1. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the participation of the Prime Minister in the Socialist International Council Meeting held in Athens on 30 and 31 January 2006 and of his fruitful official visit to USA from 1 to 3 February 2006 where he attended the 54th National Prayer Breakfast.
At the Socialist International Council Meeting, which he attended as the Leader of the Mauritius Labour Party, the Prime Minister was one of the panelist for the debate on "Overcoming Poverty and Inequality: Global Priorities for Our Movement Today". He intervened on the subject of Poverty and highlighted Government's commitments towards the eradication of the social scourge. In the margin of the meeting, he met Heads of State present and other socialist leaders. He discussed with the new President of the Socialist International the cut in the price of sugar and the Accompanying Measures proposed by the EU. He also approached an important Greek shipping company on the possibility of reducing the cost of maritime freight for Mauritius.
In Washington, the Prime Minister attended the 54th National Prayer Breakfast and scheduled meetings on bilateral issues with important personalities, as well as Congressmen and Senators, including the Hon R. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador Portman, US Trade Representative, Senator Mark Pryor, Co-Chair of US Congressional Committee, Congressman Jim McDermott and Mr Stephan Hayes, President of the Corporate Council of Africa.
US President Bush and Mrs Laura Bush, and high dignitaries from 150 countries, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, the Prime Minister of Belize, the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former President of Serbia as well as the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mrs B. Bhutto attended the event. The Prime Minister addressed the International Luncheon with Congressional Leaders and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and highlighted the different facets of Mauritius, viz., its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society based on the foundation of peaceful co-existence and harmony.
The importance of the visit of the Prime Minister to USA resided in pursuing Government's objectives to inter alia –
(a) lobby for the extension of the LDC derogation under AGOA;
(b) make a case for Mauritius to benefit from the "Aid for Trade" initiative with a view to mobilizing expertise and financing to assist in restructuring our economy in response to the erosion of trade preferences;
(c) attract the interest of the US firms to invest in Mauritius; and
(d) inform the US authorities of our current stand on the Chagos Archipelago issue.
During his meeting with Hon Zoellick, on the challenges facing Mauritius and the extension of the Third Country Fabric Derogation, Hon Zoellick promised to assist Mauritius in its efforts to develop other sectors of potential growth, including the development of the ICT Sector. Ambassador Portman, US Trade Representative praised Mauritius for its stand at the Trade Meeting held recently in Hong Kong, especially in making other countries understand that 100% duty-free and quota-free access for LDC products to markets of developed countries, including the US, would have a negative impact on some developing countries including Mauritius and the benefits available under AGOA would be eroded. Ambassador Portman indicated that Mauritius would be eligible to receive assistance under the "Aid for Trade" and that the US would double its support for trade capacity building over the next five years. He also advised that negotiations for entering into a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries could start before the expiry of the US Trade Promotion Authority due on 1 July 2007.
During a meeting the Prime Minister had with Congressman Jim McDermott, pioneer of the AGOA legislation, the latter assured of his support for the extension of the Third Country Fabric Derogation for Mauritius.
At a meeting with the Corporate Council on Africa, which represent more than 200 companies, i.e. of about 80% of all US private investment in Africa, the Prime Minister invited the US businessmen to invest in Mauritius, in the new sectors, such as the Seafood Hub, the Integrated Resort Scheme and the ICT Sector.
2. In the context of the National Day Celebrations 2006, Cabinet has agreed -
(a) to the official function being held at Esplanade Prof. Basdeo Bissoondyal, Port Louis Waterfront. The raising of the flag would be at noon. A cultural show would also be organized on that occasion;
(b) that the theme, reflecting a sense of patriotism, pride for the motherland and unity, would be ‘Nou Pays Nou Fierté’; and
(c) to small national flags being distributed to school children.
Cabinet has also taken note of activities to be organized in Rodrigues and Agalega on that occasion.
