Monday, November 11, 2013
The annual budget speech of Minister of Finance, Xavier-Luc Duval, reveals a very promising future for Mauritius. Government confirms its strategy to transform the country into a business center of excellence.
The Minister has so far produced excellent results, no doubt he has been voted as the Best African Minister of Finance for the second consecutive time. As a Chartered Accountant of high repute (I’ve been lucky to work along his side for a couple of years), Xavier-Luc has shown a no-nonsense approach to finance management during his tenure and he maintains his reputation in this field.
Through this budget speech, Government lays down its vision of future Mauritius, without casting its eyes off today’s hardships and the general difficult financial context. This budget does not simply aim at devising strategies to tackle external factors or to adjust to the international situation or keep pace with economic trends. No, this budget aims at building a new Mauritius. There is an intelligent mix of bold decisions and prudence. Delicate issues have been treated with a good dose of sense, logic and vision.
I won’t go into a financial or sectoral analysis of this budget (sorry, you might be disappointed) as I believe there is enough coverage of same in the press and on the internet. I’d rather concentrate on announcements that may affect those relocating or already residing in Mauritius under a residency permit. You still can contact me in private if you need advice (or my opinion) on other points raised in the budget speech.
Well. Mauritius ranks among the best business destinations of the world (http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/mauritius/ Foreigners living in the country will confirm that they enjoy, among others:
· a good business oriented environment,
· a stable country (political, social and even climatic)
· a pleasant population with no signs of xenophobia against foreigners
· a well-defined & modern legal system
· a low fiscal regime that favors business initiatives
· modern work and residency permit schemes to attract foreign capital & expertise
· a generally pleasant country with breathtaking views & world’s best beaches (did I go too far here? No, I don’ think so)
With no natural resources and the removal of guaranteed quotas on our sugar (and afterwards textiles) – Mauritius had to find new ways to continue its development. Different economic activities were introduced; tourism, financial services, textiles, ICT / BPO, etc. Foreign investment and expertise were thought to be essential elements that would ensure a proper development of our island into a world-class business hub. And it was true!
The introduction of Business Facilitation Act 2006 and the creation of the Board of Investment led to unprecedented uplift in both our domestic and international business sectors. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reached interesting peaks, confirming on their way that Mauritius was appealing to the international community of entrepreneurs. We had to capitalize on this and we are just doing this. It serves to purpose to attract foreign investment if we have no vision or strategy for the future. Strategy & vision, our decision-makers have them. There were also the dangers that every nation faces when it opens its doors to foreign investment or inwards migration. Striking the right balance is crucial and in my opinion, Mauritius is doing marvelously well in this field. We have a selective approach to the immigration of capital and competence. Of course, no system is fool-proof but is good enough when it offers a comfortable level of security, both to authorities and to the common Mauritian. No one would want an invasion of foreign currency to kill his local money, and neither a massive immigration of expertise to drown the (highly and/or newly) trained local workforce. On the other side, the selection process should not be a hindrance to those who are serious about investing, retiring or working in Mauritius. The right balance, yes, this is the key to success.
There were different times (or periods) where we faced serious problems and the dangers of unfiltered immigration. Of course, these were teething problems. Clairvoyance, intelligence and improvement had to come into play and they did.
I love to highlight the Mauritian team spirit, whenever it appears. And here, is an opportunity to salute the common efforts made by both Government and the private sector in turning strategy into concrete results. Success, because it is, would not have been possible without participation of banks, management companies, consultants, financial services and others.
Success is not a destination in this kind of strategy. It is a milestone which leads to another one. Government’s objective, as announced in the budget, is to rank Mauritians as one of the highest income earners of the world. Yes, we can! Before I get too political or emotional, let’s have a look at the broad measures taken to further boost the local business environment.
The contribution of foreigners in the development of Mauritius is not questionable. Mauritians do not have any problems in sharing their country with non-Mauritians either. There has been no sign of xenophobia against businesses operated by foreigners despite the additional competition that they bring to our soil. This excellent socio-political feature of Mauritius added more sparks to the different schemes created to attract foreign investment and competence. Government now wishes to enhance the already avant-gardiste business legislation to support investors, actual and future.
Many expatriates and investors have been living in Mauritius without the possibility to own their residence. In fact, foreigners could only acquire residential properties classified as luxury through the RES and IRS schemes. The restrictive price tag (which confirms the luxury status) was not accessible to each and every expatriate living in the country. We had to find the right balance in opening residential property to foreigners while eliminating negative impacts on Mauritian. Dollars and Euros may put pressure on our small Rupee – so we did not want real estate prices to catch a high that local people would not be able to match. Foreigner’s access to real estate has always been a very delicate issue. The right balance has been found, in my opinion, again.
