Behind the Mask LGBT African website
1 Hundreds of gays and lesbians in Mauritius stage the first gay rights march 6/06
2 Mauritian gay people seek legal protection 7/06
3 Sodomy Halts Debates on Sexual Offences Bill 4/07
4 Battle over sexual offences bill in Mauritius 5/07
5 Mauritius: A critical evaluation of the equal opportunities bill 11/08
6 Mauritius: Policy-Making in Africa 3/09
7 Mauritius – United Nations Human Right Council 11th Session 6/09
8 Being Gay in Mauritius 11/09
May 22, 2006 – Reuters
Hundreds of gays and lesbians staged the first gay rights march
Hundreds of gays and lesbians staged the first gay rights march on the largely conservative Indian Ocean island on Saturday, shocking afternoon shoppers in the bustling town of Rose Hill. Mauritius, located off the southeast coast of Africa, has a population of 1.2 million made up of Hindus, Catholics and Muslims. The gay community, which activists say makes up about 10 percent of the population, is mostly underground as many face persecution and discrimination.
Wearing wigs and in full make-up, men dressed in sequinned dresses, feather boas and high heels led a march down the busy high street of Rose Hill. "The point of today is visibility," said Thierry De Ravel, president of the Collective Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow Coalition), a gay rights group which organised the march. We want to show Mauritius that there is a gay community, that we want to be out in the open. We want to be respected and we want equal rights for all," he added.
Gay rights activists say those who are open about their sexual orientation are often refused jobs or promotions in the workplace and some even face death threats. Carrying hundreds of brightly coloured balloons and waving banners saying "Viva sexual freedom!" and "To be gay is not a crime", the marchers danced, waved and handed out leaflets to bemused onlookers. "I must say that I am very surprised to see this," said a local shop owner. "I’ve never in my life seen such a thing in Mauritius, but I think it’s good because we need to be more open and like the rest of the world."
Other onlookers shook their head in disgust, saying that homosexuality was wrong and should not be allowed. Organisers said the event was a victory for gays because permission was granted by local authorities, who have previously stopped such marches from taking place. Rama Valyden, the attorney-general and minister for human rights and justice, said it was a new beginning for gays in Mauritius. "I believe that every one is equal and that no one is superior or inferior to each other," he said. "Today we have a turned to a new page in the history of Mauritius and that is the page of freedom." Valyden is planning to introduce an equal opportunities act in parliament, which will make discrimination against sexual orientation a crime.
July 2006 – Mail and Guardian online
Mauritian gay people seek legal protection
Port Louis, Mauritius – Gay and lesbian people on the conservative Indian Ocean island of Mauritius said on Tuesday they want protection against discrimination built into new human rights legislation. Three days after staging the island-state’s first-ever gay rights rally, the small but increasingly vocal homosexual community on Mauritius said sexual orientation must be included in the law to be debated by Parliament in July.
"Currently there is a gap in the law concerning homophobia in Mauritius," said Jean-Luc Ahnee, the spokesperson for the Collectif Arc-en-ciel (Rainbow Coalition), an organisation representing Mauritian gay people. Homosexuality is neither legal nor illegal, so if a victim of sexual discrimination complains to the police, they have no legal reference," he said. "That is why we are insisting that the Equal Opportunity Bill has provisions on discrimination based on sex, race or religion. There should be no second-class citizens in this country. It is time discrimination ended in this country."
Although Mauritian law does not explicitly outlaw homosexuality, gay people here complain of rampant social discrimination despite provisions in the Constitution designed to prevent such bias. In a bid to draw attention to their demands, the coalition sponsored a rally on Saturday south of the capital of Port Louis, attended by about 300 colourfully dressed gay people and their backers who called for equal rights. "Visibility, equality and liberty", "No to homophobia", "I love the way I love", and "My sexuality, my choice" read some of the banners they carried in a march through the streets of the town of Rose Hill.
The rally passed off peacefully without any incidents, but it remains unclear whether the government will support efforts to write sexual orientation into the draft law. Justice Minister Justice Rama Valayden said the Constitution already protects homosexuals, along with other minority groups, from discrimination. "Article 1 of the Constitution of Mauritius is there to remind us that all are born equal before the law," Valayden said. "Homophobia is a serious problem in Mauritius. A society is not built on hate but love."
12 April 2007 – L’Express (Port Louis)
Sodomy Halts Debates on Sexual Offences Bill
by Deepa Bhookhun
Port Louis – Political debates on the Sexual Offences Bill – a piece of draft legislation that deals mainly with the stiffening of laws in cases of rape and other sexual offences – have stumbled upon the term "sodomy." Not that the word is mentioned in this remarkable piece of legislation that in actual fact seeks to depenalize the act of sodomy. The bill is remarkable in the sense that the word sodomy is not used at all. We know the sexual act will be rendered legal – when the bill is voted – by the fact that "penetration of the penis" in the "anus without consent" will constitute a rape that will be subject to penal servitude not exceeding 45 years. At the end of the bill, the repeal of section 249 of the Criminal Code is provided for. As it stands now, section 249 provides that sodomy and bestiality are crimes punishable by a penal servitude of 5 years.
MMM leader Paul Bérenger has not yet expressed himself on the matter and MSM leader Pravind Jugnauth has already at the outset opposed the depenalization of consensual sodomy, qualifying it as "immoral" and saying that Government’s move was "a telltale sign of a society that was losing its values". Even within the majority alliance, the matter of sodomy is causing a rift and has prevented any dispassionate debate on the more important matter of harsher sentences for rapists. The main criticisms against the depenalization of sodomy are that it is "immoral."The main arguments for it are that the right to practise sodomy is part of the broader constitutional right to sexual privacy. The debate in Mauritius is, however, slightly different.
In actual fact, the precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law but is typically understood by courts to include any sexual act, which does not lead to procreation. Furthermore, sodomy has many synonyms: buggery, crime against nature, unnatural act and deviant sexual intercourse.
Respect for individual private lives
While, in theory, this may include heterosexual oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and bestiality, in practice and – in general – such laws are primarily enforced against sex between men. Historians, however, dispute the reason for the emergence of such laws but they have roots in antiquity and are linked to religious proscriptions against certain sexual acts. Contemporary supporters of sodomy laws argue that there are additional reasons for retaining them. They include public health concerns about anal sex or concerns that legalisation of homosexuality will lead to a declining population.
But more and more around the world, courts are striking down sodomy laws in decisions that gay rights supporters the world over have hailed as "historic." As an example, Justice Anthony Kennedy of the US Supreme Court wrote, "The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. ( ) The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime". The petitioners in this case were homosexuals.
As mentioned earlier, the situation in Mauritius is slightly different. As a general rule, men homosexuals rarely publicise the fact that their sexual behaviour is in actual fact a crime according to Mauritian laws. And the police do not make it a regular practice of arresting homosexuals because they practise sodomy in the privacy of their homes. Sodomy between adults of different sex is also practised on a regular basis in Mauritius as elsewhere. When it is consensual, there is no question of a crime having been committed because it cannot be proved.
