1. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Prime Minister to Belgium and the UK from 15 to 17 November 2006. In Belgium, he attended the First Edition of the European Development Days. The objectives of the Conference were to enhance public awareness about development cooperation issues, strengthen the effectiveness of EU development assistance for the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals, send a positive message that Africa was on the move and to muster the commitment of Europeans to engage in a stronger partnership with African countries. The underlying theme of the meeting was governance and its link with development policy.
In their opening speeches, both the Prime Minister of Belgium and the President of the EU emphasized on the positive political and economic changes that have taken place in Africa and exhorted the importance of good governance in the alleviation of poverty and the attainment of the Millenium Development Goals.
During the Conference, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs made a presentation on UNITAID Initiative which aims at providing drugs to poor countries at reduced prices to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. UNITAID draws its funds from an international air ticket solidarity levy. He congratulated Mauritius, as one of the few African countries, that has committed itself to engage in the UNITAID initiative.
The Prime Minister, in his address to the plenary, -
(a) welcomed the multi-faceted and holistic approach advocated by the European Union and expressed the wish that the multi-dimensional nature of governance be reflected in the development cooperation agreement between the EU and the ACP Member States;
(b) stated that, since independence in 1968, Mauritius has systematically nurtured a culture of good governance which is vital for the maintenance of cohesion in a plural society;
(c) underlined that Mauritius observes a strict adherence to the principles of democracy, human rights, rule of law and separation of powers and has provided mechanisms for protecting the rights of its citizens through enactment of several legislations and the setting up of extra judicial institutions to complement our court system;
(d) enumerated the various measures that the Mauritian Government has taken to fight corruption, which has enabled Mauritius to gain nine places on the 2006 Index of Transparency International;
(e) spoke of the various measures taken by Government to give a new impetus to the economy, including the establishment of an Empowerment Programme to improve the economic situation of the vulnerable group;
(f) emphasized the need for a reduction of global poverty and for substantial resources to be dedicated for the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals, and recalled that the SADC Summit, held in Lesotho in August last, had approved his proposal to hold a Conference on Poverty Elimination;
(g) described the inextricable link between international trade, development cooperation, governance and poverty reduction, and urged the EU to maintain development at the heart of negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements; and
(h) underlined the importance of Aid for Trade as a vital instrument that
can provide accompanying measures to enable preference-dependent economy to become fully competitive ones.
The Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with Mr José Manuel Barrosso, President of the European Commission, to whom he explained the need for additional support to the adjustment programme undertaken by Mauritius following the reform of the EU Sugar Regime leading, eventually, to a cut of 36% in guaranteed prices and resulting in a substantial loss of export earnings, the dismantling of the Multi-fibre Agreement and the significant rise in the price of petroleum products. He thanked the European Commission for reallocating to Mauritius an amount of Euro 8.74 million for budget support following the End of Term Review exercise of the 9th EDF. He spoke of the Empowerment Programme that has been put in place to reskill labour from traditional activities to new emerging sectors and underlined the need for additional resources to meet the cost of adjustment.
Mr Barrosso hailed Mauritius as a success story and added that Europe was fully committed to maintain its close partnership with Mauritius and agreed that countries, like Mauritius, which were undertaking major economic reform programmes, need to be supported. He, also, stated that Mauritius could have access to additional resources under the Incentive Tranche for good governance.
Mr Barrosso expressed his appreciation of the efforts made by Mauritius and pointed out that the EU Council has approved a contribution of Euro 1 billion by the European Commission and Euro 1 billion collectively by the EU Member States as a pledge to their commitment to the Aid for Trade Initiative. He agreed, however, that trade alone would not help emerging countries and undertook to find out ways and means to provide some additional resources to support economic reforms.
