Mauritania| President Ghazouani’s social thread

Jemal M. TALEB, Attorney at Court, CIRES Vice President

Saint Simon is a French liberal who broke with classical liberalism to adhere to social liberalism. This neoliberalism would lead to political and social progressivism and would aim to transform a society based on exploitation. His theory of social classes condemns the exploitation of the vast majority of workers of all kinds by a small minority. He believes that the golden age is found in the perfection of the social order, which includes the orientation of capitalism to the creation of an abundance of wealth that benefits all. He is the true father of French socialism and the greatest theorist of equality through effort.

Let us venture to make a comparison, and I have no doubt that we shall discover a Mauritanian variation of Saint-Simonism. Improving the living conditions of the poorest in this country is indeed a major concern of public policies in recent years, which we can call the Ghazouani years.

I can no longer speak of Mauritania without recalling the prophecy of the French-Cameroonian writer Gaston Kelman. About fifteen years ago, the author of the bestseller “I am black and I don’t like cassava”, this – as he adds – enlightened – from Mauritania, published the book “Swallows of the African Spring”.

And the swallow that inspired this song of hope, this prophecy, was Mauritania. We believed in him all the less because shortly after his statements, a new coup d’├ętat overthrew the first democratically elected president and shook this country, which had only known this method of change since independence. In the face of laughter, derision and sometimes ridicule, the man stood his ground. According to him, Mauritania was irreversibly on the right track. A sequence of events might prove him completely, brazenly right.

Each of the following presidents of Mauritania specialized in the development sector. Everyone has their own style, priorities, sensibilities, way of governing and their own choices. This New Deal deliberately began with the creation of strong basic texts, the organization of general elections, concrete measures at the level of security, the consolidation of public finances and the significant development of infrastructures. There is no doubt that the country has made considerable progress in almost all areas. Infrastructure was improved, security was established, the economy was diversified, the face of cities was modernized and the road network was expanded. We can be rightly proud of that, although there is still work to be done. Some Mauritanians, followers of the theory of eternal decline, would tell you that we could do better, but you all know the saying “he who looks at himself is saddened, he who compares himself is comforted”.

The arrival of the current president, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani, coincided with the entry on the global stage of the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, which spared no country and stopped all investment programs in the four corners of the planet. He also managed the internal political crisis without forgetting the consequences of the war in Ukraine. These are very disturbing elements especially for a fragile population that has led its political decisions to the social aspect!

Like his predecessors, he set to work resolutely, revealing to his compatriots a daily confirmed social sensitivity that few observers of Mauritanian political life have sufficiently highlighted. In some luxury salons in Nouakchott, he is sometimes accused of using Covid and the war in Ukraine to justify what is seen as his inadequacy. You can’t please everyone, the saying goes. This man is constantly on the alert, literally and figuratively, because he acts on all fronts. He can start his days very early and end them at 11pm. Although he delegates more than his predecessor, he follows everything that happens, especially in his hobby, the social aspect.

President Ghazouani’s social fiber cannot be denied. Its health and social policy, assistance to the poorest, construction of school facilities, development of hydraulic infrastructure and assistance to isolated families form its trademark. The former French president said that generous social policies can mitigate social impacts or limit the consequences of inflation, but do not win elections because their results are not immediately visible. The Mauritanian president, a good politician, cannot ignore this rule. So we can conclude that this impulse is not electoral, but simply humanistic.

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, due to ignorance of the disease and its consequences, all countries adopted the principle of budgetary prudence and wisely and prudently decided to postpone important reforms and wait for the development of the health situation. Mauritania did not escape this logic. But for African nations, the situation was more troubling.

We remember the apocalyptic predictions that came from all the Western chancellors about the carnage that the pandemic would cause in Africa. In Mauritania, everything was done to make Cassandra lie. From a health point of view, the vaccination was perfect. The trouble that the Scourge could cause was handled by dealing with its effects offensively. In the end, there was no social tension in the country and the health inspection was welcomed by all. Even better, this situation has led to unprecedented improvements in medical equipment and patient care. In this way, hospital equipment has multiplied tenfold, patients with serious pathological conditions are fully cared for, and universal health insurance has been introduced, which now affects more than 700,000 people.

When we talk about suspending reforms, the social aspect is not part of it. School and health are two basic stepping stones for development. They allow everyone to have a chance to improve their social status. Their care was exemplary. To this we can add the construction of new social housing.

Regarding fragile populations, a number of measures have been put in place to benefit the most vulnerable populations. Pensions were doubled for pensioners, and the previously quarterly salary was paid monthly. Universal health insurance is now open to everyone who did not benefit from it.

Widows and single women receive a monthly income guaranteed by the state agency Taazour. Remote and inland villages now use special monitoring to ensure no one is forgotten.

National education is not forgotten either. The education reform plan foresees unprecedented developments from the next school year. In 2023, more than 100 schools were built, a republic school program was created with the generalization of public schools, programs were standardized, and annual salary increases for teachers were established.

With the ongoing construction of more than ten thousand social housing units and the project called “new life”, the Social Housing Policy was also created. This project targeted more than two thousand families with the installation of urban amenities, school infrastructure and road construction in the new city.

A certain standardizing reading of pan-Africanism has always wanted the individual stages of African development to take place simultaneously and, as it were, under the starting flap of foreign powers, because we mistakenly think that this was the case in the case of independence in 1960. So we talked about underdevelopment, then about developing countries and today, after other theories, we talk about emergence without defining the criteria for this emergence. So we hear that African countries are setting the end of this glorious new horizon.

Developments on the ground show that this is not the case. Botswana is not the DRC and Angola will not develop at the same pace as Sierra Leone. Today, some countries have chosen their own currency, while others continue with a common currency. Mauritania has decided. Against all odds, she set a course for herself. And as a tradition from now on, every president involves his own brand while watching this dynamic of development. So without letting go of the other levers, more than anyone else, President Ghazouani activated the social one.

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