1. Cabinet has taken note of the appointment of Mrs Indira Manrakhan, former Director of Economic Crime Office, and Mr Hamid Imrit, Chartered Accountant with long experience in audit and tax investigation, as members of the Board of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
2. Given the strategic importance of electricity in a developing economy like Mauritius and in view of the strong linkages between electricity generation and the ongoing restructuring of the Sugar Industry and waste disposal, as well as of the need to establish project priorities, Cabinet has agreed to a High-powered Committee chaired by the Prime Minister being set up to address all relevant and cross-sectoral issues to be included in the power sector capacity expansion plan for the period 2006-2013. The Committee would also comprise the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport & Shipping, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, the Minister of Environment & National Development Unit, the Minister of Public Utilities, the Minister of Local Government, the Minister of Agro Industry & Fisheries and the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations & Employment.
3. Cabinet has taken note that, on 11 May 2006, the UK High Court had made a judgment in favour of the Chagossians who had challenged the two Orders made in Council by the UK Government preventing them from returning to and residing in the islands of the Chagos Archipelago.
This historic victory over the UK Government banning their rights to return to their homeland, has instilled new hopes in the Chagossians and has also paved the way for an end to their long exile.
4. Cabinet has taken note of the election of Mauritius to the Human Rights Council for a term of three years beginning 19 June 2006. The Human Rights Council, which replaces the UN Commission on Human Rights, is the first UN body created under the ongoing reform of the United Nations. The Council, to be based in Geneva, is expected to be more functional and effective than the former UN Commission on Human Rights.
The overwhelming vote in favour of Mauritius is a clear demonstration of the recognition and trust of the international community in the human rights practice in Mauritius. This historic election as a founding member of the Human Rights Council is the fruit of an active and aggressive lobbying strategy planned and implemented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade & Cooperation and our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
5. Cabinet has taken note that despite the difficult economic context and taking into account the need to alleviate the hardship of those at the lowest rung of the ladder, a full salary compensation of 5% for those drawing a monthly salary of up to Rs 2,700 would be paid. A compensation of Rs 135 would be paid to those drawing a salary of more than Rs 2,700. This would cost Rs 1,445 million to the economy, i.e., Rs 590 m for Government and Rs 855 m for the private sector.
6. In order to attract more tourists to visit Mauritius, Cabinet has agreed to the introduction of a new visa regime and to the issue of visas on arrival for a period of two months instead of two weeks for nationals of the following countries: India, China, USA, EU, Commonwealth Countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Ex-USSR Countries, Poland, Iceland and the Czech Republic.
7. As a result of the active campaign conducted by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority in collaboration with the Private Sector, including tour operators, hoteliers and airlines, Cabinet has taken note that despite the fact that tourist arrivals from France have shown a negative performance, an overall increase in tourist arrivals has been recorded for the month of April 2006. Some 57,361 tourists visited Mauritius in the month of April 2006 as compared to 52,971 for the corresponding period of last year, i.e., an increase of 8.3%. Remarkable performance in certain markets has been recorded, e.g. Italy + 83.7%, South Africa +62.5%, UK +38.1%. The Australian and the Indian markets continue on their upward trend, i.e., an increase of 27% and 25.6% respectively.
8. Since the tightening of the law in 2003 did not have a significant deterring effect on careless driving or driving under the influence of intoxicating drinks or drugs as revealed by the alarming number of drivers found positive during alcohol tests, i.e., 40% in 2005, Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, the main objects of which are to provide for -
(a) the immediate suspension of the driving licence or the provisional driving licence of the driver of a motor vehicle who is charged with, or reasonably suspected of -
(i) causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of intoxicating drink or drugs; or
(ii) driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration exceeding the prescribed limit by at least 100 per cent; and
(b) a tougher penalty for the offence of using a motor vehicle without an insurance policy.
Furthermore, the Bill also provides for any driver of a motor vehicle to produce a photocopy of his driving licence, on demand, with the possibility of producing the original at a Police Station within five days. This provision goes a long way in eliminating the practical difficulties faced by drivers, especially motorcyclists, to carry their driving licence on them.
9. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Mauritius Revenue Authority (Amendment) Bill, the main objective of which is to maintain the Registrar General’s Department within central Government, instead of transferring its administration to the Mauritius Revenue Authority.
The Mauritius Revenue Authority Act provides for the integration of all the revenue departments, including the Registrar General’s Department. As it has now been decided to proceed with a reform process in Land Administration and Management, and the setting-up of a proper Cadastre, the Registrar General’s Department would not form part of the Mauritius Revenue Authority.
However, this approach would enable the Mauritius Revenue Authority to focus on tax administration and collection, purpose for which it has been created. It would also ensure that the new institution is not overburdened with the responsibility for the registration of property deeds and the maintenance of land registry.