The Prime Minister, also, had a meeting with Mr Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid and Mr Peter Mandelson, Commissioner for Trade. The Prime Minister explained the difficult and bold economic reform programmes that Mauritius was undertaking in order to overcome the consequences of the triple shocks and added that those measures were necessary and urgent in order to enable Mauritius to move from preference dependency to a globally competitive economy. The implementation of the reform programme, he pointed out, would require significant resources, including Foreign Direct Investment. He reiterated a review of the Accompanying Measures in the sugar sector and for additional resources under the “Incentive Tranche” of the 10th EDF so as to enable Mauritius to make the successful transition.
Both Mr Louis Michel and Mr Peter Mandelson stated that they were fully aware of the difficulties Mauritius was going through with the reduction in guaranteed sugar prices but that Mauritius was well placed to take advantage of the assistance that the European Commission would extend to the ACP countries.
Commissioner Michel expressed his appreciation for the vision of Mauritius and its economic reform programme which he considered was pragmatic, realistic and necessary for economic growth. Commissioner Michel said that he was ready to support Mauritius in its process of reform and conceded that its results could come only in the medium term. With respect to the “Incentive Tranche” for good governance, he confirmed that the allocation would be additional to the initial one already made to Mauritius under the 10th EDF and would be given as a function of the governance progamme which could, also, be used under Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The Prime Minister also met Archbishop Desmond Tutu who hailed Mauritius as a wonderful example where unity thrives in diversity and which has, over the years, registered rapid economic growth.
The Prime Minister evoked the past history of slavery and indentured labour which Mauritius has lived. He expressed appreciation to the role Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as Head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has played following the fall of apartheid in South Africa and requested for his support to identify someone with the necessary expertise to head a similar commission in Mauitius.
The Prime Minister invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to visit Mauritius and he agreed to do so.
In UK, the Prime Minister also met the British Chancellor of Exchequer, Mr Gordon Brown, to whom he apprised the economic reform programme that the Mauritian Government has undertaken, notwithstanding certain painful and unpopular decisions, to achieve global competitiveness.
Mr Gordon Brown expressed his full appreciation of the decisions taken by the Mauritian Government in the prevailing circumstances and agreed to provide the necessary support in its endeavour.
The Prime Minister, also, participated in a Road Show organized by Barclays Bank of Mauritius as part of its drive to invite the Mauritian diaspora in the UK, as well as other businessmen, to invest in Mauritius. About 200 Mauritians, as well as British businessmen, attended the Road Show. The Prime Minister seized the opportunity to call Mauritians settled there to participate in the economic development of Mauritius.
2. Following the meeting the Prime Minister had with Archbishop Desmond Tutu during his mission in Brussels last week, Archbishop Tutu has identified three eminent personalities to head the Truth and Justice Commission to be set up shortly. The personalities are being contacted.
3. With a view to promoting the penetration of Broadband Internet access in Mauritius, Cabinet has taken note that the ICT Authority has approved, with immediate effect, of an average reduction of 26% in the wholesale ADSL tariffs offered by MT as follows:
• 128 kbps from Rs730 per month to Rs480 per month
• 512 kbps from Rs780 per month to Rs535 per month
• 1 mbps from Rs 1,200 per month to Rs1,005 per month
4. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the HIV and AIDS Bill which provides for measures for the control and prevention of the propagation of HIV and AIDS whilst at the same time respecting the human rights of persons affected or not with the virus.
The Bill also provides for –
(a) availability of HIV testing facilities;
(b) the registration of those facilities;
(c) the testing of donated blood;
(d) the counselling of persons affected with HIV or AIDS; and
(e) a system of syringe and needle exchange.
5. Cabinet has taken note of the activities to be organized by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, in collaboration with health stakeholders, on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2006.
World AIDS Day was first declared in 1988 following a Resolution adopted by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations General Assembly, and is observed on the 1 December with a view to raising global awareness on HIV and AIDS.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2006 is ‘Accountability’. Countries have been encouraged to develop campaigns and activities that are meaningful in their own context with the overall theme of accountability, using the 2005-2010 slogan of “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise”. The programme of activities include, inter alia, –
(i) an Open Day;
(ii) an exhibition on facilities and services available in the field of HIV and AIDS;
(iii) services for voluntary screening, counselling and testing;
(iv) the launching by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life of its website on HIV/AIDS;
(v) a cultural programme with the participation of local artists centered on HIV and AIDS; and
(vi) reinforcing the ongoing media campaign on HIV/AIDS through talks on radio and television.