45 years behind bars
So the move by Government is purely a technical one. Attorney General Rama Valayden, aware of this absurdity in our laws, has chosen to justify Government’s decision by saying that many women, because they have to find fault with their husbands whom they wish to divorce, often say the latter have engaged in sodomy. Not many lawyers agree but this is really beside the point. After the proclamation of the Sexual Offences Act, nothing will have changed in the sexual behaviour of consenting adults. But when a man rapes another man or has non-consensual anal sex with a woman, instead of the actual five years, the rapist will be liable to a maximum of 45 years behind bars. To all intents and purposes, this is about the only change that the depenalization of sodomy will bring in the country.
The debate, however, will be anything but rational because in it will be mixed a large dose of political demagogy, religious zealousness and – let’s face it – much hypocrisy.
3 May 2007 – afrol.com
Battle over sexual offences bill in Mauritius
by Loga Virahsawmy (Ms Virahsawmy is the President of Media Watch Organisation in Mauritius)
The Sexual Offences Bill recently tabled at the Mauritian Parliament brought much heated debate from both sides of the house, as well as protests from religious leaders and professionals. The bill could also decriminalise consensual anal sex. Amid the outcry, the speaker has tasked a Select Committee to look into the bill in detail. "Though the legislation still has a few weaknesses, we must see it for what it is – a much – needed, significant step forward to addressing gender violence in the country," Mauritian gender activists say. Such debate and delay about putting sexual offences firmly on the legal agenda are not unique to Mauritius. Only a handful of countries in the Southern African region have such laws in place, including Lesotho, Namibia and Tanzania. Such a bill has been over ten years in the making in South Africa, leaving gender activists outraged about the long delay, yet, like Mauritius, still concerned about some of the content.
In Mauritius, the bill would not only mean stronger legal protections, but it has already meant a greater openness on gender violence issues. Activists are commending Rama Valayden, Attorney General and Minister of Human Rights, for daring to bring such "a progressive piece of legislation" to the table. For the first time, the Mauritian society is discussing taboo words like sex, vagina, penis, anal sex and other sexual terms openly. But activists hold some points still need clarification, such as sex trafficking of children and adults; offences covering commercial sexual exploitation related to pimps and others who force children and adults into prostitution; indecent exposure, etc. It is also seen as unfortunate that the voices of those most concerned: victims, survivors, youth, sex workers, gays and lesbians, were largely absent from the debates.
The bill is very much in line with the draft National Action Plan (NAP) to end Gender Violence, approved at an October 2006 workshop organised by the activist group Gender Links of South Africa and Mauritius’ Media Watch Organisation, with various representatives of ministries, police, civil society and non-governmental organisations. The Mauritius NAP recommends that the Sexual Offences Bill encompass a wider definition of rape, including marital rape, as well as protection against human trafficking and harsher penalties. It recommends provisions for comprehensive treatment and empowerment of victims, and video recording of complaints to reduce distress of survivors. However, gender activists hold that the adoption and implementation of the national Sexual Offences Bills may become even more imperative if leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) approve the elevation of the SADC Gender Declaration to a Protocol, one of the issues on the table at the upcoming Heads of State meeting in August. Mauritius is a member state of SADC.
The protocol would legally bind member states to implementing new measures including comprehensive legislation and budgetary allocations for ending gender violence. Gender activists argue that legally binding measures must be put in place to move SADC from a "region of commitments to one of implementation." In Mauritius, one of the major causes of disagreement and public outcry of the bill is on the legalisation of anal sex. The bill states: "Any person who, without the consent of another person intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of that other person with any part of his body, with any object, shall commit an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a term of a penal servitude not exceeding 45 years." Gender activists know too well that women do make complaints in private on marital rape, sodomy and putting the penis and other objects in parts of their bodies. It has been difficult for these women to take the matter further as the Mauritian police are very rarely sympathetic to what happens in private.
However, the bill also makes provision for anal sex with consent, which has shocked and disturbed many in the conventional society of Mauritius. Activists ask: "Why can’t we be tolerant and leave those who want to live their sexual life as they wish in peace? If it is between two consenting adults, they are not disturbing anybody." Other countries around the world repealed such laws, which mainly go after homosexual love, long ago. Britain repealed the laws against anal sex in 1967, over four hundred years after their first adoption in 1553. While they were in place, these antiquated laws resulted in the persecution of many, including two great worldwide figures, Oscar Wilde and Alec Guinness.
In 1895, soon after his triumphant ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Mr Wilde’s love and passion for another man resulted in his arrest, conviction and sentencing to two years of hard labour. In the unreformed Dickensian prison, a series of illnesses brought him to his death. The great Alec Guinness gave a false name when arrested in 1946 for his homosexual inclination. It was only eight months after his death in 2001 that the ‘Sunday Times’ revealed his struggle with his sexual orientation, Mauritian activists note, hoping to influence the conservative society on the island. "When will a culture of tolerance prevail? Must we wait hundreds of years, as in Britain?" they ask. "The Sexual Offences Act is urgent. In the name of the thousands of victims, can’t we for once put aside our political pettiness, our prudishness and our Puritanism?" Mauritian activists hope.
24 November 2008 – AllAfrica.com
Mauritius: A critical evaluation of the equal opportunities bill
Port Louis — The bill is revolutionary in many ways. It extends protection from any form of discrimination to persons regardless of their sexual orientations and marital status. It also purports to make meritocracy the main criteria for recruitment and employment, selection and promotion of staff in the private sector. A candidate applying for a job at the PSC. It does not make sense to talk of protection of discrimination if the PSC is left out. The Equal Opportunities Bill/Act (EOA), a revolutionary piece of legislation will be presented for a second reading tomorrow. The revolutionary nature of the bill is that it extends protection from any form of discrimination to persons regardless of their sexual orientations, that is, whether they are homosexuals-gays or lesbians-bisexual or heterosexual.
The bill also ensures protection from discrimination on grounds of marital status whether single, civilly or religiously married, married but living separately, divorced, widowed and single parent. It is also revolutionary because it purports to make meritocracy the main criteria for recruitment and employment, selection and promotion of staff in the private sector. This will ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to attain his objectives in various fields of activities of his choice and that no one will be disadvantaged by reason of his age, caste, colour, creed, ethnic origin, impairment, marital status, place of origin, political opinion, race, sex or sexual orientation.
Perhaps we should straight away look at the still awaited Right to Information Act (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, without which the passing of on EOA will be meaningless as both legislations are complementary to each other. Your Right To Know (YRTK) has always insisted in the passing of an RTI Act as a pre-requisite for an EOA. The RTI act based on the Indian model requires all public authorities to publish all available information – except those of defence and security of the state – on which a decision has been based.
Thus all information pertaining to the taking of a decision involving taxpayers money must be readily accessible on the government websites. Such information must be available to everyone, not only to those who may feel aggrieved.There cannot be a question of locus standi when a person takes the government to account in a court of law in an item involving public expenditure.We all have locus standi for we are all taxpayers. It is a fact that the EOA does ensure that an aggrieved party will obtain all necessary information. He can ask the authorities to produce the information as to the experience and qualifications of the successful candidate(s). However, the authorities can always argue that the information cannot be provided as it will violate the Official Secrets Act or that it will intervene with the privacy of the individual.
Thus only an RTI Act which will have the force of a law under the Constitution can compel officials to divulge all important information to the public. In India, the RTI Act is working wonders. It is really empowering the ordinary men and women of the Indian subcontinent to demand their rights. Further information are additionally available on the Net. Without the passing of such a legislation it is difficult to imagine an EOA which would make it mandatory to the mandarins and potentates of the private sector to provide information to the people.
