with the obliteration of waste and wastage. Waste of time, energy and resources, mainly. 

Envisaging the weight of sustainability…

Trying to imagine the costs and financial weight of optimal sustainability can be a treacherous endeavor, as it is a dynamic concept that evolves along with human’s own evolution. Marking the process as a provisional plan will require assessing all the needs, tools and actions over more than one generation. This can be an endlessly exhaustive exercise that will need to be reassessed and reviewed relentlessly.

So my idea to envisage the weight of sustainability in the development of communities is to identify stations where money goes down the drain through poor control, administration and utilization of resources. It would start with estimating the costs incurred by average citizens through waste and wastage. Defining an average yearly quantum would then give us the total costs wasted over an average professional lifetime. This figure multiplied by the number of active citizens would then give us an indication of what sum could be saved and reinjected in projects linked to sustainability of communities at national level.

This may seem a simplistic way of doing things, but it is to, my eyes, the closest way to represent sustainability on the money map. This is only the start of some personal reflection process that could be interesting. Let’s account for what we caliber best, wastage to determine the weight of sustainability. Any ideas and related discussions are welcome.

As I mentioned, for me, Sustainability starts with optimal reduction of Waste of time, energy and resources. So to launch this reflection about weighing the price of wastage, I chose three average situations that the average Mauritian lives off in his everyday life. Thank you to express your views and comments.

A simple case study. How sustainable is an average Mauritian’s life?

I first wrote about these situations a year ago, things might have positively changed or gotten worst since then. This is not a fully statistics-focused scientific paper, but I conducted a personal private survey on 30 youngsters aged 22-28 years. The sample responded to simple questions pertaining their usual active professional life.

The Videsh example

Videsh is a common Mauritian, a Quatre-Bornes born and bred 25-yr old youngster. He doesn’t know what the term sustainability means and has not been taught how to act and think from an Earth perspective. He works 6 days a week and earns a basic MUR 8,500 per month, which gets him around the MUR 47.25 per hour mark, (knowing that the usual Mauritian working week does 45 hours). And we won’t take overtime into account for this example. The minimum legal salary threshold in Mauritius is outrageously set at ONLY  MUR 3,437 per month. (Source ILOhttp://bit.ly/q5DzYf )

Videsh works in Coromandel, some 8 kilometres away (Google Earth verified). His boss Henry, doesn’t, also, know of sustainability. He runs an old-fashion tire retreading plant. He is happy about Videsh’s performance and wants to promote him to some new responsibilities but the latter will need a driving license.
While Henry caters for 50% of Videsh’s travelling to his jobspot, the “Quatrebornian” has to find a total of MUR 1,508 monthly to go to work. He has to pay MUR 29, twice per day for a 8 kilometre strip.

Videsh has just taken a loan from his bank. Interest rates are at 7.8%. He needs to do this, because he wants to partly renovate his parents’ house relatively to his wedding project with Nooreena, scheduled in 2 years time. As a result of this, the attempt at “unknowingly” building a sustainable family cell will cost him MUR 2,421.70 that will be automatically levied from his monthly salary over the coming 5 years.

Like his fellow Mauritian youngsters, Videsh is a modern man. He owns a 3yr-old computer and connects to the Internet thanks to an ASDL package worth MUR 1,250 per month from Orange. He also owns a Nokia Music Express which he bought on credit terms at some lo-cost hire-purchase shop. His mobile phone globally cost him MUR 900 per month Prepaid package and installment inclusive. He will upgrade to an Iphone he says when the payment for this one will be over… Just for the trend of it.

As if this was not enough, Videsh’s life is complicated by daily time wastages at all levels of public and essential services. Corrupted, incompetent and inefficient services are the reasons for these time waste that materialize into real loss of revenue.

Bases and assumptions

We will use 3 simple examples of time wastage and translate these into money lost. We will use :

  • His daily travel to his work spot
  • A request for technical support from Orange… ASDL service goes berserk almost once a month.
  • An official request for a driving license.

