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Economy of Mauritius

Mauritius has one of the most successful and competitive economies in Africa; 2010 GDP at market prices was estimated at $9.5 billion and per capita income at $7,420, one of the highest in Africa. The economy is based on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. In recent years, information and communication technology, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training have emerged as important sectors, attracting substantial investment from both local and foreign investors. Mauritius’s economy suffered at the turn of the millennium as longstanding trade preferences in textiles and sugar--the foundation of its growth strategy--were phased out. In 2005, the government embarked on an economic reform program aimed at opening up the economy, facilitating business, improving the investment climate, and mobilizing foreign direct investment and expertise. These reforms accelerated the rate of growth, reduced unemployment, and sped up the pace of diversification of the economy through the development of new sectors. All of these factors contributed to absorb the shock of the global economic recession as well as the Eurozone crisis and set the stage for Mauritius to resume accelerated growth in 2010. GDP growth is forecast at 4.2% in 2011, compared with 4.1% in 2010. Mauritius has built its success on a free market economy. According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, developed by the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Mauritius leads Sub-Saharan Africa in economic freedom and is ranked 12th worldwide. The report’s ranking of 183 countries is based on measures of economic openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law, and competitiveness. For the third consecutive year, the World Bank’s 2011 Doing Business report ranks Mauritius first among African economies (20th worldwide, out of 183 economies in all) in terms of overall ease of doing business. The government’s objective is for Mauritius to rank among the top 10 most investment- and business-friendly locations in the world. Mauritius has a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, which has led to a strong and dynamic private sector. Firms entering the market will find a robust legal and commercial infrastructure. Mauritius has a well-developed digital infrastructure and offers state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities including international leased lines and high-speed Internet access. Government policy is to act as a facilitator to business, leaving production to the private sector. However, it still controls key utility services, including electricity, water, waste water, postal services, and television broadcasting, directly or through parastatals. The government also controls, through the State Trading Corporation, the import of what it deems to be strategic products such as rice (only non-basmati or other non-luxury rice), wheat flour, petroleum products, and cement.
GDP (2009 est., official exchange rate):
$9.156 billion. Real growth rate (2009 est.): 2.1%. Per capita income (2009 est., purchasing power parity): $12,400. Avg. inflation rate (2009 est.): 3.4%. Natural resources: None. Agriculture (4.5% of GDP): Products --sugar, sugar derivatives, tea, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, flowers, cattle and fishing. Manufacturing, including export processing zone (19.4% of GDP): Types --labor-intensive goods for export, including textiles and clothing, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical goods, toys and games, and cut flowers. Tourism sector (8.7% of GDP): Main countries of origin --France, including nearby French island Reunion, South Africa, and west European countries. Financial services: 10.9% of GDP. Trade: Exports (2009 est.)--$2.055 billion f.o.b.: textiles and clothing, sugar, canned tuna, molasses, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical goods, travel goods and handbags, toys and games, and flowers. Major markets --Europe and the U.S. Imports (2009 est.)--$3.552 billion f.o.b.: manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals, meat, dairy products, fish, wheat, rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, iron and steel, cement, fertilizers, and textile industry raw materials. Major suppliers --India, France, South Africa, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, Malaysia, and Thailand. Fiscal year: July 1-June 30.

Geography of Mauritius

Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar Map references: World Area: total area: 1,860 sq km land area: 1,850 sq km comparative area: slightly less than 10.5 times the size of Washington, DC note: includes Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues Land boundaries: 0 km Coastline: 177 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm International disputes: claims UK-administered Chagos Archipelago, which includes the island of Diego Garcia in UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory; claims French-administered Tromelin Island Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May) Terrain: small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau Natural resources: arable land, fish Land use: arable land: 54% permanent crops: 4% meadows and pastures: 4% forest and woodland: 31% other: 7% Irrigated land: 170 sq km (1989 est.)
current issues: water pollution natural hazards: cyclones (November to April); almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection

Government of Mauritius

Mauritian politics are vibrant and characterized by coalition and alliance building. All parties are centrist and reflect a national consensus that supports democratic politics and a relatively open economy with a strong private sector. Parliamentary elections were last held in May 2010. The next elections will be held in 2015. Alone or in coalition, the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982 and returned to power in 1995. The Mauritian Militant Movement/Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM) alliance won the 1982 election. In 1983, defectors from the MMM joined with the PSM to form the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and won a working majority. In July 1990, the MSM realigned with the MMM, and in September 1991, national elections won 59 of the 62 directly elected seats in parliament. In December 1995, the MLP returned to power, this time in coalition with the MMM. Labor's Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the country's first prime minister, became prime minister himself. Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners in mid-1997, leaving Labor in power except for several small parties allied with it. Elections in September 2000 saw the re-emergence of the MSM-MMM as a winning alliance, as the coalition garnered 51.7% of the vote, and Sir Anerood Jugnauth once again became the prime minister with the caveat that mid-term, the leader of the MMM party would take over as prime minister. In September 2003, in keeping with the campaign promise which forged the coalition, Jugnauth stepped down from office and Deputy Prime Minister Paul Raymond Berenger became prime minister. One month later, Sir Anerood Jugnauth was sworn in as President of the Republic. Berenger became the first Catholic, Franco-Mauritian to head the government. The move created an historic precedent of having a non-Hindu, non-majority member head the national government. The 2005 parliamentary elections returned Navinchandra Ramgoolam to office as prime minister, and he retained that position following the 2010 elections. Mauritius became a republic on March 12, 1992. The most immediate result was that a Mauritian-born president became head of state, replacing Queen Elizabeth II. Under the amended constitution, political power remained with parliament. The Council of Ministers (cabinet), responsible for the direction and control of the government, consists of the prime minister (head of government), the leader of the majority party in the legislature, and about 20 ministries. The unicameral National Assembly has up to 70 deputies. Sixty-two are elected by universal suffrage, and as many as eight "best losers" are chosen from the runners-up by the Electoral Supervisory Commission using a formula designed to give at least minimal representation to minority ethnic communities. Elections are scheduled at least every 5 years. Mauritian law is an amalgam of French and British legal traditions. The Supreme Court--a chief justice and 18 other judges--is the highest judicial authority. There is an additional right of appeal to the Queen's Privy Council in London. Local government has nine administrative divisions, with municipal and town councils in urban areas and district and village councils in rural areas. The island of Rodrigues forms the country's 10th administrative division. Principal Government Officials President--Anerood Jugnauth Vice President--Monique Ohsan Bellepeau Prime Minister--Navinchandra Ramgoolam Ambassador to the United States--Somduth Soborun Ambassador to the United Nations--Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meetarbhan Mauritius maintains an embassy at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, (tel. 202-244-1491) Type: Republic. Independence: March 12, 1968 (became a republic in 1992). Constitution: March 12, 1968. Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court. Administrative subdivisions: 10. Major political parties: MSM (Militant Socialist Movement), MMM (Mauritian Militant Movement) and the Social Alliance (made up of several parties, including the Mauritian Labor Party). Suffrage: Universal over 18. Defense (2006): 1.7% of GDP.

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History of Mauritius

While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century AD and Portuguese sailors first visited in the 16th century, the island was not colonized until 1638 by the Dutch. Mauritius was populated over the next few centuries by waves of traders, planters and their slaves, indentured laborers, merchants, and artisans. The island was named in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau by the Dutch, who abandoned the colony in 1710. The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Ile de France. It became a prosperous colony under the French East India Company. The French Government took control in 1767, and the island served as a naval and privateer base during the Napoleonic wars. In 1810, Mauritius was captured by the British, whose possession of the island was confirmed 4 years later by the Treaty of Paris. French institutions, including the Napoleonic code of law, were maintained. The French language is still used more widely than English. Mauritian Creoles trace their origins to the plantation owners and slaves who were brought to work the sugar fields. Indo-Mauritians are descended from Indian immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to work as indentured laborers after slavery was abolished in 1835. Included in the Indo-Mauritian community are Muslims (about 17% of the population) from the Indian subcontinent. Franco-Mauritians control nearly all of the large sugar estates and are active in business and banking. As the Indian population became numerically dominant and the voting franchise was extended, political power shifted from the Franco-Mauritians and their Creole allies to the Hindus. Elections in 1947 for the newly created Legislative Assembly marked Mauritius' first steps toward self-rule. An independence campaign gained momentum after 1961, when the British agreed to permit additional self-government and eventual independence. A coalition composed of the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP), the Muslim Committee of Action (CAM), and the Independent Forward Bloc (IFB)--a traditionalist Hindu party--won a majority in the 1967 Legislative Assembly election, despite opposition from Franco-Mauritian and Creole supporters of Gaetan Duval's Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD). The contest was interpreted locally as a referendum on independence. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, MLP leader and chief minister in the colonial government, became the first prime minister at independence, on March 12, 1968. This event was preceded by a period of communal strife, brought under control with assistance from British troops.

People of Mauritius

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Mauritian(s). Population (July 2009 est.): 1,284,264, including Rodrigues, Agalega, and St. Brandon. Density--622/sq. km. Avg. annual population growth (2009): 0.776%. Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritians 68%, Creoles 27%, Sino-Mauritians 3%, Franco-Mauritians 2%. Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%. Languages: Creole (common), French, English (official), Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri. Education: Years compulsory--11 (primary school). Attendance (primary school)--virtually universal. Literacy--adult population 84.4%; school population 90%. Health (2009 est.): Infant mortality rate--12.2/1,000. Life expectancy--male 70.53 yrs., female 77.65 yrs. Work force (2008 est., 584,000): Construction and industry--30%; trade and tourism--22%; agriculture and fishing--9%; communication--7%; finance--6%; other--25%.