Section 16 of the Constitution provides protection from discrimination on reasons of race, caste, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed or sex. As we have indicated above, the EOA goes much further. Thus new criteria have been added.The applicant for a post in the government service, for example, would not be debarred on the ground of an upper age limit or on grounds of impairment (disablement) or on grounds of ethnic origin (perhaps it is good to note that mention is made officially of communities rather than ethnicities) and marital status.
All these additions are very welcome for no one can deny that women have suffered from discriminations on these grounds in the past. However the EOA will be an ordinary legislation. It will not provide the assurance of a law passed in pursuance of the Constitution with a majority of three-quarters. Ideally section 16 of the Constitution should have been amended simultaneously with the passing of the EOA to include the new criteria where discriminations are prohibited as outlined. Further such constitutional amendment must provide a cast – iron guarantee to the people that these provisions will not be tampered with easily through the insertion that a unanimous vote and or a referendum must be held before any change could be contemplated. Would the EOA – Equal Opportunities Division and the Tribunal investigate into allegations of discrimination made by aggrieved parties following a recruitment/promotion exercise?
The PSC is a body established by the Constitution. It is independent and cannot be made answerable to the EOA. Furthermore, it would defy all logic if the EOA would be in a position to carry out investigations on alleged cases of discrimination when it is the PSC which appoints the chairman and the two other members of the Equal Opportunities Tribunal. As matters stand, the PSC cannot be made answerable to the EOA, that is, to the Equal Opportunities Division and the Equal Opportunities Tribunal.
It does not make sense to talk of protection from discrimination with regard to employment if the PSC is left out of the exercise.The PSC must be answerable to the EOA. It is a problematic question – how to render the PSC accountable to the EOA. The EOA can, of course, monitor the appointments made by the Local Government Services Commission, the parastatal boards and so called independent boards/councils – MGI, MIE, UOM, UTM. However,if recruitment and promotions in the most important sector -the government sector -is left out or will be immuned from any investigation one wonders how effective will the EOA be?
However, more importantly, the Private sector comes under the purview of the EOA. It is undeniable that the success and prosperity of the Mauritian economy are largely due to the fact that we are one of the few countries in Africa which have had ever since independence, a very dynamic and vibrant private sector. However, it cannot be gainsaid that the private sector is notorious for its opacity in terms of the management of its finances and recruitment policy.
For more than three centuries it had provided posh positions for the blue-eyed (literally speaking) men and women of a particular community. It followed a policy of fils à papa whenever appointments were made to the most top jobs, regardless of the fact that there were far more meritorious candidates of other communities competing for the same positions. Admittedly there has been a major change in the policy of the private sector especially with the adoption of a code of conduct and corporate governance, still old practices die hard.
Thus the opacity surrounding recruitment and promotion continues. Few posts in the private sector are publicly advertised and vacancies are invariably filled through connections, lineages, recommendations by senior staffs. Will the EOA,whose mission is not only to look at cases of alleged discrimination but will also probe into the private sector, be in a position to demolish this citadel of vested interests ? YRTK has very strong reservations on the matter. The EOA does not provide for any affirmative, that is, positive discrimination – through giving certain favours and concessions to those who have suffered years of injustice and discriminations in all activities of life in Mauritius.With the EOA, everyone is treated as equal. One cannot help wondering whether one can treat unequals as equals.
It is a fact that a small minority has had a headstart in life due to their wealth, their social positions, their caste and their family and political connections. Can we, sincerely, treat as equal those who have not had the same life chances? Doubtless affirmative actions are contrary to the principle of meritocracy – central to the act with regards to its employment policy. However, YRTK would like some more attention and care be given to the underprivileged and laissés-pour-compte of society. If we take the EOA at its face value, we have to review the scholarships given to the Rodriguans candidates as this may well prove to be unconstitutional.
Regardless of the EOA or not, no discriminatory treatment (negative or positive) can be meted out to any citizen of the Republic of Mauritius by reason of the place of origin. Rodriguans are citizens of the Republic of Mauritius and accordingly they have to compete at par with the students of Mauritius.The practice of awarding laureates to students with probably two B and one A and denying the same chances to other Mauritian students with more brillant results must be urgently reviewed.
Generally speaking although affirmative actions would run counter to the principle of equal opportunities we nonetheless believe some provisions must be made in the law for afirmative actions, positive discrimination, for we cannot treat the unequals as we treat the equals. However there should be no system of quota and any affirmative action should focus on giving additional educational opportunities to the descendants of those who have suffered from past injustices. Such affirmative actions could take the form of admitting students with less rigid academic criteria to the University of Mauritius that is admitting students who are less bright than their Mauritian counterparts. For years jobs have been tailor-made in both the private and to a lesser extent the public sector for certain candidates with particular qualifications.This has been a way to ensure the recruitment of one’s favourite candidate, that is one with strong family, social or political connections.
This practice will be barred by the provision of section 10 of the bill. Hence, we emphasise, on paper this will put an end to all forms of nepotism and favouritism. We are dreaming, aren’t we? We can afford to dream as there are no taxes imposed as yet on dreams! The most important, if not the sole criteria for appointments/promotions/scholarships/training facilities that will be determinent according to the EOA, is meritocracy – academic, technical and professional qualifications. YRTK welcomes this move. However, we still want to know what will happen in a plural society like Mauritius if while filling ten vacant posts in the medical services/or at the Attorney General office, the ten most meritorious candidates happen to belong to one community, say the Chinese, which constitute 3 % of the population?
Will all the posts be attributed to that community bearing in mind that the Hindus constitute 52% of the population, the Muslims 17% and the General population 28% ? Would not the panel – PSC or any other board – be tempted to consider the réalités mauriciennes ?
Assuming that there are ten posts of judges vacant, will the Judicial and Legal Services Comission appoint ten judges from the Muslim community in case the ten candidates happen to be the most meritorious? Incidentally, the Tribunal set up by the EOA to investigate into cases of alleged discrimination will, probably, not be empowered to look into the appointments made by the JLSC,itself an independent body set up by the Constitution.
Part V of the Bill deals with sexual harassment, that is, making an unwelcomed sexual advance or an unwelcome request for a sexual favour to another person engages in any unwelcomed conduct of a sexual nature to another person – conduct includes issuing an unwelcome oral or written statement of a sexual nature to other persons. We fail to see the relevance of the sexual harassment in the EOA although we concede it is a form of discrimination against women.
We feel that such provisions be left to the Sexual Discrimination Act. Thus, according to us, there is no need to repeal the Sexual Discrimination Act. The act does not merely cover discrimination with regards to employment policies. It also encompasses prohibition from discrimination – direct or indirect and any act of victimisation – with regards to education, for example, entry at the university, provision of goods, services or facilities, renting accommodation, buying of immovable property, business partnerships, access to premises and sports.
All these protections can, if the law does not become a dead letter, be salutary and promote the building of a society free from discriminations. Although Honourable Rama Valayden must be congratulated for his courage, boldness and audacity, we fail to see how such act (EOA) would be implemented without a proper RTI/FOI Act, without an enshrinement of the EOA in the Constitution and without meaningful Constitutional provisions that it cannot be amended except through a three-quarters parliamentary majority together with referendum.
