Q: There has been some objection to your determination to privatise virtually all enterprises. Do the critics have a point?
A: There will always be objections and criticism. I was travelling in Argentina at one point and heard people putting forward the same complaints against privatisation as they had been doing in the UK.
But the truth is it’s not government’s business to run casinos, to run shops, to run Chinese restaurants, to run a curry house or to run a French restaurant! And at this moment the Ministry of Finance runs these restaurants, casinos. It’s not our business to run shopping precincts. We don’t do it as well as the private sector.
These enterprises are investment opportunities, to grow the business. Privatising will also benefit employees because as enterprises grow, so will they.
Land attached to some state-owned organisations can be used in better ways. We think it’s important for us to disinvest from this and to invest in new frontier activities. Let’s look at airlines, let’s look at marinas.
Marinas provide fantastic lifestyles and great living environments. Everybody loves marinas and they add value to the surrounding areas and provide jobs.
At present, there is only one in construction in La Balise in the south. We hope to have more. The development of marinas opens great channels for investors. We will organise an international marina conference in May/June to bring all interested parties together and all are welcome to attend.
These will be greenfield projects along the lines of the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS) and we expect considerable investor interest.
While the IRS is linked largely to golf, the marinas will open up a whole new range of activity centred around the sea and water.
Q: You seem to be on a determined campaign to reach out to the world.
A: Yes, we are. We are discussing a joint UK-Mauritius trade and investment forum with an African theme and we’ve received proposals for similar forums from the French and Belgium governments.
We are becoming a hub for training and capacity building for Southern Africa. There are several institutions of excellence – Amity and Middlesex University have set up headquarters here. The island provides technical assistance, human resource training, ship engineering and numerous other skills that Africa needs.
Q: Mauritius, like many other East African countries, relies heavily on tourism. Has there been a drop in revenue?
A: In fact, there has been an increase – the increase has been from the non-traditional market. However, the bulk of our tourists still come from Europe, but we have seen an increase from Africa, Asia and Australia.
Q: While there is strong interest from non-traditional investors in Africa, they are not sure where to go or what sectors to enter. What can Mauritius offer?
A: A great deal. We are very innovative. Only a few weeks ago, I met somebody who wants to set up a bicycle manufacturing plant here and then expand into the rest of Africa.
But let me give you another example of our situation. Suppose someone wants to build a hotel in Madagascar. They can register the company in Mauritius, carry out all their procurement at 0% tax and in legal terms, Mauritian law would apply in terms of ownership and so on. In case of litigation, they can go all the way to the English Privy Council as the Court of Appeal.
Then we have accountants and lawyers. Our people speak English and French. There are international banks. You can get on with your business confident that your investment is safe and secure.
In addition to other international rankings, the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal have placed Mauritius among the top 10 countries out of 158 for economic freedom.
There has been a genuine effort by the people of Mauritius people to make their country a place which is welcoming for business and I hope we will be rewarded by additional economic growth.
Q: What is the trend in FDI flows?
A: In 2009, it was just under $300m and flows for 2010 adjusted for currency values were around $476m. In 2011, FDI has been around $328m.
Q: In which sectors is most of the investment going?
A: The ambition of the government is to make Mauritius a high-income country in the coming years. So there is a lot of investment in infrastructure, in new hotels, in property development – shopping malls and residential housing.
Our services sector is also very strong – financial services now contribute to 10% of GDP and we have a well-developed IT sector, call centres, outsourcing. We are a fishing hub in the Indian Ocean and our ports are some of the best in the region in terms of efficiency, costs and security.
If you need other reasons to come to Mauritius, we have a wonderful lifestyle, great food, a fascinating mix of cultures and the air quality is the one of the very best in the world!