December 17, 2018

Has there been a Mauritian economic miracle between 1968 and 2018 ?

By Mrs Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, G.C.S.K., C.S.K., PhD, DSc, VI President of the Republic  of Mauritius.

Mauritius is celebrating 50 years of its independence from the British in 2018. Prior to its independence in 1968, after almost 150 years of British rule – and a little less than 100 years of French rule, leading academics had predicted a future full of gloom and doom for Mauritius.

The country with a per capita income of just over 200 US, had in fact, all the characteristics of a typical colonial economy: monocrop, rapid population growth, adverse terms of trade, and vulnerable to ethnic tensions.

Rather than a “Miracle”, the economic development of Mauritius is primarily, the result of strategic thinking and planning, elaboration of effective policies, human and institutional capacity building, a governance structure that inspires all segments of the population whilst providing a safety net for the poor and vulnerable members of society through free healthcare and free education for all.

The country also focused on cooperation between the government, employers, and employees and decided not to waste too much money on military spending, unlike other small countries.

With an educated population, Mauritians could engage in high level social cohesion, welfare, economic growth and help address inequality. With no natural resources, our people remains our only asset. Education for all has been crucial for social unity in a country where religious, ethnic, and political differences could have easily become a source of potential conflict.

Free education has proved to be the best sociopolitical enabler and the bedrock on which the country started its economic journey. In the early 1980’s, whilst unemployment was very high, those initially working in the sugarcane fields could, through basic schooling, work in the newly created Export Processing Zones where textile and light industries was being set up. This helped boost the economy and absorb unemployment.

In subsequent decades, the economy diversified further into the services industry. The University of Mauritius created as a developmental university in the 1960’s, started providing training for the emerging industries.

The economy opened further when ICT was increasingly being adopted. We have one of the highest penetrations for telephony and ICT in Africa. Connectivity and improved infrastructure also improved through public and private partnership and dialogue.

With a GDP growth of around 4 % and an unemployment rate of around 7 % and an ageing population, the Republic of Mauritius is rethinking her growth and future. We see our economy in three colours: white, green and blue.

We have explored the ‘white economy’ through the services industry, now adding almost 15 points to the economy. We are now poised to explore the green economy through our unique biodiversity, renewable energies etc.; the blue economy through our oceans. We want to go further and develop the knowledge economy that will straddle all three.

However, to succeed, we must rethink our human capital, invest in our institutions and infrastructures to respond more swiftly to the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

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http://president.govmu.org/English/Pages/default.aspx

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Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, VI President of Mauritius – Copyright photo: State House, Mauritius

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