Mr Attorney General, you will recall that you have said on several occasions and one such occasion being the celebration of the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King at the Human Rights Centre, that an EOA will be meaningless if it is not supported with a RTI/FOI Act. YRTK would like to remind you that the RTI aAct has been introduced in more than 65 countries notably, India, Canada, Great-Britain and the USA – democracies that we normally use as references.
It is only, if all citizens, obtain access to information – not only aggrieved citizens, that we will move further on the road to transparency,accountability and good governance.The RTI act and the EOA together will render power to the people or shall we put it this way, it will «put people first» as L’Alliance sociale rightly pledged in their 2005 elections manifesto. Can we really empower the people by passing both legislations, the RTI and EOA, both with necessary constitutional gurantees? Your Right To Know would,without hesitation,say ‘YES WE CAN’ !
March 2009 – The International Development Research Centre
Mauritius: Policy-Making in Africa
by Veepin Bhowon, Narainduth Boodhoo and Pynee A. Chellapermal
The economic success experienced by Mauritius can be attributed to a combination of internal and external factors that have transformed an agro-based industry into a export-oriented manufacturing economy with a strong tourism sector. In fact during the early 1990s, a mix of industrial drive with such other factors as the implementation of structural adjustment programmes, liberal trade policies, trade preferences and a pro-business government contributed to boost the Mauritian economy. The export orientation was further reinforced with the development of the Export Processing Zone and the tourism sector. Another determinant is the free access of Mauritian goods to the European market. This made the Mauritian economy more competitive.
The domestic social and political conditions were also economically encouraging. Also the existence of a “welfare state” providing free education since 1977, free health care and other social benefits has contributed to the economic development of the country. The government also played a fundamental role by giving incentives for the development of various economic sectors. This attracted investment from foreign and local investors and gave dynamism to the industrial economy.
Nevertheless, there are contradicting views as to whether this economic situation was created by a conducive environment or the difficult economic milieu. Mauritius adopted structural adjustment programmes and pushed for an export-oriented economy. A look at the policy decisions taken over the past two decades and the growth of the economy indicates that despite the positive role played by the government, the macro-economic management has not been the most efficient.
It would seem there was only an adjustment to the changing economic environment, and a management-by-crisis approach was adopted. One of the reasons to explain this is that there has been no long-term policy for sustaining the industrial and trade development. The globalization of the world economy and the implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provisions are now beginning to have a strong impact on the Mauritian economy. The latter has been mainly dependent on the preferential access to its major market, and it is now facing competition from other emerging exporters.
It is true that Mauritius is making efforts to have the manufacturing export-oriented industry cater for the up market. However, there are a number of obstacles such as increasing wages and low productivity, which are major constraints to the future of the export manufacturing industry. Moreover, the conditions under which Mauritius exports sugar to the European Union do not indicate that they will be maintained for long. Thus, no long-term strategy has been developed for the EPZ sector. Discussions between the public and the private sectors are going on to come up with a long-term plan. However, it is difficult to tell when it will be implemented.
The Past and Current Policy Environment
The Economic Structure
The Mauritian economy is today based on four pillars, namely sugar, textile, tourism and the services sectors. The sugar sector has always occupied central place in Mauritian economy and it has been a determining parameter in the country’s development strategy. The major concern has always been to get access to foreign markets for the Mauritian sugar. The economy has been determined by the conditions for sugar production and international trade regimes. The initial stage of development was based primarily on the proceeds of sugar exports and the import of consumer goods. The sugar sector still dominates the agricultural sector and depends heavily on the European market. Over 90 percent of the sugar is exported at a guaranteed price to the European Union under the provision of the Sugar Protocol under the Lome Convention. Its weight as the main generator of foreign exchange in the economy is constantly decreasing to the benefit of the Export Processing Zone. Apart from the EPZ sector, tourism is the third pillar of the Mauritian economy. The number of tourists visiting Mauritius is constantly on the increase and the up-market segment remains the priority. This is followed by the financial services sector through the recent development of the offshore and free port services.
However, during the 1970s, Mauritius was suffering from a chronic unemployment and trade deficit and the country had to have recourse to the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme to stabilize the economy. Consequently the country went through two currency devaluations in the 1970s, but in the long run the Structural Adjustment Programme contributed in putting the country on a sound economic footing.
The Ownership Structure
The ownership pattern has not changed much in Mauritius except for the fact that there is now a new generation of owners as a result of the development of entrepreneurship in the country. Economic power is still in the hands of a minority group who controls the sugar, tourism and EPZ sectors. Despite attempts to democratize the economy and business, a major shift in the economic ownership structure is not expected. Land reform has never been a political concern. Land, concentrated in the hands of Franco-Mauritians, has not been a threat to the economic development of country. In Mauritius, the use of redistributive fiscal instruments such as the sugar levy have in the past been more effective than land redistribution for welfare promotion. Mauritius had never had a government advocating confiscation or nationalization of business and industry. Mauritian leaders’ commitment to international treaties and agreements have contributed to the development of an enabling environment and to political stability. This situation has maintained the status quo on land ownership and contributed to a sharp dichotomy between political and economic power. Mauritius still concentrates land on a small minority of landowners at the expense of social stability. This stability is vital for social cohesion in a multicultural society.
Political Determinants and its Impact on Economic Policy
Industrial and trade policies are designed to improve or maintain the rate of economic growth of the country. But they are influenced to a certain extent by the national historical heritage and by the political environment at the time they are adopted. These two factors have influenced the adoption of industrial and trade policies in Mauritius.
Emergence of the State
Mauritius was first a French colony before it came under British rule in 1810. The island remained a British colony until March 1968 when it obtained its independence. The slow process of the transfer of power from the British monarch to the people of Mauritius started in 1957 with the introduction of the ministerial system of government. In March 1968, Mauritius became a sovereign country within the Commonwealth but the Queen of England was still the Head of State through a Governor-General. In 1992, Mauritius became a Republic and the Head of State is now the President. The transition period that prepared Mauritians to take control of the country and the aftermath of independence were characterised by a division of the Mauritian society about the future of the country. However, a conducive environment for policy-making was slowly evolving as Mauritians took their destiny in their own hands. All through, these years, Mauritius has followed the Westminster model of democracy.
The Nature of the State
The Mauritian State is modelled on the British system of government. The Council of Government at the time of independence became the Cabinet headed by a Prime Minister, with the Legislative Assembly as the law making body. As in Britain, the Mauritian system of government is based on the principle of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The Prime Minister is normally the leader of the party with a majority in the National Assembly. In 1992, Mauritius became a Republic with a President with constitutional powers similar to those previously held by the Governor-General. The President is a figurehead and is nominated for a period of five years by a simple majority of the National Assembly on the proposition of the Prime Minister. He is a constitutional head and exerts his powers and prerogatives on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
The executive power of the Government of Mauritius lies with the Prime Minister who is the head of the Cabinet. In the Mauritian context, the Cabinet is responsible for policy formulation. Mauritius is a classical case of Cabinet Government although the Prime Minister and certain senior ministers such as the Minister of Finance and the Minister of External Affairs play an important role in the Cabinet. However, there have been cases where the Prime Minister has had an upper hand in certain policy decisions, and this has led certain observers to argue that Mauritius has more of a Prime Ministerial form of government. There is, however, no such example in the field of trade and industrial policies where the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade usually play a determining role in policy formulation and implementation. On very sensitive and important issues, the economic committee of the Cabinet is put to contribution. A practice has evolved recently at the level of the Cabinet to refer certain economic issues to that committee. This has been the case with the last three national budgets. It must be pointed out that ministers have a fair amount of discretionary powers and that these powers must be reduced because they promote individual interests against national interests.