10. Cabinet has agreed to the early introduction into the National Assembly of the Finance and Audit (Temporary Provisions) Bill for increasing, in respect of the period ending 31 December 2006, the ceiling of the Contingencies Fund to enable the Minister of Finance & Economic Development to make advances from the Contingencies Fund, if the need arises, to meet urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
11. In view of the fact that the Seafarer's Welfare Fund also caters for the welfare of retired seamen, Cabinet has agreed to the Merchant Shipping (Seafarer's Welfare Fund) Regulations 2002 being amended to include a representative of the association of retired seafarer on the Management Committee of the Fund. The participation of a Retired Seafarer on the Management Committee of the Fund would better serve the interests of Retired Seafarers and their families.
12. Cabinet has taken note that, as part of fisheries management to provide special protection to undersized fish, the Minister of Agro Industry & Fisheries would make new regulations under the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act 1998 to include “vielle rouge” (Epinephelus fasciatus) and “ourite” (Octopus sp.) to the Fifth Schedule of the Fisheries Regulations 1983 with a view to protecting these resources from over-fishing.
13. Cabinet has taken note of the activities which would be organized to mark World No Tobacco Day on 31 May this year. The purpose of this event would be to raise awareness of the existence of a large variety of deadly tobacco products and also help people obtain accurate information, remove the disguise and unveil the truth behind tobacco products. The slogan for this year is: “TOBACCO: DEADLY IN ANY FORM OR DISGUISE”. To mark the event the following activities would inter alia be held –
(i) a Forum on Wednesday 31 May 2006 to discuss and propose amendments to be made to the legislation regarding tobacco control in Mauritius in order to make it more compliant with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control;
(ii) the holding of five regional workshops targeting around 500 youths on the problems related to tobacco smoking;
(iii) a TV Programme with the collaboration of the MBC to sensitise the public on the various forms of tobacco and their deadly effects; and
(iv) launching of a poster and production of a TV spot on tobacco.
14. In the context of the World Telecommunication Day observed on 17 May 2006, Cabinet has taken note that the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications, in collaboration with all stakeholders of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sector, would organise a number of activities related to the theme for this year which is “Promoting Global Cybersecurity”, viz., -
(a) a half-day Workshop on 17 May to sensitise students at secondary level about the security threats involved and of measures to be taken when using Internet;
(b) launching of a fact sheet, targeting all end-users in Government, on Safe Internet Surfing;
(c) signature of agreement between the Mauritius Post Ltd and the ICT Authority for the implementation of the project to endow 93 Post Offices across Mauritius with computers and broadband internet facilities for access by the community at large;
(d) introduction of two cyber-caravans to be used in the context of the Community Empowerment Programme; and
(e) organization of an open day at the MT Tower Teleshop and launching of the Cellplus “Push Mail”.
15. Cabinet has taken note that following an invitation from the Chinese authorities, a cultural troupe would proceed to China to perform during the Sino-African Summit to be held from 4 to 5 November 2006. This would provide an opportunity to the Chinese population to discover part of the Mauritian culture and also to contribute to the promotional campaign being undertaken to attract Chinese people to visit Mauritius, thus giving a boost to our tourist industry.
16. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the First Meeting of ACP Ministers of Education attended by the Minister of Education & Human Resources in Brussels on 5 May 2006. The deliberations were on thematic issues of importance in education and sustainable development in ACP States, with particular focus inter alia on Basic Education and Tertiary Education. With regard to basic education, the Meeting recommended, inter alia, that –
(a) good practices in basic education be disseminated within the ACP countries, as the lessons of such good practices are critical to the attainment to the goals and targets of the Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals; and
(b) the ACP countries undertake key capacity building activities as a priority to support their efforts in ensuring access to quality basic education.
As far as higher education is concerned, the Ministerial Meeting made recommendations to overcome a number of constraints identified in the ACP States. These inter alia pertain to –
(i) improving the quality of tertiary education employing innovations clearly articulating the specific needs of ACP States; and
(ii) addressing the challenges of lifelong learning by ensuring that tertiary education institutions organise themselves to accommodate the learning and training needs of a more diverse clientele.
17. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the participation of the Minister of Housing & Lands at the “International Investment Conference Focusing on the Housing Sector” held on 3 and 4 May at Cape Town, South Africa and organized by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US Government agency supporting private sector investment in developing countries and also assisting small business units in the housing sector to expand and grow through overseas investment. The Conference had as its main theme “Housing Africa” and as main objectives to enable participants to interact with leading housing experts as well as businesses and financial institutions actively investing in the housing sector and to provide opportunities for facilitating private sector investment partnership with US businesses planning to invest in the housing sector in African Countries. In the margin of the Conference, the Minister of Housing & Lands had bilateral discussions with the President and Chief Executive Officer as well as the Executive Vice-President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. A team from that institution would be in Mauritius in due course to discuss on possibilities of securing foreign investment for social housing programmes in Mauritius and for partial funding of the proposed land administration and management project.
18. Cabinet has taken note that Mr Jaikrishna Lal R. Putty has been appointed Director-General of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute/Rabindranath Tagore Institute (MGI/RTI).
19. Cabinet has taken note that recommendation would be made for the appointment of Mr Vijay Ramgoolam as Director of the Small Entreprises and Handicraft Development Authority.