Mauritius: State broadcaster launches new local series to mixed reviews

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L’Express’s Surendra Bissoondoyal gives a sarcastic and critical welcome to Mauritius’ latest local series while pointing out that the state-run broadcaster does not have enough money to screen live football matches.

Our preferred television channel -- you know which one, although it is not by choice -- cannot afford to broadcast football matches live, nor serials like 'Desperate housewives' before the end is known to everybody. But it has the resources -- financial, technical and human - to start a new local serial, with no end in view, to show to the public that 'tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles'. But the public has already given a title to the serial: 'Desperate ministers'.

The first episode of the serial relates to post-election euphoria in a country where everything will be free and people will not need to work.There will be only an elite who will look down on work for which they had not been prepared, except the elite minister who will be seen trying to prop up Vallee des Pretres to prevent an avalanche (or rather a mud slide) coming down and engulfing him. Low status and low paid work will be done by foreign workers. But soon disillusion sets in and infighting takes over. We see ministers flying away to avoid facing an angry public. They want an escape from the real world -- a bit like Indian films which make the poor escape from their daily drudgery by taking them into the unreal world of song and dance.

But their Chief does not like that. He does not trust them particularly when they have had a few drinks too many. He does not want them to attend even functions organized by socio-cultural organizations in case they use their proximity to their 'banne' to sow the seeds of division and mistrust. Maybe he is right. Many of these organizations exist only to promote the ambitions and interests of their self-appointed leaders.

We hear about anti-corruption bodies on the verge of catching presumed culprits, but later when the interest dies down the serial takes us to another diversion. We see civil servants helping their children to help themselves to houses meant for .. well, the homeless of course, with ministers knowing about it but reluctant to intervene for reasons best known to themselves. We see ministers hijacking press conferences and being very loquacious to announce price reductions -- a very rare event -- and being conspicuously absent and silent when there are price increases, which are more frequent. Unlike Midas, who had the gift of turning into gold everything that he touched, we see instead basic commodities disappear or become out of reach when ministers want to show of what mettle they are made. Touch iron bars and they disappear from the market. Touch milk and if it does not disappear altogether, it will be rationed with each customer allowed to buy only one packet before it disappears again. Now you see it, now you don't. Anxious to please a discontented public ministers heave a sigh of relief when a semblance of 'gros pois' is imported from China.

Each episode of the serial is broadcast live by our preferred television channel during prime time, and repeated ad nauseum so that it gets stuck in the minds of the volatile viewers, or in case some viewers had missed it. Other television channels which are interested in broadcasting 'Reality shows' are not allowed. Fiction is and should be seen to be more important than reality. Our financial wizard has (temporarily?) disappeared from the show, after he said that, if he were given eight more years, he would make poverty disappear in Mauritius. Eight years? The poor who are becoming poorer and seeing the rich become richer will have to wait for eight years to come out of the new state of pauperism! They would rather wish that he disappears from his ministerial berth in eight days.

But the serial -- to the utter embarrassment of the TV channel and of its producer -- will not take long to unravel. The public, a very caring public, will deliver the ministers from their daily miseries and desperation by giving them back their freedom. The discerning public is desperate and is praying for the ongoing serial, which has become stale, to come to a quick end. Their prayer has been heard and their wish will be fulfilled. A new serial is in the offing