Partnership and Consensus Building
In Mauritius, the State plays a major role in the development process and is also a major employer. The sugar sector a has also been a major employer but has to-day left this role to the EPZ sector. Work in the sugar sector is relatively slow except at the time of harvesting. The rhythm of other economic activities is influenced by that of the sugar industry. However, the modern sector like the Export Processing Zone operates at a quicker pace compared to that of the traditional sector. A typical example is the work done in the EPZ sector where the worker puts in 10 to 11 hours per day. This has certain consequences:
* Workers tend to prefer low-paid jobs in the traditional sector because of the harder conditions of work in the modern sector. Their preference is often for the public and parastatal sectors where there is security of employment.
* The traditional sector tends to remain hypertrophied whereas the modern sector continues to suffer a shortage of labour.
* It is becoming a necessity to modernize the traditional sector so that it can operate like the modern sector.
The Civil Service
The Mauritius civil service is a classical copy of the British one, and has, despite various constraints, played a vital role in policy implementation. Parastatals also form part of this broad structure of government. Presently, the public sector employs about 60,000 people. However, there is a serious problem of coordination between various ministries concerned with policy-making and implementation. The interference of politicians and ministers in the day to day management of the service affects the motivation of civil servants and has a negative impact on efficiency. The solution would be an independent civil service and a clearly defined policy that will enable the civil servant to cope with new challenges.
The Private Sector
The private sector also faces similar challenges but is more flexible and efficient. Nevertheless it is much easier to stick the label of inefficiency on the public sector. For the latter is as efficient as the private sector at the level of certain departments, ministries and parastals. Today it is the most efficient public sector organizations that are being privatised, such as the Mauritius Telecom. Yet, there is room for improvement in the traditional activities of the private sector. The latter has a long history associated the sugar industry and it was realised in the colonial days that it must be structured in order to promote its interests. In an effort to do so, it has over the years set up professional bodies in key sectors and ensured that it is recognised as a dialogue partner by the government. The necessity of engaging in dialogue was accepted by both government and the private sector although such dialogue has not always been smooth. In fact, the private sector-government dialogue improved and got consolidated in the 1980s, with lobbying activities and regular consultations being the main instruments used by the private sector. Today, the main dialogue partner of the government for the private sector is the apex body — the Joint Economic Council. Consultations, formal and non-formal, have become a regular feature of government-private sector relationship.
The government maintains a balance on the market and creates a competitive environment through specialised institutions that compete with the private sector in fields such as banking and insurance. It can be argued that the private sector has been a captive waiting for the government to play the leading role in the development of support policies as is the case in tourism promotion and delocalisation in Mozambique. Nevertheless, the government-private sector dialogue is instrumental in reaching a consensus on policy-making, and has helped in creating an environment in which the private sector can operate.
The Trade Union Movement The civil society (trade unions, the press and NGOs) has flourished since independence and certain members of the civil society played a major role in the struggle for better labour laws and extended political rights prior to independence.
Consensus building is a characteristic of policy-making in Mauritius, and trade unions are engaged in the process to promote the welfare of workers. This, together with the close relationship between trade unions and politics, constitutes the basis for the incorporation of trade unions inpolicy making. In 1948, general elections were held following a new Constitution that granted all those who could write in any of the languages in Mauritius the right to vote. The enlargement of the electoral base for workers coincided with the debut of trade unionists in elective politics. This impacted on the role played by trade unions within the policy-making process. At the same time it cost them their independence from politicians who appropriated the programmes of the trade unions to themselves. The open democratic system has been conducive to the active involvement of trade unions in influencing policy. It must be argued that at the initial development of the EPZ in Mauritius, the trade union movement, especially left wing trade unions, were not in favour of industrialisation through the EPZ model. In fact the trade union movement shared the views of left wing political parties and intellectuals on the issue, and it was difficult for the country to have a consensus on the EPZ strategy in the context of policy formulation. In fact the EPZ sector imposed itself as an industrialisation process on the Mauritian stakeholders through its success. This explains in part, the absence today of any clear strategy for an industrialisation policy in the country. Although it must be recognised that the trade unions played and still play a fundamental role in the industrial sector, life was not easy for the trade unionists and they had to resort to strikes and other means of solving industrial disputes to be recognised as representatives of trade unions of the EPZ sector. Certain industrialists went as far as setting up management committees in their factories to divide their workers and weaken the trade union movement. The struggle by the trade union movement paid off in the end in terms of better conditions of work and introduction of labour laws for the EPZ sector. Trade unions in the EPZ sector have the opportunity to participate with trade unions in the other sectors in the tripartite committee where the Minister of Finance and other ministers, with the representatives from the private sector, determine the annual salary compensation of the Mauritian workers. However, workers through their trade union representatives are not in a position to influence policy formulation in the context of industrial strategies, the sole domain of government and the private sector.
With globalisation and liberalisation, the Mauritian trade union movement is faced with new challenges. Trade unions can no longer confine themselves to such traditional issues as better conditions of work, but must deal with issues such as globalisation, sustainable industrialisation and the linkage between trade and environment, and related WTO issues. It is not an easy task especially when it comes to the mobilisation of specialist advice on certain technical economic and trade issues. The cohesion of the trade union movement is weak because of the different ideological and political sensitivities. Nevertheless, there is hope for the trade union movement to influence policy. There is need for more coordinated and common advocacy activities in civil society for members to be more effective in addressing policy issues like trade and industrialisation. In this context, there is need for additional intellectual and research input and a proper understanding of the stakes.
EPZ has been at the centre of the development of the modern sector operating competitively nearer to the international level and able to push the traditional sector towards a modern era in the context of human resource management that creates conditions for global productivity. This should not be the concern of the government solely but should become a national issue. The setting up of the National Productivity Council should be viewed in this context.
Ethnicity and Meritocracy in both Government and the Private Sector
Productivity alone cannot push the Mauritian economy to an international competitive level. Ethnicity and meritocracy are part and parcel of the problem. Ethnicity in contemporary Mauritius is a direct product of colonisation during which the ownership and socio-economic structures were closely linked. The Mauritian ethnic pattern is strongly linked to the various phases of transformation (slavery, the coolie trade and later the political struggle for independence) of the politico-economic structure that brought people from various parts of the world. The various phases and waves of migrants (whether forced or voluntary) have led to the creation of a plural society on an originally uninhabited island.