6. Cabinet has taken note of the implementation of Methadone Substitution Treatment by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life as recommended by various consultants, including Dr S. Kumar, UNODC Consultant and Professor Marta Torrens, Consultant from WHO. Methadone Substitution Therapy forms part of a harm reduction strategy. The aim of the treatment is to change the habit of drug users, to stop them from injecting and spreading blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS and, also, to reduce criminality and to improve their quality of life and social adjustment. Methadone treatment is associated with low side-effects and substantial health improvements. It is being used internationally by many countries, including US, France, Switzerland, Australia and Thailand.
A first batch of 10 patients, i.e., three referred from Sangram Sewa Sadan Centre, and seven from Dr Idriss Goomany Centre, would follow the treatment.
7. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Public Health (Amendment) Bill which amends the Public Health Act in order to enable officers of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to take immediate measures to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes in order to eradicate diseases, such as Chikungunya, Malaria and Dengue fever.
The Bill also provides for the Sanitary Authority to serve on an occupier of premises a fixed penalty notice where he fails to remove or abate an accumulation of water containing or likely to contain mosquito larvae on any part of his premises.
8. Cabinet has taken note of the performance of the industrial sector in 2005-2006. This sector which experienced serious difficulties over the past four years resulting in more than 25,000 job losses, has now regained its vitality despite continued harsh conditions in the international trading environment. The manufacturing sector (excluding sugar) is expected to show a positive growth rate of 2.4% this year as opposed to a negative growth rate of 5.3% in 2005. In the EPZ Sector, where textile and clothing is a predominant activity, a growth rate of 1.5% is expected in 2006 as compared to a negative growth rate of 12.3% in 2005.
Cabinet has also taken note that the value of EPZ export rose by 15.1% in the second quarter of 2006 compared to the corresponding period in 2005. The positive performance of the sector is mainly attributed to enhanced support provided by Government.
9. With a view to promoting the entrepreneurship culture across all levels of society, Cabinet has taken note that the Caravane de L'Entrepreneuriat is proceeding to other regions of the island. After Panchavati, St. Hilaire, Camp Levieux, Vallée Pitot and Bel Air, the Caravane was organized at Centre Social Idriss Goomany, Plaine Verte on 15 November 2006, targeting the following regions:
(a) Plaine Verte;
(b) Sainte Croix;
(c) Bois Marchand;
(d) Roche Bois; and
(e) Cité Briquetterie.
On that occasion, 24 Certificates of Registration were issued for projects, such as handicrafts, manufacture and packaging of snacks, pig breeding, production and packaging of jelly drinks, garment making, operation of baby care centre, and drapery and production of curtains. Cheques for loans from DBM were also handed over to five beneficiaries.
Cabinet has, further, noted that from July 2005 to October 2006, 3060 enterprises have so far registered themselves with the Small Enterprises and Handicraft Development Authority (SEHDA), out of which, 1715 are new enterprises. It is expected that these enterprises would create some 9000 jobs. Furthermore, for the period July 2005 to October 2006, SEHDA has received 13,738 visits from existing, new and potential entrepreneurs for queries and counselling.
The next Caravane de L'entrepreneuriat would be held on 6 December 2006 at Souillac.
10. Following the recent mission of the Prime Minister to China, Cabinet has taken note that a multi-sectoral delegation from the Municipal Government of Qingdao led by the Mayor, Mr Xia Geng, would visit Mauritius in early 2007. The Municipal Government is interested in the Trade and Economic Zone to be set up with the support of the Chinese Government and is encouraging Qingdao businessmen to invest and operate in that zone with view to targeting regional markets of COMESA and SADC. A number of agreements which had been concluded with the Municipal Government of Qingdao would be signed during the forthcoming visit of the delegation. On that occasion, the twinning of the Municipality of Qingdao and Grand Port Savanne District Council would also be finalized.