Investors holding an Occupation Permit (having invested a minimum of USD100,000 in their business) and professional earning more than USD3,000 a month can now purchase an apartment in any complex having ground +2 floors. This allows expatriates to own a residential property and avoid eternal rental. Since Mauritians are not too enthusiastic when it comes to high-rise living (we prefer our garden), it was very intelligent to direct foreigners to these types of accommodation. On the other side, it was quite a strange thing to see so many upmarket apartment complexes being built, particularly on the highway to Phoenix. There are three of them, literally one next to the other. I first thought that these were doomed since the promoters would never reach decent percentage of occupation through Mauritians. Government saved them! Lobby or not, I find this move a very intelligent one. On one side it rewards those who contribute to the success of the country and on the other one, it helps local real-estate developers in their business.
Another brilliant announcement: extension of permanent residency to investors. The only way to obtain permanent residency was through acquisition of villas under the RES/IRS schemes, worth a minimum of USD500,000. This was a paradox. Investors who put that same amount of money in developing businesses (and eventually creating employment) did not have access to permanent residency. Now this has been corrected. Investors can now apply for permanent residency if they invested at least USD500,000 in qualified sectors (construction, banking, insurance, real estate development, ICT, tourism, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and many others).
It is worth mentioning that Permanent Residency is not actually permanent. It is in fact a residency permit for 10 years, renewable. We should watch how this affects the Naturalisation scheme which allows investors (+ USD 500,000) who spend more than 3 years in Mauritius to apply for citizenship. I presume amendments will follow, as it always does.
As we can see, the Government is polishing and improving the schemes to further attract foreign investors. In fact, it going well beyond that by rewarding those who are already here through a better access to property. It is even catering for a petty but yet essential point, the age of dependent children. This has been revised from 18 years to 24 years old (I see someone out there jumping with joy)
My observation is simple: authorities have relayed the usual grievances of expatriates and this has been tackled in an intelligent manner by the Government. Like any other things in life, foreign investment should be tamed, understood and kept under control. Only then we can benefit from its positive sides and mitigate risks and reduce the dangers. Up to now we have been very careful, working each step carefully before moving to the next one.
Mauritius has always survived difficult phases of its life through the vision of its leaders. When sugar cane was hit by the dangers of commercial extinction, the country introduced the textiles industry. It changed the local social context; women, usually confined to house chores were leaving their home for work, unbelievable! And then textiles started to take the blows (elimination of quotas and birth of monster China). We had to adjust again, and there came tourism… and again tourism was hit, we created one of the best financial services of the world. All the above economic sectors are still operational and blend into the broader economic picture to make Mauritius a versatile & modern business center.
Minister of Finance stated that it will take 6 additional budget exercises (6 years) to transform Mauritius into one of the highest income earners of the world. This is not an illusion, it is achievable and right now it’s work-in-progress.
Friday, March 8, 2013
We are observing, with satisfaction, that certain governmental organizations are making a real effort to evolve. The recent Board of Investment (BOI) scandal has pushed decision makers to react – and they are doing so in very notable manner to transform what was once a stagnant and, to a certain extent, corrupt institution into a healthier one. It is undeniable that updating oneself every now and then is necessary, especially if one wants to keep pace in this fast changing world where information sharing has reached a hike. Mauritius is indeed riding on this tidal wave and we’re glad to see that some people of influence are not just sleeping on the laurels.
When it comes to foreign investment and residency, the the BOI is key and almost inevitable. I use the term almost inevitable because there is at least one scheme where a foreigner can invest, work & live in Mauritius without going through the BOI. This scheme is the Work & Residence permit scheme, operated by the Ministry of Labour and the Passport & Immigration Office. I have always been somewhat virulent in my previous comments towards the BOI. This is largely because I have always felt strongly against the inconsistency in their decisions, the ever changing rules & regulations (which are rarely communicated, if at all) and the arrogance of certain officers.
But things are changing at the BOI and I want to be the first to acknowledge and congratulate them for the effort. BOI heads have finally seen what I was saying for years. There is a visible change in the way applications are treated. The front desk officers now realise that foreigners have other destination choices too, some of which are more interesting than our paradise island. Our duty is indeed to scrutinize, select and encourage the influx of real business & clean money. The new procedure in place is as follows: an application for Occupation Permit goes first through the Passport & Immigration Office (PIO) desk. Once the documents & records are found to be clean, applicants are allowed to move to next step: the BOI counter. This may seem to be a small change but in the eyes of professionals it has a greater meaning. This change has removed the dependency on the BOI and eliminates the risks of corruption by splitting responsibilities between two highly important bodies: the BOI & the PIO. Secondly, it gives due importance to the PIO which is the actual authority issuing and controlling Occupation Permits and leaves the BOI to shoulder its part as a mere facilitator.
To further avoid risks of unnecessary intervention by unqualified and pseudo consultants, the BOI is now registering official & known consultants (Gibson & Hills Ltd is one of them!). People accompanying investors or other applicants to the BOI are now requested to officially register themselves with the BOI and after a screening process; they are either registered or rejected. This measure obviously reduces unwarranted interventions and protects foreigners from ‘offers to buy’ their permits.
If I could apply the definition of unavoidable to one institution, it would be to the Registrar of Companies (ROC). In fact, any foreigner who wants to invest, work or live in Mauritius has to go through the ROC (with the exception to expatriates who are not promoters of a business as well as retired persons). If one wants to apply for an Occupation Permit as Investor or Self-Employed, one needs to first register one’s company or oneself at the ROC.
The ROC has always been an exemplary body and has always made the extra effort to stay updated in terms of legislation, procedures, and technology. It is among the first to provide a computerized system for the public to access data on registered companies. One cannot but think aloud that this may be due to the fact that it does not have a political nominee at its head (!?). Stability and vision of the ROC’s management over the years definitely earned the ROC its reputation as one of the most respectable and respected para-statal body on the island.
Some recent changes last week shows that the ROC is one step ahead; again. The ROC has upgraded all its paperwork. All the forms required for company incorporation and registration of changes have been redesigned with a visually more appealing look, enhanced user-friendliness with provision for full computerization. I bet that once the E-Government concept becomes a reality, the ROC will be the first in the race. They even sport a barcode on their forms now! At least someone knows what Cyber-Island means!
A last change has cost Rs50 million to the Government: the complete revamping of the governmental portal and its websites. These have become more user-friendly with simplified navigation, and definitely pave the way for the E-Government.
I thought worth writing about these little changes that albeit show a lot about our country’s strategic move to become an international business destination.
Friday, February 15, 2013
In my French blog, sometimes ago, I wrote an article about favoritism in Mauritius. Some people didn't like my opinion and I was cursed. Those people, some expatriates having spent few years on our soil, take themselves for experts mastering every aspect of life in the island. Anyway, this is not the subject of today's article but it's good to mention that the press, through the recent scandals, proved me right. As a pure-bred Mauritian, having spent all my life (so far) in my motherland, I have some legitimate reason to believe that my observations and opinions are not (totally) irrelevant.
I maintain this blog to help those who want to invest and live in Mauritius with backstage information on life in paradise-island. It is essential that people understand the country's culture, habits and evils before taking the relocation leap. Foreigners are more vulnerable for many reasons. First, they don't know the laws of the country and the idea of jumping milestones is so tempting when you are starting from scratch. The BOI scandal confirms that many victims didn't have dark minds, they were simply abused of due to ignorance of rules. Your foreign currencies multiply their (purchasing) powers when they reach Mauritius; and we, Mauritians, very aware of this.
As regards favouritism, it is not a secret to any of my counterparts. It has been existing since the arrival of the first settlers and has prevailed over generations up to now. I believe that the history and the demography of the country have played a very important role in the survival of favouritism. Our population is mosaic of cultures originating from different regions of the world. Indentured labourers from India, traders from China, slaves from Africa and master-minds from Europe (I prefer the word master-minds to colons). Favouritism, in my opinion, took birth from the moral obligation that each person felt towards those in his ethnic group. I wouldn't term this as racism, given the context, but solidarity. We succeeded in building a nation of peace and harmony, but we cannot pretend to ignore some genes that compose our DNA. Favouritism is deep rooted and from there stems out other demons: corruption, power influence, racism, etc.
Having a bad gene is not dramatic in the sense that everything can be cured these days, well almost everything. The introduction of the Equal Opportunities Act is a big step towards cure. I concede that writing Law and applying it are two different things, but a Law in force is Law and any aggrieved party can have recourse to it to seek repair. That’s a start. The country is very self-conscious of its reputation and usually makes a point to get good classifications on international lists (For example: Transparency International's corruption ranking, Moody's banks ranking, Independence of the press, and so on).
The press recently revealed that the spectacular success of some 'brilliant businessmen and women' was the result of high-level occult protection. Facts and details reported in the press show some coherence and confirm the presence of favouritism that we all were aware of and have been tolerating up to now. The success story of this ex-shop assistant is visibly not the result of her effort but that of her relationships. Succeeding in business in Mauritius is not mission impossible, we have a long list of impressive success stories. I still remember that young man starting his 'poster' business. From some thousands of rupees, his turnover has steadily grown to reach one hundred million. With the same dedication, humility and honesty, he is now aiming at the billion. Success, in every sphere, requires effort and it a process with requires constant focus towards your goals, irrespective of the obstacles.
If you want to reach the summit at lightning speed, you either repeatedly buy yourself a Lotto ticket until you hit the jackpot (with the risk of ruining yourself) or, if you are in Mauritius, do your best to get acquainted to an influential politician. And when your ways are revealed in public, you can still run to the court for a gagging order. But in any case, everybody has to assume his responsibilities, acknowledge the risks involved and accept them when they blow in your face.
Our ex-shop assistant has no known track record in business but is running an empire brewing millions of rupees. In this small island, arrogance is to be avoided, particularly if your success is not legitimate. Bluntly: you better shut up & be invisible. When power and money invade your brain, you feel invincible, lower your guards and then inevitably take the blow. It serves no purpose, other than to worsen your case, if you maintain arrogance and fight public opinion.
We have witnessed similar results with some foreign investors. Many believed that Mauritius is a poor country and that money, wherever they are sourced from, are welcomed and can buy you a status. It works; but for a very limited time frame. And while you are enjoying it, you (again) better shut-up & be invisible. You don't race your sports car on the beach and risk the life of others. If you are a foreigner, bear this in mind: you will first be alienated by your benefactors, then treated by public opinion; thereafter treated by law...you will be ejected from the island (after paying for your offence). You can also be part of collateral damage if your benefactor’s ill-doings are revealed in cases which do not involve your person.
Success in business is not difficult in Mauritius. One can argue that the domestic market of the island is restricted in size but the other incentives & features available do position the country as a strategic business platform for regional and international markets. In our own case, we deal mostly with a foreign clientele and we have been consistently growing our business. Often we have had the opportunity to build occult relationships, but kept away from such enterprise. Our clients often ask for advice on suspicious offers they receive to speed up things. We strongly & systematically advise people not to venture into shady business and to seek advice from professionals in case of doubt.
Honest business pays in Mauritius.
(c) Gibson & Hills Ltd - February 2013
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Every foreigner who wants to relocate or invest in Mauritius has the duty to understand the laws and rules in force in the country. Even if many can afford the support of professionals in the fields, some basic knowledge still remains important. We are launching a series of short articles on our blog to help our readers understand the laws (and the spirit of law) which are related to the setting-up & operation of business in Mauritius. This series will include, amongst others: company law, accounting rules, tax rules and employment.
We start our series with the last topic: employment.
The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations & Employment is the supreme authority which regulates labour laws in Mauritius. The ministry operates several departments, each one specializing in a particular aspect of employment: operational health & safety, labour law, employment of foreign nationals, licensing of recruitment agencies, etc.
The head-office is found in Port Louis (where else?) – but several sub-offices are operational in various regions of the island. These sub-offices offer a number of services to employers & employees and were created to avoid overloading the head-office.
The Employment Rights Act is the main law that governs employment in Mauritius. The Law itself is not heavily loaded with legal and technical jargon. It is written in a rather accessible language and allows the nonprofessionals to at least understand the fundamentals.
It is to be noted that the Employment Rights Act is not the only reference that needs attention. Employers need to consult Remuneration Orders issued by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations & Employment. Remuneration Orders set out the additional rules of employment in industries operating with specific needs. For example: hotels, tourist’s entreprises, shops, call centres, etc. These businesses operate specific working hours and therefore turn to Remuneration Orders of their particular industry to determine, for example, how overtime is calculated or paid, shift systems & mandatory rest periods, after-hour transport obligations, meals & other allowances – and other specific issues.
Employment, an overview of the main points
· Intervals between two salary payments shall not exceed 1 month. No agreement is valid if it mentions an interval exceeding 1 month. Employers and employees may enter into agreement for pay intervals of less than 1 month
· Working hours: 8 hours of effective work per day – except for those working on a part-time basis and for watchmen. For the latter, 12 hours of effective work per day is recommended by Law.
· Overtime should be on mutual agreement (employer & employee). On expected future overtime, the employer has the duty to give a 24 hour notice to his employee (wherever possible) and the latter may refuse to attend such overtime work, with a 24 hour notice.
· A worker performing on a public holiday earns twice his hourly rate for each hour worked on that day.
· For each 4 hours of work, an employee has a right to 1 meal break of 1 hour AND to 1 tea-break of 20 minutes Or 2 tea-breaks of 10 minutes each.
· No discrimination: employees of the same category, working on the same hours should be paid on an equal basis.
· The right to payslips cannot be discussed – it is mandatory!
· No deductions are allowed on salary, save and except those mentioned in the Law. In case of refund of advance salaries, the employee needs to give his consent in writing and the refunds shall not exceed one-fifth of the monthly salary.
· Maximum deduction (in any case) shall be less than 50% of the salary payment
· Employers cannot apply financial sanctions (fines) to employees for negligence or damage to equipment. Employers cannot apply any interests or financial charges on advances made to employees.