Ethnic Specialisation and Ethno-Professional Structure
The plantation economy of the colonial days impacted on the nascent Mauritian society and led to ethnic specialisation in economic activity and the use of labour force. Consequently, the issue of ethnicity cannot be isolated from the struggles of the slaves, the Indians and later the political struggle of the Hindus (the descendents of Indians) and the Creole (descendents of slaves) including the gens de couleur (the coloured) and other ethnic minorities. After 200 years of slavery, the slaves, about 66,000, abandoned the plantations with the abolition of slavery and settled in the towns or coastal villages where they occupied precarious jobs as fishermen, masons and carpenters, among others, while a small minority worked as artisans on the sugar estates. Indentured labour was brought in from 1834 to replace the slaves, and both groups of workers have greatly contributed in the development of modern Mauritius. It is important to point out that in the 1880s and the 1930s Franco-Mauritians controlled everything. In the then public sector of the time, the posts of magistrates and senior police officers were reserved for Franco-Mauritians. Lower-level police officials, district magistrates, medical officers, clerks and teachers were predominantly members of the Creole middle-class. The Hindus were initially left out and they were only later gradually allowed into government employment.
Despite the fears and hopes raised by independence, the coming to power of the Labour Party, strongly supported by the vast Hindu community (51 percent), did not bring about any changes in economic ownership. Implicitly, a new distribution of roles was accepted whereby the political power (and government) would be in the hands of the majority community while economic power (private sector) would remain in the hands of a small minority. This created a clear dichotomy between the holders of economic and political power. According to one Mauritian economist, this resulted in a “dual and segmented labour market” characteristic of the country’s economic structure. He also argues that, given the historical context, this dichotomy has been necessary.
Concept of Meritocracy and Related Issues
The debate about meritocracy has arisen in this context. The main concern has been public sector employment because people consider that government has to be accountable to citizens on the distribution of government jobs, which are financed by taxpayers. Private sector methods of recruitment have also been under scrutiny and it is argued that the private sector has to shoulder a certain amount of social responsibility as it does not operate in a vacuum. In any case it uses the labour force and human resources whose education and training have been financed by government and the public. It also benefits from adequate economic policies and infrastructural facilities implemented by the government. It is therefore felt that the meritocracy issue should become more and more the concern of both sectors.
The concept of meritocracy, defined as attributing employment or promotion to objective personal merits of competence, qualification, performance and aptitude without any subjective consideration such as race, colour, ethnic or religious belonging or political affiliation, is not easy to implement. A few approaches aiming at embodying the spirit of meritocracy include the an Equal Opportunity Act, a quota system or a positive discrimination approach. The issue is the difficulty in identifying a set of objective criteria and their applicability in the Mauritian society.
The Way Forward
However, the debate must be situated in a political perspective whereby the days of full employment and of massive recruitment of labour irrespective of ethnicity are over. It is only when the Mauritian economic system stabilised that there was resistance against meritocracy, and this has led to a crisis. In this regard, it is not in the interest of the Mauritian society to adopt a quota system while affirmative action requires further study. But the Equal Opportunity Act alone is not sufficient to ensure equal opportunities to all. Over and above legislative provisions, there must be an adequate institutional framework to guarantee the principle of equal opportunities for all. Otherwise, there is the danger that only the middle class will benefit from this legislative provision while the disadvantaged groups become more marginalised.
We would therefore argue for a new social pact between government and the private sector whereby meritocracy can occur through the emergence of a single unified labour market. Only then can personal merit and qualifications become the criteria for recruitment and promotion. As long as the labour market remains dual and segmented, the minority controlling the private sector will fear losing its economic power and will not be favourable to the majority community and other minorities attaining key positions in their businesses. On the other hand, the majority community would not want to lose political control of the state, which they consider as their only chance of getting employment and promotion. A single unified labour market should have a separation of ownership and management in the private sector to create space for any Mauritian, irrespective of ethnic belonging, to become top managers even if the ownership of such businesses still remains in the hands of a minority.
The increasing need for competition in the global market would pressure the dual system to create links between the private and government sectors. The fact that more competent and qualified candidates are each year joining the labour market is also thought to be a factor pushing for a unification of the two segments. The role of the State is bound to retrench, and the private sector is faced with the challenge of taking new responsibilities as employer. Otherwise new contradictions will emerge within the Mauritian society and these will put at risk the sustainable development of the country.
Politics of Strategic Trade and Industrial Policies
Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius adopted, like most developing countries, a restrictive and protectionist trade policy until the 1980s when it embarked on an irreversible liberalisation process. Given the specificity of Mauritius as a small and isolated island economy, free trade and non-interference in the domestic market would have been the best policy for the government to follow. The need to raise revenue left few options other than the imposition of high tariffs, and the taxing of imports was viewed as the easiest means of raising government revenue. However, other reasons such as the establishment and protection of the domestic industry also largely contributed to the adoption of the protectionist trade policy. Side by side imports and exports were subjected to a licensing system, while other forms of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), namely import quotas and foreign exchange rationing, were also introduced.
The Trade Liberalisation Process
Since the beginning of the 1980s the trade regime in Mauritius has been substantially liberalised. In the beginning of the 1980s quantitative restrictions and price controls affected a large majority of imports. Tariffs were as high as 600 percent. In 1984 and 1985 quantitative restrictions were completely dismantled. Price controls were lifted on the majority of products. In 1991 import licensing was eliminated on all but a limited list of items subject to health, sanitary or strategic controls. In 1994 export licensing was abolished on all but a limited number of products, in particular on products of strategic importance such as cement, and exports restricted by quotas in the importing markets.
During the whole of the 1980s, tariffs have been constantly decreasing. However, major changes in the tariff structure were instituted in 1994 when a three-column tariff consisting of the fixed duty, the general customs duty and the preferential duty was consolidated into one-column and the number of tariff bands streamlined from 60 to eight. While the reform eased administration and made it more transparent, it not only failed to address many of the drawbacks of the existing system but also distorted the system by bringing in changes that were contrary to the stated objectives of the reform.
With a rising budget deficit, it was crucial that reform of the domestic sales taxation goes hand in hand with the reform of customs tariffs. Specifically, to protect revenue, the pace of tariff reform and the ensuing reduction in the average tariff had to be carefully matched with the reform of domestic sales taxation. However, the lowering of the customs tariff was not accompanied by remedial steps required on other fiscal front, in particular on sales tax, that would have improved the overall efficiency of the indirect taxation system or made up for the loss of revenue.
Exchange Control Liberalisation
Due to its historic ties with Britain, the local currency of Mauritius was linked to the sterling pound until 1976. Moreover the Bank of Mauritius was the only market maker in foreign exchange. It established control on the movement of foreign currency. The first step to liberalising the foreign exchange regime was made in 1986 when commercial banks were authorised to transfer up to Rs 200,000 for payment of imports without the approval of the Central Bank. Already in 1988 commercial banks were authorised to effect all payments without the approval of the central bank. Final liberalisation came in 1993 when Mauritius accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the IMF agreement. Since 1994, the function of market maker in foreign exchange of the central bank was repealed. Now the bank only intervenes on the market by buying and selling dollars. The sugar proceeds in foreign currency, which were bought entirely by the Central Bank from the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate, have been managed by the latter since 1997. An automated foreign exchange market in US dollars operates in the capital, and commercial banks are encouraged to conduct foreign exchange operations among themselves. In fact a Foreign Exchange Dealers Act was passed in 1995 to regulate all foreign exchange deals and money changes. The objective of the Act was to promote greater competition among dealers in foreign currency.
Monetary and Credit Policy
The principal instruments of monetary policy were till the end of the 1980s the reserve requirements, quantitative control of bank credit expansion, selective credit controls and interest rate guidelines. The interest rate policy favoured the EPZ sector and remained biased against smaller and new firms. The Bank of Mauritius directly managed the credit policy through a system of credit ceilings. Monetary policy was therefore used as a micro-economic rather than a macro-economic instrument.