11. Cabinet has agreed to Mauritius ratifying the Revised Cotonou Agreement which was concluded for a period of 20 years, commencing on 1 March 2000. The amendments to the Agreement which have been made in accordance with the provisions of Article 95 and agreed upon by the ACP and the EU, relate, inter alia, to -
(i) Crimes of Concern to the International Community and the International Criminal Court;
(ii) Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction;
(iii) Enhancement of Political Dialogue between the ACP and the EU;
(iv) Specific Situation of Small Island Developing States; and
(v) Terrorism, Mercenary Activities, Promotion of Traditional Knowledge, Prevention of HIV/AIDS.
12. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Eleventh Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Authority of Heads of State and Government which was held on 15 and 16 November 2006 in Djibouti.
The theme of this year’s Summit was: "Deepening Regional Integration through Customs Union."
The Summit which was preceded by the Twenty-Second Meeting of the Council of Ministers discussed, inter alia, the following issues –
(i) EPA Negotiations
(ii) Rules of Origin
(iii) Non-Tariff Barriers
(iv) COMESA Customs Union
(v) Trade in Services
(vi) Transport and Communciations
(ix) Monetary Affairs
(x) Economic & Social Development
(xi) Labour Migration
In the margins of the Summit, the following meetings were organized -
(i) the Eastern and Southern Africa Council Meeting on 14 November;
(ii) the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting on 13 November;
(iii) the Business Forum on 10 and 11 November;
(iv) the Intergovernmental Committee from 8 to 10 November; and
(v) the Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters on 6 and 7 November.
13. In the context of the International Day of Disabled Persons, Cabinet has taken note that the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions, in collaboration with the National Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, the Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Board and NGOs, would organise a Disability Week from 30 November to 8 December 2006.
The theme of this year’s International Day is “e-Accessibility” and the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities.
The programme of activities constitutes, inter alia, of -
(i) An exhibition/sales of products by disabled artisans at Trianon Shopping Park from 30 November to 2 December.
(ii) A ‘fête for disabled children’ with the participation of ‘Centre d’Education et de Developpement pour les Enfants Mauriciens’ on 30 November at the Trianon Shopping Park.
(iii) A cultural programme by artists with disabilities with a view to highlighting their talents and potential.
(iv) The official launching of a weekly news bulletin in Mauritian Sign Language on the MBC.
(v) A Concert at Caudan Waterfront on 8 December with the participation of disabled artists.
14. Cabinet has taken note of the activities to be organized by the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions and MACOSS from 2 to 9 December 2006 to mark the International Volunteer Day.
In 1985, the General Assembly of the United Nations decreed 5 December as the International Volunteer Day. The International Volunteer Day is celebrated every year by people, communities, organizations and Governments around the world to sensitize people on voluntary social work.
The programme of activities include, inter alia, –
(a) a Workshop/Panel discussions on the theme “Voluntarism and Social Development;
(b) a Forum/Debate on “Les rôles des volontaires dans une Ile Maurice en transition”;
(c) blood donation ; and
(d) a cultural programme at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre.
15. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Minister of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives to South Africa from 11 to 14 November 2006, where he attended the Eighth Edition of the International Apparel, Textile, Footwear and Machinery Trade Exhibition in Cape Town. About 100 exhibitors representing the textile, garment, footwear and machinery sectors from India, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Nigeria, Italy, Turkey, Mauritius and South Africa participated in this year's event. The Trade Exhibition was an opportunity for Mauritius to broaden its export base and increase its visibility in the African region. The Exhibition has given Mauritius the opportunity to position itself as the next best alternative in terms of sourcing destination, particularly in context of the imposition of a quota on Chinese products in South Africa. The South African buyers were very much impressed with the quality of Mauritian products and Government’s commitment towards the industry.
In South Africa, the Minister of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives had meetings with, inter alia, -
(i) the Managing Director of the South African Chamber of Business; and
(ii) the Executive Director and the Marketing Manager of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry.