Mauritius
- An Overview

Capital(s): Port Louis
Population: 1 230 602 (2007)
Area: 2 040 Km²
Coastline: 177 Km
Language(s): English, French

ISO Code: MU
Currency: 1 Mauritian rupee = 100 cents
Time Zone: UTC/GMT+04:00
Dialing Code: +230

Mauritius is an independent island republic with a democratic government. It lies in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar and forms part of the Indian Ocean Islands group associated with Africa. The capital city is Port Louis. The other major town is Curepipe. The official languages are English and French but the lingua franca is Mauritian Creole; Hindi is also spoken by 22% of the people. Dwarfed by other countries in terms of total area, mineral deposits and oil reserves, Mauritius is a giant in terms of economic growth and political stability.

Its population is educated, hard working and governed democratically with sound economic policies. Mauritius has a free market economy with positive economic growth, almost full employment and a favourable balance of payments position.

The principal sectors are manufacturing, tourism, textile and sugar cane processing. Mauritius is emerging as a major business and financial sector in the region and in August 1995 became a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The private sector is predominant and the Mauritius Stock Exchange is one of the fastest growing in Africa. The local currency is the Mauritian rupee ®. (US$ / R - current exchange rate).

The international time zone for Mauritius is GMT +3 and the international dialling code is +230.

Mauritius has a free market economy with positive economic growth, almost full employment and a favourable balance of payments position. The country has a well developed financial system and that the banking system is highly profitable and sound.

The key ingredients of the country's success have been a stable democracy and rule of law; ethnic tolerance; macro-economic stability; equitable social progress; and a coherent strategy to compete internationally in labor-intensive activities.

Mauritius' competitiveness is being tested by the emergence of new low-cost competitors, phasing out of preferential trade agreements, and saturation of tourism space, as well as loss of sugar subsidies from Europe.

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The government has launched the Economic Agenda for the New Millennium (NEA). Its three key objectives are to: (i) increase Mauritius' competitiveness; (ii) bring about deeper social development and social cohesion; and (iii) preserve and protect Mauritius' fragile environment.

The principal sectors are manufacturing, tourism, textile and sugar cane processing. Mauritius is emerging as a major business and financial sector in the region and in August 1995 became a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The private sector is predominant and the Mauritius Stock Exchange is one of the fastest growing in Africa.

The agricultural and manufacturing industries are significant in Mauritius, but tourism and textiles make up the bulk of the country's income. Other industries include: food processing (largely sugar milling), chemicals, metal products, transport equipment and non-electrical machinery. With the development of a high tech facility on the island there is expected to be much emphasis on the ICT sector (a company invested over $23 million in Cybercity).

The country went through a bumper sugar harvest in 2002 and this contributed greatly to GDP growth. In 2002 GDP was US$4.5 billion., with agriculture accounting for 7% , industry 31.1% and services 62%. Tourism and the export processing zones have suffered with weak global economy and war on Iraq.

Mauritius' main exports include sugar, tea and coffee, textiles and knitwear, time pieces and parts, tobaccos, cut and uncut diamonds, electric appliances and parts.

Imports include cement, chemical products, cotton, fuel, gemstones, iron steel and petroleum products.

The foreign exchange control is administered by the Bank of Mauritius and commercial banks are authorised to approve and transfer funds for import payments without limit.

The EEC is the largest market for Mauritian goods and a free market economy is operated with very active participation by the private sector. Importers are no longer required to take a licence under the licences ordinance and certain imports require permits from the Ministry of Trade and Shipping, while certain goods are either controlled or prohibited for health, security and environmental purposes and national interest.

There are 83 EPZ in 23 government designated areas and South Africa and Mauritius have signed a double tax agreement, aimed at encouraging trade links and preventing tax avoidance.

The tariff of Mauritius is based on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System.

The United Kingdom and France are Mauritius largest trading partners, with Britain being the third largest tourist market for Mauritius, and the fifth largest investor, behind France, South Africa, China and India, in the country.