Hereafter, the waste factors:

  1. Travelling daily to and from work by NTC bus (300 times per year)
    Walking to and waiting on the Bus Stop : 20 minutes
    Traffic Jam at St Jean : 30 minutes
    Traffic Jam at  Place Margéot, Rose-Hill : 10 minutes
    Traffic Jam on exiting Rose-Hill : 10 minutes
    Refreshing on arrival at work spot : 15 minutes
    TOTAL TIME LOSS : 2 hrs 50 minutes
  2. Technical Support request to Orange (10 times per year)
    First call at 8900 : Hold time, 15 minutes
    Second call at 8900 : Hold time, 15 minutes
    Third call at 8900 : Answer after 10 minutes
    Problem Assessment and initial handling :   5 minutes and request to hold
    Problem handling : 5 minutes (questioning, manipulation suggestion and request to reset)
    Problem still present – No connection still : Hold time 10 minutes
    Problem handling : 5 minutes
    Problem solved after 120 minutes
    TOTAL TIME LOSS – 3 hrs 05 minutes
  3. Intiating an administrative procedure (here a request for a Driving license) (Once and off)
    First time search on Internet for an online request form. (Google or Bing or Yahoo is fast but the Government Website takes more than 2 minutes to return a result) : Total search time 20 minutes
    Filling the form : 2 minutes
    Form bug – New Trial : 8 minutes and failure
    Going to the nearest Police Station : 10 minutes
    Waiting at Police Station : 30 minutes (no specific counter for Driving License request)
    Information taking, form filling and filing : 30 minutes
    Way back home : 10 minutes
    Lost work day : 480 minutes
    TOTAL TIME LOSS : 480 minutes

Conclusion: A Mauritian loses more than MUR 1 Million in his professional lifetime

Consequently, during a normal year, a common Mauritian can lose money via :

Travelling to work – 850 hrs worth MUR 40,162.50
Technical Support request – 30 hrs worth MUR 1,456.90
Administrative request – 8 hrs worth MUR 378.00

Over 30 years of an active life, this common Mauritian loses MUR 1,260,000 and this covers only the three items of his normal life, I have decided to show off here.

While fully monetizing one’s time seem to be a global priority, Mauritius seems to advocate the opposite, not because of the public’s disinterest about sustainability issues but through our administrators’ incompetence and incapacity at getting rid of nepotism. And that’s definitely not the path to sustainability!

Just imagine the deficit for a normal Mauritian hard worker when he loses time each time :

  • An arrogant civil servant makes somebody wait
  • A driver’s incivility impedes on someone
  • The poor planning of the road networks and transport make him travel at 4 kph
  • Government Websites and servers are down, while they don’t stop telling you to do things online
  • Someone with no competence responds in lieu of a real technician
  • A complaint is lodged
If we consider the Mauritian active population to be as big as 480,000 people (CSO available stats), and based only on these 3 simplistic examples, then I would estimate the costs to local sustainability could be of the order of more than MUR 604,800,000,000 (USD 20,160,000,000) over 30 years. Is this achievable? And if those figures about achieving sustainability are real where will we get that from?

The Political incongruity

If the average Mauritian has to live with these extreme situations of time wastage, our politicians and administrators seem to benefit from special arrangements. They do not have to pay their travelling by bus, that is MUR 3.50 per kilometre at 4 kph, and even when travelling in their cars, they do often benefit from generously high travel allowance schemes and from Duty-free schemes for buying big fossil-fuel consuming cars. This goes against the sustainability concept and bears a cost far heavier that the wastes incurred by the average Mauritian.

Politicians and administrators, usually do not have to queue up for any of their administrative jobs.  They will always find themselves on the top of the file pack.

Meritocracy’s place

Meritocracy has its preponderant place in a sustainable society! The ordinary Mauritian is left off to deserve mediocrity and incompetence from minor officers who look as if they were formed out by unable patrons.

We are at this stage, asking for the renovation of the global system, geared towards sustainability of local communities. This will only be achieved via a thorough reform of attitudes through civic education oriented from a social perspective and not from a material one.

Tail Question

What do you think? Do we need to up and sharpen our discourse on sustainability?

Primarily posted on One Future One Planet

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