1. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the recent mission of the Prime Minister to Cuba, the United Sates and Romania.
In Cuba, the Prime Minister attended the 14th Summit of Heads of States/Governments of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which was held from 15 to 16 September 2006. The main objective of the meeting was “to address the existing, new and emerging global issues of collective concern and interest to the Movement with a view to generating the necessary responses and initiatives thereof”. Mauritius had the honour of being elected as one of the Vice Chairmen of the Summit and presided over a large part of the second day's Session.
During the NAM Summit, the Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, HE Mr Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela and Mr Ramon Machado Ventura, the Vice-President of the States Council of Cuba with whom he discussed issues of mutual interest and technical cooperation. With regard to the NAM, the Prime Minister informed the Indian Prime Minister that Mauritius fully endorsed his proposals put forward for the revitalization of the movement, in particular, the setting up of a NAM Working Group on Energy Security and NAM Initiative on Africa.
In New York, the Prime Minister participated in the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly which focused its general debate on the theme "Implementing a Global Partnership for Development".
In the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with HE Mr Li Zhaoxing, Foreign Minister of Republic of China with whom he discussed projects for which China proposed to extend financial and technical assistance to Mauritius.
In New York, the Prime Minister also participated in the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to which he was invited for the second time. This is an august gathering of a select group of current Heads of State and Heads of Government, business leaders, eminent academicians and key NGO representatives. The main objective of the Conference was to identify immediate and pragmatic solutions to address the world's most pressing problems.
In Romania, the Prime Minister attended the Eleventh Francophone Summit. The main theme of the Conference was “Information Technology in Education.” The objective of the Summit was to consolidate intergovernmental collaboration in the field of education as it was observed that the rate of illiteracy in Francophone countries was high.
In the margins of the Francophone Summit, the Prime Minister had brief meetings with the French President and the French Minister for Cooperation, the President of the EU Commission, the President of the Seychelles and the President of the Islamic Republic of Comoros.
2. Cabinet has taken note of the promulgation of the Road Traffic (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations and the Road Traffic (Amendment) Regulations to provide for concessionary rate of tax in respect of dual-purpose vehicles owned by small and medium entrepreneurs, small planters, fishermen, and livestock farmers breeding cows, goats and pigs.
3. In the context of the coming into force of the Business Facilitation Act, Cabinet has taken note of action taken by the Ministry of Environment & National Development Unit to facilitate businesses to start operation. The Ministry has, inter alia -
(a) reviewed the list of undertakings requiring an Environment Impact Assessment or a Preliminary Environment Report;
(b) prepared environmental guidelines providing for necessary environmental safeguards for those activities that have been removed from the list; and
(c) promulgated the revised Schedule namely the Environment Protection (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations on 1 October 2006.
4. Cabinet has taken note of the new measures and support programmes which the National Women Entrepreneur Council intends to implement with a view to boosting up women entrepreneurship development.
The Council, established in 1999, aims at promoting women entrepreneurship development through business counselling, capacity building and marketing assistance. To date, some 1200 women entrepreneurs are registered with the Council. Since its inception, the Council has assisted some 900 women entrepreneurs to improve their skills and management aptitudes, while some 450 women entrepreneurs have been provided with marketing assistance through its shops and trade fairs organised on special occasions, such as Mother’s Day, Easter, Divali and End-of-Year festivities.
The Council proposes to –
(a) launch Women Entrepreneurship Development Programmes on a regional basis to stimulate start ups, business growth and employment creation with a view to upgrading skills of workforce employed by women entrepreneurs. Programmes would focus on Marketing, Finance, Human Resource, Quality and Effective Business Communications;
(b) put up an incubator project with a view to helping women to access to infrastructure and other business facilities at initial stages;
(c) develop a partnership with players in the tourism sector for marketing of products/services with a view to ensuring the long term sustainability of activities carried out by women entrepreneurs;
(d) promote business development services in accordance with the needs identified by women’s associations; and
(e) publish a Directory and Product Catalogue.
5. As a result of the aggressive campaigns launched by Government to boost up the tourism sector, Cabinet has taken note of the increasing trend in tourist arrivals for the past three months. About 56,138 tourists visited Mauritius in the month of September 2006 as compared to 53,233 for September of last year, representing a 5.5% growth.
6. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications to France and Germany from 10 to 24 September 2006. In order to consolidate our main existing traditional market and to reassure the French and German travellers that Mauritius remains an attractive, healthy and safe destination, road shows were organized in the towns of Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseilles from 12 to 16 September 2006 and in Munich on 19 September 2006. The purpose of the promotional campaign was to restore confidence in the travel trade and the travelling public and increase our visibility and awareness in those towns before the summer season in Mauritius. It also provided an opportunity to enlist the commitment of the travel trade and the public at large, especially in the context of the forthcoming launching of Corsair, the second French carrier, which will operate on the France-Mauritius route as from October 2006 and of the direct flight of Air Mauritius to Munich as from November 2006.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications discussed the organisation of a visibility campaign in the theatres of France to promote Mauritius with Mr Pascal Le Gros, Director Pascal Le Gros Productions.
7. In line with Government’s objective to foster a culture of entrepreneurship at all levels of society, particularly with the economically vulnerable groups, Cabinet has taken note of the programme of activities of the “Caravane de l’Entrepreneuriat” for the period October 2006 to March 2007 organised by the Small Enterprises and Handicraft Development Authority (SEHDA).
The Caravane which started since June 2006, has already covered the regions of Panchavati, Ste Hilaire, Rose Hill and Triolet. Since January 2006, 1842 persons have applied for registration to SEHDA, 165 have secured registration and 15 projects have been financed.
8. Cabinet has taken note of the recommendations contained in the last actuarial review of the Sugar Insurance Fund (SIF), which include –
(a) equalizing the rate of upward and downward movements along the ranking table for a more responsive performance and to reward the planter and miller for better performance, and enhance productivity at industry level;
(b) changing the basis for the calculation of the total insurable sugar taking as range the preceding 8 years instead of 12 as at present. This change will be advantageous to both the insured party and the SIF. The former will pay a lesser premium, and the overall liability of the SIF will be reduced;
(c) giving a minimum ranking of five (5) to all insured parties having a ranking below 5, thereby assisting them to move up the ranking table. This measure will be advantageous to the planting community, especially of the drought-stricken regions who have not been able to move up the ranking table on account of persistent drought conditions;
(d) modifying the formula used for the calculation of the total insurable sugar of millers;
(e) reducing compensation of certain categories of planters to discourage poor crop husbandry practices among growers; and
(f) encouraging economies of scale through re-grouping of small planters. Re-grouping will be encouraged by granting one off boost of 25% increase in the average ranking of the re-grouped units. This measure will, also, reduce administrative costs of the insurance scheme on account of the consolidation of smaller plots into bigger blocks.
An Actuarial review is carried out every five years to advise the SIF Board on desirable changes to be made to the existing insurance policy, taking into account interest of all stakeholders, i.e., planters, milling companies, the Sugar Industry and the Fund.
Cabinet has also agreed to the Actuarial Report being made public.
9. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of Small and Medium Enterprises and Technology Fair 2006 organised by Small Enterprises and Handicraft Development Authority from 27 September to 1 October 2006 at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre.
The objective of the Fair was to provide a suitable platform for exhibitors to -
• communicate on the products/services;
• test launch new products/services;
• sell products;
• network among themselves;
• develop linkages with large enterprises and service providers; and
• learn about services offered by local support institutions.
The fair hosted 153 entrepreneurs from Mauritius and covered a wide array of products ranging from furniture making, handicraft, food items to jewellery. Foreign suppliers of technology from India, Reunion Island and Germany were present to display their technologies with a view to stimulating innovation and upgrading the skills of our entrepreneurs.
About 35,000 persons visited the fair and 1156 potential entrepreneurs sought advice from SEHDA and 500 of them applied for registration.
10. In the context of the celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of the National Youth Achievement Award, Cabinet has taken note of the visit of HRH Prince Edward, KG, KCVO, Earl of Wessex, to Mauritius on 11 and 12 October 2006. During his visit, Prince Edward would present Long Service Certificates to Award Volunteers at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture, Phoenix and a Gold Award at the State House, Le Reduit. He would also pay courtesy calls on the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.