· The cost of transport shall be borne by the employer and refunded to the employee if the permanent place of residence of the latter is more than 3kms from the place of work. If called to work after normal working hours (where public transport is not available), the employee has the right to a free transport means from his employer, irrespective of the 3kms distance
· The right to leaves (annual, sick, maternity and paternity) is opened to the employee after 12 months of consecutive employment
· Annual leave: 20 days + 2 additional days.
· Sick leave: 15 days.
· Maternity leave: 12 weeks (with an option of 6 weeks prior to confinement). Breast-feeding female workers have the right to two breaks of 30 minutes each or to one break of 1 hour per day, over a period of 5 months following confinement or over such periods as may be medical advised.
· Paternity leave : 5 consecutive days.
· Any employer, employing more than 10 persons should cater for medical facilities on-site.
· The employer has the duty to provide transport facilities to any employees suffering from accident on his place of work.
National pensions funds & training levy
The maximum salary on which pensions funds & solidarity fund contributions are calculated : Rs12,640
- The employee pays 3% (National Pensions Fund) + 1% (National Solidarity Fund)
- The employer pays 6% (National Pensions Fund) + 2.5 (National Solidarity Fund)
- Training levy is paid by employer at the rate of 1.5% on the actual salary (not the maximum of Rs12,640). This training levy gives right to a refund of costs of training spent on training schemes approved by the government.
We have, in this article, highlighted the main points of labour law and regulations of Mauritius. Readers will understand that it is impossible for us to cover all the laws in this short article. We therefore make ourselves available to answer your queries by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Friday, October 5, 2012
Mauritius has been in the limelight following ‘many’ events that were reported in international press. Bad publicity does not exist, they say but nonetheless paradise-island was somewhat hurt in what was relayed in the media. A bullet fired to our open wings. It does not matter, we still remain one of the world’s best destinations and no one can counter that. I think the island is worth some praise, despite our internal problems and pains – who does not have them?
The first scandal that hit us was the murder of Irish personality, Michaela Harte. She was 27, murdered in a five-star hotel in Mauritius on her honeymoon. International press did not miss it and soon whole Ireland was against our island. Mauritians living in Ireland were victims of racial hatred and discriminations.
Mauritian police had to act fast and find the culprits. In haste, it got three persons in the nets. After weeks of trial, the jury found all three of them innocent and they were released. All of the three persons arrested were employees of the five-star hotel where Michaela spent her fatal honeymoon. These persons were at all times claiming their innocence and on several occasions declared they were victims of police brutality. They were forced to admit a crime they did not commit. Police was tagged as incompetent and denied of the glory it was expecting.
Ireland felt that its child was denied justice and this was clearly demonstrated by Irish Prime Minister’s declaration: “Justice is not done”. Then followed a systematic boycott against Mauritius, legitimate maybe but definitely understandable. Some travel agency displayed ‘No tickets to Mauritius’ on their windows. Mauritius was no longer in their hearts, clearly and bluntly.
The Board of Investment Scandal
One of the most reputed institutions of the country, the Board of Investment (BOI), was recently hit by a unprecedented scandal. The BOI promotes Mauritius as a business and luxury-living destination. It acts as a one-stop-shop to regulate, facilitate and encourage foreign investment in paradise-island. One of its core services is to coordinate, supervise and recommend application for residency permits submitted by foreigners who wish to invest or retire in Mauritius.
Apparently some of the BOI officers grouped themselves into a gang and were racketing ‘poor’ foreigners. The gang offered their own ‘services’ by delivering fake permits to their victims. Blasphemy! Investors applying for occupation permit through the official channel would be approached by these corrupted officeials and were called to pay some additional fees for an expeditious treatment of their applications. Victims would never doubt the seriousness of the proposal since this was being done on the premises of the BOI and by officers of the BOI. Enquiries led to the arrestation of a couple of BOI officers and the whole network was dismantled. It appeared that this gang was a well-engineered one.
This scandal almost blew away all the efforts done by the Government to position Mauritius as a worldwide business and leisure destination. We could sense the anger around; among professional consultants, Ministers and all those who are working hard to build the image of modern Mauritius. We could not afford to bear with this one, surely not. But the bullet was already out of the barrel and it had to cause harm. Whom do we trust now if fake documents are being manufactured inside BOI’s walls? Has the whole system shown its limitations and should it be pulled down?
I make it a point to mention that the Managing Director of BOI, Mr Ken Poonoosamy reacted with the calmness and intelligence, so essential in these types of situations. He did well; he reacted with a proper communication strategy which, in my opinion, reassured the international community of investors and professionals.
I’m not justifying the crime, but some brains & eyes cannot limit themselves to their job when they see too much foreign currencies moving near them. Some officers at the BOI (and their gang members) thought it was legitimate for them to have a bite in the foreign investments cake…maybe they thought that they were playing a very important role in handling residency permit applications and they deserved a greater share than their actual salary. The BOI, as an institution, did well do dissociate itself from these worms.