Reform in the banking sector started in 1988 when interest rates were liberalised by abolishing the minimum savings deposit rate and the maximum loan rate. More major reforms were undertaken in 1991 to increase competition in the banking system. There was a shift in policy towards the use of open market operations and the establishment of a price mechanism to allocate credit apart from the expansion of the supply of money market instruments. The bank rate was reduced from 12 to 11 percent and the Bank of Mauritius began to auction bills weekly. The bank rate was further lowered to eight percent in 1992 and the credit ceilings to priority sectors were removed. The ceilings on non-priority sectors were also removed in 1993. Other important developments related to the linking of the bank rate initially to a 12-week average weighted on three months, six months, and one year treasury bills plus a margin of one percent.
In December 1994 the margin was reduced to 0.25 percent and in 1995 the 12-week average was replaced by a one-week average plus a margin of 0.25 percentage point. The 0.25 percent point margin was abolished in December 1996. The bank rate is equal to the overall weighted average yield for accepted bills.
Value-Added Tax A value-added tax was introduced in September 1998 at the rate of 10 percent ad valorem. It is applicable on an extended tax base, which also covers the services sector. However, the tax also contains 50 exemptions which should be streamlined in future.
It is generally believed that the VAT would generate greater revenue, facilitate the flows of investment into Mauritius and increase the country’s competitive edge on the export markets. The tax avoids cascading since VAT collected on purchases of capital and intermediate imports are refunded. The cost of capital is therefore reduced, impacting positively on the competitiveness of exports. Tax evasion is also less likely since it is collected at different stages of the distribution chain. For the first nine months since its introduction the tax has generated 3.5 billion rupees.
Reform of the Excise Tax System
Notwithstanding the 1994 tax system reform, excise taxation remained seriously flawed. The Excise Act of 1994 contained such positive elements as the extension of excise taxation to imports. This taxation was formerly applicable only on domestically produced goods. However, many of the features of the reformed excise tax remained inconsistent with modern excise taxation system. The 1998/99 budget went a long way in ensuring that the excise taxation system conformed to established international norms and practices and at the same time corrected a number of existing anomalies that arose from the differential treatment between imported and locally produced goods. Accordingly, the 47 percent excise duty levied solely on imported furniture was abolished.
Mauritius has known two major phases of development in industrialization. Industrialisation has gradually transformed the structure of the Mauritian economy from an agricultural one to one based to a large extent on the export-oriented manufacturing sector. The first industrial development phase started with the implementation of an import substitution industry in the early 1970s, but this was soon found to be limited due to the constraints of the local market. This led to the setting up of the second phase with the Export Processing Zone manufacturing and service sector. During the past 25 years, both the import substitution and the export-oriented regimes have been part of the industrial development of the Mauritian economy with nevertheless a dominant export sector.
Import-Substitution Policy (1960–1970)
In the early 1960s the drive behind the setting-up of an import-substitution policy was led by the recommendations of the Meade Report. The main aim of this report was to study the economic and social structures of the Mauritian economy and make recommendations geared towards maintaining the improvement of the standard of living given the demographic growth.
Problems encountered by the import-substitution policy
The attempt to diversify the economy and to create new jobs, however, did not last long. The main reason was the small size of the Mauritian market. The level of employment in the manufacturing sector stood at 9,000 in the late 1960s and there was still a significant number unemployed. The situation was further worsened by an increasing number of school leavers. The annual economic growth rate was also not encouraging at 1.75 percent. Both savings and investment rates remained virtually constant at 16 percent of GDP during this period. With the shortages of foreign exchange prevailing, a change in industrial policy was imperative.
The Meade Report of 1961 had advocated export-led industrialisation, but the government did not act on this recommendation until it discovered the limits of the import-substitution policy. Mauritius gradually turned to an export-led strategy which began with the setting up of the export processing zone in 1970, but without giving up on import-substitution. However, it was only in the early 1980s that the economy showed promising results and acknowledged success, the peak year being 1988. The economic development was not only due to the industrial drive but also to a mix of other factors like the implementation of structural adjustment programmes, liberal trade policies, trade preferences and a pro-business government. Tourism also played a vital role in the success story.
Mixed Policy Regime (1970–1982)
From 1970 the government endeavoured to stimulate both the export-oriented policies, through the Export Processing Zone, and the import-substituting industries with additional facilities to the existing ones. This “mixed strategy” which characterised the industrial sector was however not profitable enough for the economy. The application of high tariff rates to stimulate local production and discourage imports was therefore not successful. The DC enterprises continued to enjoy high protection, and their competitiveness and productivity remained low. The import protection also failed to provide the desired linkages or diffusion effects of industrialisation to stimulate the economy.
Taking into account the various constraints related to the import-substitution industry, it was obvious that export-oriented firms would emerge as the new economic challenge. A sustainable development in the EPZ sector was likely to have a greater impact on production, exports and employment. Mauritius entered the 1980s with severe economic setbacks: a balance of payments disequilibrium, soaring unemployment, rapid inflation, acute foreign exchange shortages, low reserves, a public finance in a shambles, high and rising debt services, low savings, and low investments. It must be noted that as a consequence of the reversal in trade and payments balances, the government had to borrow from foreign markets between 1976 and 1979 with the result that the Mauritian debt increased threefold.
In 1983, Mauritius began to take measures towards an export-led policy in its structural adjustment phase. These measures concerned trade liberalisation, exchange rate management as well as export incentives, and export-oriented manufacturing thus began to emerge as the most dynamic sector. Mauritius was thus condemned to turn to an aggressive export strategy, given the small size of its domestic market which further reinforced the rationality of this approach. The latter also required intensive promotional efforts from the government through investment promotion institutions. Although the strategy of Mauritius has not changed, it nevertheless brought about changes in its policies in order to accommodate the constraints that arose from the exogenous factors that influenced industrial development. Thus Mauritius carried out major changes in policies during the 1984–88 period and subsequently in 1993.
Industrial Policy Between 1983 and 1993
Incentives that encouraged the development of the 1983–93 industrial policy
The existing incentives for export via the EPZ were maintained. Moreover, the flexible exchange rate and the wage restraint introduced early in the 1980s helped EPZ to strengthen its international competitiveness and transform Mauritius’s overall economic and financial situation. Supporting these new policies were a number of other measures that elicited a strong supply-side response. Measures included the revision of tax structures in order to stimulate production and the reduction of tax evasion, and harmonise the incentives offered to export and import substitution enterprises.
Evolution of the Industry
Between 1983 and 1988, the new set of incentives coupled with the depreciation in the real effective exchange rate resulted in significant increases in production, exports, and employment. This economic performance also benefited from better world economic conditions with favourable terms of trade through falling oil and commodity prices, a depreciation of the dollar and a fall in interest rates. Economic recovery in the US and Europe further contributed to boost exports of manufactured articles. Moreover, employment increased sharply in the EPZ sector. In 1988, near full employment was reached, with the share of employees in the EPZ sector being higher than in the agricultural sector.
Industrial Policy since 1993
The idea behind this new phase of industrial policy was to integrate export-orientation in the EPZ and the import-substitution sector and pursue industrial diversification. As a result opportunities were given to enterprises in pioneering sectors. Consequently, from 1993, industrial policy in Mauritius was reinforced with the enactment of the Industrial Expansion Act, the Small and Medium Industries Development Organisation Act, and the amendment of the Export Processing Zones Development
Authority Act of 1990.
Problems Related to the Development of Industry since 1993
The three main constraints facing the manufacturing industry are:
* the rapid growth of real wages thus reducing the competitiveness of Mauritian exports;
* a heavy concentration of exports on sugar and textiles and on particular markets; and
* the erosion of the comparative advantage of Mauritius in terms of labour-intensive activities, especially compared to its Asian competitors.
According to Lall and Wignaraja (1998) enterprises consider that they face the following constraints:
* high interest rates;
* heavy bureaucratic procedures resulting in delays to obtain foreign investment approvals, DBM loan approvals, refunds on import duties, and work permits for foreign technical staff;
* lack of access to finance (the need for collateral is still predominant for small enterprises);
* an appreciating exchange rate;
* policy uncertainty;
* infrequent sailing and high sea freight costs;
* shortages of skilled labour and technical manpower;
* lack of reliable suppliers of raw materials, parts, and components; and
* inadequate technology institutions.
What Caused the Mauritian Success Story?
The discussion above shows that Mauritius has been able to achieve economic success with the equal opportunities for other ACP countries. However, what is the reason behind this success?
Mauritius’ recipe was not dependent on a single formula that could be replicated; it consisted of a package and favourable circumstances. It would be difficult to pinpoint the parameters for the Mauritian success story as it would be totally unrealistic to carry out the same model in another environment. These could however be grouped into internal and external factors.
The external factors Mauritius took advantage of were twofold. In the first instance there was uncertainty about the future of Hong Kong. This situation encouraged investors from Hong Kong to look for investment bases elsewhere and Mauritius seemed the appropriate choice especially for the textile sector. Apart from this, the duty and quota free access to the EU market was also instrumental in attracting investors to Mauritius as business operators could not satisfy orders due to quota restrictions. Furthermore, it must be emphasised that investments from Hong Kong did not bring only capital but also technology and know-how.
The second factor was related to the duty free access on EU for goods originating from the ACP countries. The Lomé Convention was, therefore, instrumental in the economic development of Mauritius. Indeed Mauritius is among the very rare countries in the ACP to have availed itself of the Lomé Preferences which are in the form of duty and quota free access to the EU market. The Lomé trade programme covers the totality of industrial goods including textiles and approximately 80 percent of agricultural products besides access under tariff rate quotas of certain specific agricultural products. In the case of Mauritius, the protocol on sugar has provided tariff free access to the EU market of some 510,000 tons of Mauritian sugar annually at a guaranteed price, which is well above the world market price. Since the coming into force of the Convention, total domestic exports to the EU in absolute terms constantly increased, although relative to total domestic exports, the EU’s share has been on the decline since the beginning of the 1990s. This is due in part to increased exports to the US and to the regional markets. The trend of exports to the EU is shown in Table 7.1.
It is evident from the figures above that EU still represents the main export market for Mauritius and will most probably remain so for quite sometime.
June 12, 2009 – revrowlandjidemacaulay.blogspot.com
Mauritius – United Nations Human Right Council 11th Session
United Nations Human Right Council 11th Session – Geneva, 2 to 19th June 2009.
UPR Mauritius – International Lesbian and Gay Association
We commend Mauritius for its leadership, noted in the Working Group report, in supporting the joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered at the UN General Assembly last December, on behalf of 67 States from all 5 UN regions. Amongst other things, this statement urges States to take all the necessary measures “to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties”.
In this regard, we welcome Mauritius’ acceptance of recommendation 4, to finalise and adopt the Sexual Offences Bill, which will decriminalise sexual activity between consenting adults. Could the delegation indicate the current status of the Bill, and when it is likely to be adopted? We also commend Mauritius for adopting the Equal Opportunities Act, which prohibits discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation and HIV status.
During UPR discussion, the Attorney-General acknowledged that the human rights training provided to law enforcement and judicial officers has so far not really focused on the rights of persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, and mentioned that technical assistance from other States or organizations would be appreciated in this area. What kind of assistance would be most useful to the government in this regard?
We appreciate the delegation’s constructive engagement in the UPR process, and thank you again for your leadership on these important human rights issues.
We recognize in the government’s response that;
The amendment of section 16 of the Constitution will include new forms of discrimination to be considered.
Thank you very much Mr President.
November 2009 – From a GlobalGayz Mauritian reader residing in Australia
Being Gay in Mauritius
The following comments were sent to GlobalGayz from a native of Mauritius regarding his early life as a gay young man in his country. The picture he paints is unhappy and stress-filled as he faced persecution and rejection from all sides.
"I was indeed most shocked and aghast to see a hell hole like Mauritius , posted on your site. I was born there , sadly enough, raised up there, sadly enough, and above all was gay there, tragically & traumatically enough. Let’s say that Mauritius ruined my life , as I had to flee the place as a gay teenager. Mauritius ruined my education & prospects of a good career. I was lucky enough to come from a well off family who had the means to offer me an escape to South Africa. Sadly enough, ‘ apartheid ‘ was abhorrent to witness, but it was my only escape then, as white skin was the sole visa prerequisite.
"I shall not write an autobiography, but let’s say that if I’m now a disabled person, I can say ‘thank you’ to Mauritius and its people, people I could not call my own even if I had a gun pointed at my head. Many years have now gone by since I left that hell hole to come and live in civilized Australia. Sadly enough, despite the dismantling of apartheid racism still prevails in South Africa, and in Mauritius homophobia will always prevail. Its beaches may be lovely but its standards sure leave lots to be desired."
GlobalGayz: Could you please be more specific about how Mauritius ruined your life. You comments will be very helpful to other gay people thinking about going there.
"I shall illustrate my life as a gay teenager in the hell hole of Mauritius through just a few rhetorical questions to u.
1) Have u ever experienced walking towards a shop to get whatever and have Straight guys scream out loud " here comes the faggot, backs to the wall!" ha ha ha !
2) Have u ever had people get out of their seats in a picture theatre as u got seated next to them?
3) Have u ever experienced your very own father refusing a British Knighthood because of the shame of his own son being gay ?
4) Have u ever experienced having to live as a hermit to avoid public humiliation ?
5) Have u ever been forced to have sex with a woman/girl just to make sure that u didn’t end up disfigured?
6) Have u ever been forced to walk longer distances to avoid people recognising u ?
"That was in a brief nutshell Mauritius for me. I can go further down the track to illustrate the Mauritian attitude towards gays, even outside of Mauritius. And there’s more.
1) Have u ever been accused of being a pedophile just coz u’re gay, by your very own btw?
2) Have u ever been told that u were not invited to family gatherings coz of your abnormality ?
3) Have u ever been disinherited coz of your sexual orientation ?
4) Have u ever experienced having no family at all just coz of your sexual orientation ?
"I have illustrated to u not just so called gay Mauritius as a whole, but also Mauritians as people, as family of gays. Maybe my words can balance out the false rosy picture your author portrays on your website story. For a gay visitor who comes for a week and stays at a resort with a group, the picture is completely different from a native gay person here."