11. Cabinet has taken note of amendments made to the Road Traffic Regulations 1954 to provide standards for light transmission for glasses of windscreens and windows fitted to motor vehicles. The standards applicable will be as follows:
• 70% for the front and rear windscreens and the front side windows;
• 50% for the rear side windows.
12. With a view to managing the disposal of solid waste in a judicious manner, Cabinet has taken note of developments in the setting up of the waste-to-compost plant by Solid Waste Recycling Co Ltd and the waste-to-energy plant by Gamma Civic at La Chaumière.
It is expected that, when both plants would be operational, a total of about 1200 tons of solid waste would be recycled annually.
13. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the first round of negotiations for the conclusion of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Republic of Mauritius held from 11 to 14 September 2006 in Port Louis.
14. Cabinet has taken note of arrangements being made by the Islamic Cultural Centre for the organization of the Hadj pilgrimage 2006/2007, in the best possible way.
15. Cabinet has taken note of the activities organized to mark the World Post Day on 9 October 2006, which comprise, inter alia, –
(i) stamp and Photo Exhibitions;
(ii) open days at Curepipe, Centre de Flacq, Mahebourg, Triolet, Goodlands, Chemin Grenier and Bambous Post Offices;
(iii) an open Day at the Postal Museum;
(iv) letter writing and sport competitions; and
(v) the issue of new Commemorative Stamps “Non Marine Crabs” and First Day Cover.
The theme for World Post Day 2006 is “The Post - reaching everyone everywhere: earning Customers’ trust with total quality worldwide”.
16. Cabinet has taken note of the Strategic and Business Plan of the Mauritius Accreditation Service (MAURITAS) for the period 2006 – 2009, which include, inter alia, -
(i) ensuring that all public and private testing and calibration laboratories and certification bodies be accredited by 2009;
(ii) the setting up a national accreditation system for certification bodies to provide for a level playing field;
(iii) pursue the training of technical assessors in disciplines that should be covered by accreditation and certification in Mauritius;
(iv) seek international recognition with the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation and the International Accreditation Forum;
(v) setting up of an Inspection Body Accreditation System, in collaboration with an internationally recognized accreditation body; and
(vi) MAURITAS will assist other SADC and Indian Ocean (IO) counterparts in the field of accreditation.
17. Cabinet has taken note of the findings of the final Reports of the Non-Communicable Diseases Surveys 2004, and the Nutrition Surveys 2004 for Mauritius and Rodrigues.
The salient features of the Reports are, inter alia, -
(a) 1 in 5 adults aged 30 years and over has diabetes and only about 50% of them know that they have diabetes. It is also noted that about 7.5 % of patients with diabetes have satisfactory blood sugar control.
(b) In Mauritius, 1 in 3 adults aged 30 years and over has hypertension whereas in Rodrigues 1 in 3 adults aged 20-74 years have hypertension.
(c) There is an unacceptably high prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in both the Mauritian and Rodriguan populations.
(d) In both children and adolescents, there is a problem with obesity and malnutrition.
(e) non-communicable diseases represent about 80 % of the burden of diseases of the Mauritian population and are responsible for about 80 % of deaths. Diabetes, in particular, is responsible for a
wide range of complications, namely cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, end stage renal failure, blindness and lower limb amputations.
Cabinet, further, took note that a Steering Committee on Biomedical Research and Technological Innovation has been set up under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office to, inter alia, work out a white paper outlining proposals related to the setting up of a national service framework for diabetes – metabolic syndromes and other chronic diseases.
18. Cabinet has taken note of the participation of the Minister of Public Utilities in the 50th Session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency held in Vienna, Austria from 18 to 22 September 2006. The major part of the Conference was devoted to fostering exchange of scientific and technical information and also to promoting capacity building in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy with due consideration to the needs. The Minister seized the opportunity to discuss project concepts submitted to the Agency for consideration under 2007-2008 Technical Cooperation Cycle. Nine concepts have been prequalified and the project on nuclear medicine is proposed for approval on a cost sharing basis and the projects 'Industrial non-destructive testing' and soil fertility are proposed to start in 2008.
19. Cabinet has taken note of arrangements made to open the Ferney Valley to the public by the end of October 2006. A Trust comprising inter alia representatives of Government and the Mauritius Wild Life Foundation has been set up to manage the site.