Since then, much has been done to restore the image of BOI and Mauritius as an investment hub. It all seems to be back on track again. Government announced recently that we are about to reach the Rs4bn figure in foreign direct investment (FDI).
More recently, an American NGO, the Conflict Awareness Project (CAP), reported that Mauritius was about to be used as an international arms trafficking platform by Russian mafia. CAP has been very active in tracking down illegal arms traffic and supports the United Nations in implementing an international arms treaty to formalize and regulate arms trading.
CAP’s report was full of lies and baseless allegations. It hurt Mauritius, going as far as treating our country as an ideal host to arms traffickers willing to pursue their business in the post-September, 11 era. CAP put international media to its service and the information was relayed, verbatim, in some of the world’s most reputed columns. Local media was hooked along. Our local “do-everything to sell more papers” reporters had a scoop! Because it came from the US, it had to be true. CAP blamed a well-known Mauritian family of lawyers to be part of the ploy, accusing one of the members of this family (an actual Minister) to have played a game of influence and helped Russian mafia in reaching to their goals. Come on!
Gibson & Hills Ltd (yes, yes!), according to CAP is a company founded by Russian mafia to host their dark business in Mauritius. I thought I founded Gibson & Hills Ltd, but somehow because CAP is American, local press gave more credit to her words! LOL! Those local press reporters did not verify any of the information contained in the CAP report, and yet such information is readily available at the Registrar of Companies. A simple check would have revealed that Gibson & Hills Ltd was created by Nadeem Mosafeer (Me) in January 2008, and the Russians set foot in Mauritius only in 2011. I had to show those reporters my blogs with their 25,000 readers and ask them ‘you think that’s part of the Russian’s gameplan?’ . Many understood that it was all about a sensational lie from the director of CAP, Ms Kathi Lynn Austin… but many still had to be convinced.
We then issued a counter-report and blew away all those ugly, dirty and blatant lies that Ms Austin wrote in her report. We revealed the actual gameplan of Ms Lynn. She claimed that the Russian investors (our clients) were lieutenants of Viktor Bout, the famous arms dealer. In her report, she tries to defend a crook (a Mauritian) who was arrested for swindling the Russian investors of more than Rs10 million. Ms Austin went so far as accusing local police of incompetence, and claiming she held a truth that Mauritian authorities did not care take into consideration: The crook was a gentle and innocent guy, the victims of the crook were the real big bad wolf! Guts and foolishness.
· CAP had to show that even harmless countries like Mauritius could play an active role in arms trafficking. Therefore it was essential to implement an Arms Treaty.
· CAP was about to make itself known to the world with a brilliant work, a sensational report revealing hell business in paradise-island.
· CAP shows that it is a very serious NGO and this can bring further blessings from investors.
As for the Mauritian crook, he would see all those legal entities held by the Russian collapse and he would no longer be held accountable for the massive frauds he committed. Obviously, we came to know that Ms Lynn and the Crook were actually friends on facebook and it was clear that :
The Crook gave biased information to CAP, and CAP would play in favour of the crook.
Now here is the real story. The Russians wanted to invest in a charter airline business to serve the islands of the Indian Ocean. The crook informed them that he was holder of an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and could help them set their planes take-off faster than they planned. The crook took over USD400,000 in the process, but never showed the original(AOC to the investors. When the Russian enquired with competent authorities, it was discovered that the AOC was a fake one. Russian complained to police, crook arrested. Crook humiliated, crook seeks vengeance. Crook hooks CAP and CAP gets traps in a sensational but false story ! Full-stop, that’s what happened.
CAP and director Kathi Lynn are nowhere to be found. They have been called to answer on different parts of their report by local authorities; no signs of life on Mars.
All of the above events had a serious impact on the image of Mauritius. Still, the hard-work and endurance of the Mauritian population in general outplayed those negative impacts. Mauritius will continue its progress; its leaders have a vision and are determined to work towards our goals. We will succeed. As one of the top performing economies of Africa, paradise-island will not abandon the playfield. For those who are not aware, we successfully shifted our economic pillars from agriculture to textile, we had the same success when we implemented tourism & textiles… and now we are moving towards being a leader in worldwide finance and services industry.
What upsets me is that those who are doing everything to hinder progress will be the firsts to claim a share of success, when success will be.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Much has been said and written on the political turmoil that is apparently hitting Mauritius. It’s true that the moves were spectacular – the President of the Republic of Mauritius resigns and plunges back to active politics. He proposes to be the next Prime Minister to rescue a country on the downfall! As the architect of the modern Mauritius, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) was (and for many he is no longer) a much admired personality. Controversial many a time; but then this is expected from every determined leader that leads a nation with a vision and ambition. Resigning from the most gratifying retirement post in the country (Presidency) to again face active politics and its bruises: you’ve got to have strong reasons. Many of us do not agree that the country’s progress is the main motive behind the move.
