Dr. Ramesh Durbarry is the Director of the Mauritius Civil Service College. He has devoted his professional life to the fields of education and research. He received the Grand Officer of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean decoration on March 12 as part of the celebration of Mauritius’ 55 years of independence (GOSK). “I didn’t anticipate it. It is the consecration of all the effort done so far,” he says in an interview with Investor’s Mag, in which he discusses his 25 years of experience in research and education as well as the current transformation of Mauritius’ public service.
When Investor’s Mag asked Dr. Ramesh Durbarry if there is anything he would like to share about himself that won’t be found on Google or LinkedIn, he reveals his deep passion for DIY projects. He explains that he enjoys taking on various tasks in his free time, from plumbing to electrical work to woodworking. “I find the critical thinking involved in DIY projects to be highly rewarding”, he says.
Dr. Ramesh Durbarry’s career has taken him back and forth between Mauritius and the UK, where he has gained experience in research, lecturing, and management in the education sector. After completing his BSc (Hons) in Economics at the University of Mauritius, he obtained the first scholarship awarded by the British Council to pursue a Master’s degree in Economic Development and Policy Analysis at the University of Nottingham. “This is really where it all starts,” he says.
We need to update ourselves with new technologies, many of which have not yet been adapted to Mauritius…
Dr. Ramesh Durbarry | Director | Mauritius Civil Service College
After earning his Ph.D. in Economics from the same institution, he returned to Mauritius to begin working as an Economics Lecturer at the University of Mauritius. Later, he had the chance to return to the UK and work as a research fellow at Nottingham University Management School. “This helped me acquire the techniques and tools to evolve in the research world”, he states.
Dr. Durbarry then returned to Mauritius to lead the School of Public Sector Policy and Management at the University of Technology, Mauritius, in 2003 and later on developed the School of Sustainable Development and Tourism in 2008. “I assisted in introducing new curricula in Mauritius, including International Banking and Finance and MBA at UTM with block modules offered by academics from Nottingham, Warwick, and Newcastle”, he recalls.
In 2012, he joined the newly incorporated UOM Enterprise under the UOM Trust as CEO and was later on approached by the University of Bedfordshire in the UK to become the Head of the Department of Marketing, Tourism & Hospitality.
“Public services are complex and interdependent”
When asked about the state of the public sector in Mauritius, The Civil Service College’s director affirmed a noticeable improvement over the years. He highlighted the public service’s role in serving the population and the private sector, which fosters and guarantees economic growth. Drawing on his experience living in Great Britain and his research elsewhere, he stated that the Mauritian public service is performing well compared to many developed countries. “Of course, there are improvements to be made. This is one of the reasons why the focus is on transforming the public sector, which inevitably involves training. We need to update ourselves with new technologies, many of which have not yet been adapted to Mauritius,” he argues.
Dr. Durbarry contends that the constant criticism of public services is driven by the assumption that these services should be delivered more rapidly. “We need to understand that the process of public services is complex and interdependent and that it can take some time to get the job done,” he says. “For example, to start a business, you need to register with the Registrar of Companies while also taking steps with the local government or district council. It is said that you can set up your company in less than a week, but it’s more likely to take a little longer to get all the necessary permits to start operations. It takes a collective effort for these services to be effective,” he adds.
For example, coding should have already been introduced in primary school…
Dr. Ramesh Durbarry | Director | Mauritius Civil Service College
Amongst the improvement of the public service, Dr. Durbarry notes the introduction of e-licensing, resulting in the swift processing of applications. “Now applications, for example, a fire certificate or building permits, are processed quickly with the e-licensing platform. You can do it from your living room,” he says.
The latter highlights the big difference between the public and private sectors in their communication, commenting that the private sector better promotes its services through public relations. “This is something the public sector is lacking. There is a lack of a PR at the level of each ministry to showcase what the public service does,” he explains.
The director of the Mauritius Civil Service College claims that the bad apples in the public sector are only a handful. He believes that the bad apples of public service are a matter of leadership. “Leadership is dynamic; you have to be able to sustain it. A Permanent Secretary can motivate his or her staff, but this service also depends on the frontline. If the latter fails, fingers will be pointed at the Permanent Secretary. This is why mechanisms have been introduced to ensure the efficiency of the civil servant. For example, there is the Performance Appraisal mechanism. Maybe it needs to be strengthened,” he highlights while underlining the complexity of the public service composed of 55,000 civil servants in the civil service and 35,000 to 40,000 in parastatal bodies. “Managing such a large number of staff is a huge responsibility, especially because a ministry is expected to act as a Human Resources department for all of them”, he adds.
Matching Gender Disparity
Dr. Durbarry says that we must commend the public service for their efforts in ensuring no gender-based wage gap. “A permanent secretary, regardless of gender, is paid the same. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the private sector. But, there is still progress to be made in public service to increase the number of women in senior roles. However, it is reassuring to see that more and more women are integrating and moving up in the public service sector”, he says.
Addressing the issue of labour market mismatch in Mauritius, he underlines that it all comes down to supply and demand. “Our system must be forward-thinking to meet the evolving demand of the market. When students enter university, it is after three or four years at the minimum that they will be on the job market. What happens if they pursue studies in a field that is not in demand? This seems to be the case for many students. Mauritius remains behind in the educational world. We are living in a world where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and we are not adequately preparing our workforce for these transformations.”
He said that he had already drawn attention to this. “For example, coding should have already been introduced in primary school. The advantage of coding is that it has its own language, creative thinking, critical thinking, design thinking, and mathematics. We can catch up on social sciences, such as economics or management, but if a student can master a subject like science, for example, they become a smarter person. They can more easily get a job than someone who chooses traditional paths. Science or technology takes time, and it must be started early. This is one reason why European countries are emphasising STEM, where they are offering more and more scholarships for students to choose the scientific and technological fields,” he explains.