Mauritius seeks more investment

But, without public support, the reforms would not have the results expected ‘ and so much needed. The two-day seminar by four foreign experts on the initiative of the World Bank was, thus, a unique opportunity for the government to convince the public that the reforms should be implemented and would certainly ensure future prosperity.

“The objective of our visit is to share our experience with other developing countries. Thanks to the reforms we have implemented, we have acquired a lot of knowledge. And we think this can be useful to you,” explained former Irish prime minister Dr Garret FitzGerald. Ireland is in a good position to help Mauritius in its efforts to start reforms, as it is the perfect example of a successful transformation in its economic model thanks to more openness to capital and foreign expertise. This country managed to “double its gross domestic product within 13 years only”, he added.

Former finance minister of New Zealand Ruth Richardson brought her expertise to Mauritius in terms of management of public finance. She implemented a Fiscal Responsibility Act aimed at controlling public finance and considered as one of the best systems worldwide. She made it clear that no reform is possible without a complete renewal in the civil service. “The reform of the civil service is essential to the capacity of a country to implement economic restructuring,” she explained. Even though such reforms need a lot of courage and cause disruption, it is essential in the process.

For Mexico’s former minister of finance Santiago Levy, the Mauritian model must change. He explained that, thanks to certain privileges, Mauritius has always been able to subsidise the whole population. But, in the context of globalisation, trade preferences are becoming rare and there is need for the country to target the people it wants to help ‘ those who really need it. “Mauritius will clearly have less revenue and will have to be like any other country on the international level.” Mexico is an example of successful reorientation of subsidies and he is confident that Mauritius can achieve the same results. For him, the keys to success are “good leadership, communication and discussions; people also have to be made aware of what is good for them”.

Mauritius is, indeed, at a turning point in its economic history. The international community is putting an end to most of the preferences Mauritius used to benefit from and there is need to change the way we have always looked at the situation, just as Chile did. Its former minister of finance, Nicolas Eyzaguirre Guzman, believes the main problem may not be how to find the best way of implementing reforms.

The main cause of trouble would be if there were no reforms at all. Hence, he explained to the ministers, stakeholders and the public at large how Chile adapted to the new model after the dismantling of trade-protected regimes and managed to maintain ‘ and even increase ‘ the competitiveness of its exports.

After a special cabinet meeting with the experts where they advised ministers on ways to implement the reforms, the foreign specialists had talks with the private sector, trade unions and the public at large. They explained why the reforms were necessary to ensure a prosperous future for Mauritius. All speeches dwelt on the vital need for complete change ‘ economic restructuring added to new social policies and a new civil service. This should be the key to success, they said, basing themselves on their own experience.

Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam reiterated his conviction that the reforms in the budget were fair and would bring more growth to the country. “To transform the country, we have to show determination. This is what those who have succeeded can teach us. We have an innovatory budget. Doing nothing is not a solution,” he said.

But opposition parties have a different opinion. The MSM and the MMM came to the forefront saying that the government was manipulating public opinion with the arrival of these four specialists. They even boycotted all the meetings to show their disagreement.

These experts were actually in Mauritius at the invitation of the World Bank. Even though this could back up those who said the budget was dictated by the WB, former Mexican minister of finance Levy in was wise in his reply: “The message and the messenger can’t be confounded. The message is that things have to change. You can’t blame the messenger for this!” ‘ L’Express.

September 2006
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