We’ll leave the political motivations and other strategies for some other time. I’ve been thinking on the impact that a political turmoil might have, particularly during this actual worldwide economic crisis, on Mauritius. Bear in mind that this is not a scientific analysis of the situation, but my personal opinion based on observations made by a common layman, which I am. You may be deceived, I warn you. You won’t find any economic theory or political analysis of our system, depicted in heavily colored illustrations and charts. Neither will you find a post-mortem report of local history. I leave this to the more learned people around!
To me, political stability has been one of the key factors of our progress so far. My definition of political stability lies not in having the same governing party over a long period of time. I’d rather define stability as the coherence in vision among successive leaders and the smoothness of the transition processes. So far we have seen that most leaders share almost the same vision. There a visible consensus on the resources we have (and don’t have), the industries we need to develop and the way forward. We all agreed that the country’s ambitions should not be limited to the size of its surface area, we all agreed that we have the potential to play leading roles in the region and on the world scene – we all agreed on these and have been working towards these. We still agree, and so do the leaders.
It is the duty of the opposition party to shout and cry out on every opportunity it has. The actual leader of opposition, Mr Berenger, is famous for his hysteric statements, so much that he makes me laugh (I give him a big LOL!) whenever he says anything. I'm sorry, but even if he's right, my brain can't focus on him anymore. Maybe if one day, he gets the Prime Minister's chair, I will think differently; but then, that's a different story in today's context. Decades back, we would rely on the information opposition parties would relay to consider whether a particular transaction or event could be qualified as scandal. Today, we have different means to obtain information; internet, blogs, forums and private radios. Thank God! When the opposition party shouts high and loud that the country is in a catastrophic state, I tend to smile and say "there he goes again!". I only say to myself that the guy is doing his job - honestly and to the best of his abilities. He has the habit to utter strong words like 'etat d'urgence economique' (when he himself was holding the reigns of the country and was panicking during the financial crisis) or to treat others with discriminative nicknames 'Lake lerat' (rat tail), or to qualify people as 'intellectually limited'. Sorry for this long paragraph but I had to write this to make my point: I simply can't take on his words, unless he shows some concrete things - which he hasn't done so far, in my opinion.
Now he has convinced SAJ to join him and save the country. To save from what? The only thing I can see the ex-President saving is his son, Pravind, completely drowned in the political ocean and about to be completely erased from the local political scene. Now you can refer to the last sentence of my first paragraph and read again.
Having said all this, I do not foresee any major upsets in the business environment. In fact, I do not even foresee any upsets at all! I may be wrong; I'm not a political expert. But I can't help myself thinking that this is another tune from the same trumpet. In fact, the leader of the opposition shouted on every roof that we will soon see major developments, through the resignation of SAJ, yet again the so-called major developments are yet to come. The resignation of SAJ was the talk of the town for two days and all the excitation has faded and reduced to petty gossips.
I don't expect any impact on business environment. Our economy allows for freedom-of-business, if I may define the principle in these words. As long as you observe the rules and regulations in force, you are pretty free to run your enterprise. We don't have a sensible stock exchange which fluctuates with the tides, human emotions, or whatever other non-economic & non-financial reasons traders usually put forward. Politics has very little effect on business in Mauritius, unless it leads to major regulation changes (tax system, regulatory conditions, etc.). Obviously, when the government changes, there is an observation round. Investors are less reactive, they stand on the watch-out mode but stay ready to shoot when the signal turns green. It turns green when people get back to work again and the general excitation is over.
In Mauritius, you shout, cry and shout again...for some hours or days, and then you realise that you need to feed your family so you get back to normal life again. Back to work or to your business. There is a minority who has nothing to lose and who looks for every opportunity to get back to popular movements on the streets. It has never lasted long, never gathered any big momentum, save on Facebook.
As someone running his own business, I always keep an eye on the external factors that may affect my company; and politics is one of them. It never had any major impact on my business. Yet this business of mine is deeply connected to the political-social-economic equation. If the government stops encouraging foreign investment, or removes business incentives (low tax rate, user-friendly procedures, etc) – my business would definitely hit a low and I would need to restructure my service grid. It hasn’t so far as successive governments have understood the importance of foreign investment and the need for a simplified business framework. Entrepreneurship is encouraged and local people given ‘almost’ every kind of nursing to help realise their business projects. I can’t see this stopped by any future leader, well I really don’t. If it happens, it will be a Kamikaze at the head of the country.
All brings me to the final remark that politics is more related to soap operas. You know that the actor will fall in love, will marry the actual actress, will fight with her, ask and get divorce and then fall in love with another one. The scenario will keep on revolving with some new twists and turns… that’s exactly the case in Mauritius. When the show is over, switch off the TV - get back to work, until the next episode starts.
Warning: Soap operas can be addictive and are injurious to family life
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Oprah Winfrey is no longer the wealthiest person from the black community. Ok, that’s news! What’s better is that the leader, in terms of fortune, is someone from the African continent. Mr Aliko Dangote, cement-king, from Nigera is sitting comfortably at this position. His wealth is the result of long years of sweating. He now weights USD10 billion.
From a small cement trading company created in 1977, Mr Dangote has worked his way to a multinational pan-African enterprise. No, it’s got nothing to do with corruption, fraud or whatever other illegal money-making instruments we know of. Yes, it is proof that people can also succeed in Africa. By the way, why is it that when a US citizen makes money, we assume he’s good in business and when it’s an African... we assume its money from bad deeds? Maybe because of the not-too-glorious past of Africa, ok I’ll satisfy myself with this one.
Well, the performance of Mr Dangote is not a exceptional or spectacular at every level. Africa has activated its stealth system and is progressing at constant speed without catching anybody’s attention. While the world is focussed on Asia (and China) – mama Africa is moving peacefully to success. There is a confirmed economic growth winding prevailing from the west (Ghana) up to the south (Mozambique). This is the highest growth rate so far on the globe! Take Ethiopia, for example. It has a growth rate of 7.5%. From a crouching and kneeling country, devastated by an endless famine to one of ten largest livestock producer of the world, Ethiopia has done supernatural progress.
Severe income disparities persist through much of the continent; but a genuine middle class is emerging. Things are changing now. Banks operating on the African continent are unanimous on this point. This market is growing at a respectable pace, better than in certain ‘emerging nations’. At this stage we can’t say that Africa has rid off its old habits and problems. But the fact remains, and I insist, that Africa is progressing in a spectacular fashion. Just a note to say that international trade between Africa and the rest of the world has known a 200% increase since year 2000. External debt was reduced by 25%, budget deficit by 66%. Overall, Africa is doing better than Asia (excluding Japan). I’m not an expert in economics but I trust The Economist Magazine and his published materials.
So why I am talking about Africa? Well, firstly I feel proud to see the black continent standing on its feet and not on its knees. I feel proud whenever I see such efforts deployed and the willingness to succeed take form. I was once on my knees and now jumping… The second point is (and it is the most important point of this article) – Mauritius is playing an important role in the new Africa economic dynamism. Cast a glance at the picture, the figures say it all! Only Botswana is doing better than Mauritius. Again, I trust The Economist Magazine !
In the wake of the financial crisis hitting Europe, Mauritius proposes a safe business and holiday destination. We are able, today, to propose cutting-edge & low-risk solution as compared to what is available in Europe. We have solid banks, some boasting a profit of over Rs4 billion. Our banks do not gamble and blame traders – we all mean business, we always did…. Africans always did but did not have the gas pedal under their feet. They have it now. We have had our trouble times and unpopular measures taken by Governments. Thank God! We are better now while Europe is facing Austerity measures.
I cannot put myself in the shoes of the European investor or entrepreneur, but he is surely in a bad ‘financial or emotional trip’ right now. I’m wondering what’s in the mind of those youngsters full of capabilities who want to launch their business! Sure, the Nicolas and Angela couple can give birth to a super-economic-baby, but when ? Is it in the making? Not sure. And when it’s born, will it be able to survive the financial tsunamis ? And when will it be able to talk and walk ? I know that my European friends have many more questions like that.
That brings me to a clear observation: Mauritius is now doing better than Europe! We are progressing and I don’t see anything stopping that progress, except the impact of the European crisis. We are able to cater for free education, free health services, exceptional quality of life, climatic and political stability (with its folkloric gossips), free transport for students and senior citizens, top class to-be road network, free WIFI all over the island… the list can become quite long. Many projects are in the pipeline, many needs improvement…but globally we know what we want, and we are doing everything to reach our target.
To invest in Mauritius no longer needs convincing. It’s now more than an simple ‘interesting’ option, it is a serious option. Doing business in Mauritius is such a pleasure. Streamlined legal framework, modern business laws, competent people… the finest international trade treaties, what else? Can you really wait for the Merk-ozy couple to come up with that superpower economic child, will they be able to give birth to it? Can you afford waiting, can your family afford it, and what about your own children?
European should start finding other ways to protect their wealth. And I’m not talking about creating that wealth, could be something out-of-this-world right now. But let me tell you it is possible to create wealth from Mauritius, oh yes it is. If you want to know more, visit our website at. http://www.gibsonandhills.com or contact us by email. We will be glad to see how Mauritius can accommodate you for a brighter future.
Don’t forget to send a ‘Congratulations’ card to the Merk-ozy couple if they happen to get that baby walking.