3. Cabinet has taken note that the new Certification Scheme is one of the components in the reform in the education sector. With a view to establishing a system of excellence in the education sector and at the same time developing the necessary framework as well as creating opportunities aimed at nurturing the full potential of each and every child, Cabinet has maintained the promulgation of the Education (Amendment) Regulations 2006 to provide for the legal framework for admission to Form I in National Colleges in 2007 on the basis of best four subjects nationwide. The regulations will provide for the following broad policy orientations:
(i) there will be a dual mode of admission to Form I in National and Regional Colleges, respectively, on the basis of the revised grading system;
(ii) parents will be required to compulsorily select in order of preference all the Regional Colleges in their respective zones;
(iii) the selection of one or more National College(s) in order of preference will be optional;
(iv) priority of admission in the Regional Colleges shall be determined, as at present, on the basis of regionalization, parental choice and grade aggregate with proximity of residence being resorted to in case of tie; and
(v) priority of admission in the National Colleges shall be on the basis of grade aggregate and relative performance, and parental choice.
4.As result of the aggressive campaigns launched by Government to boost the tourism sector, Cabinet has taken note of another record performance in tourist arrivals in January 2006. Moreover, British Airways Holidays has ranked Mauritius to be the most popular tourist destination after the U.S.A. Tourist arrivals for the months of January 2006 rose by 18% to attain 86,218 against 73,053 for January 2005. According to the latest report, all the traditional generating source markets performed exceptionally well in January 2006 and there are also very encouraging signs from other potential markets such as India, China as well as Australia. Arrivals from the leading market, France, went up by 17.8% to reach 26,467. All the other main generating markets, viz. Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, India and China registered growth by 73.7%, 24.4%, 9.1%, 11% and 17%, respectively. The regional markets also recorded a sharp increase of 29.5%.
With a view to ensuring a buoyant and sustainable growth in tourist arrivals, Cabinet has taken note that the tourism product portfolio is being diversified through fostering the development of eco-tourism, cultural tourism as well as leisure development throughout Mauritius. In the same wake, Cabinet has agreed to the Finance and Audit (Tourism Fund) Regulations 2003 being amended so as to empower the Tourism Fund to finance tourism related projects, sites and attraction in regions which demonstrate high touristic potential.
5.Cabinet has taken note that 96 cases of Chikungunya has been reported in Mauritius as at 9 February 2006. Cabinet was also apprised of the concerted action taken by the Ministry of Health & Quality of Life, the Ministry of Environment & National Development Unit, the Ministry of Local Government, and other relevant authorities to control any outbreak of Chikungunya in the country. These include –
(a) the reinforcement of preventive measures at the port and airport;
(b) the procurement of 15 additional fogging machines, 70 additional spraying machines for the larviciding and fogging activities; and
(c) cleaning campaigns by the Ministry of Environment & National Development Unit with a view to avoiding accumulation of wastes and thus preventing the breeding of mosquitoes and other pests.
Local Authorities are also proceeding with cleaning campaigns, the collection of used tyres, the cleansing of drains and bare lands under their jurisdiction. As a precautionary measure, fogging and spraying activities will also be carried out in all educational institutions from 1700 to 2000 hours. Airline companies, hotel operators and other stakeholders are being kept informed of steps taken to ensure a healthy environment to tourists visiting Mauritius and their collaboration enlisted. In addition, WHO assistance has been sought for the services of an expert in the control of Chikungunya.
6.Cabinet has taken note that the National Information Technology Strategy Plan covering period 1998 – 2005 is no longer appropriate today as the ICT Sector in Mauritius has evolved considerably with the advancement in technology. In order to create a favourable environment to develop ICT and ICT-based activities as the fifth pillar of the economy, and to promote the emergence of an information society and in line with Government Programme 2005-2010, Cabinet has agreed to the elaboration of a National Information and Communication Technologies Strategic Plan to recommend a strategy and a detailed Action Plan for the development of the ICT Sector for the period 2006-2010.
7. In line with the commitment taken by Government with regard to the visit of members of the Chagossian Community to the Chagos Archipelago, Cabinet has taken note of arrangements made in collaboration with the British Authorities, for more than 100 members of the Chagossian community to visit Diego Garcia, Ile du Coin (Peros Banhos), and Boddam (Salomon Islands) among others, in March/April 2006 by M/V Mauritius Trochetia. The Chagossians who would be accompanied by two priests, a doctor, a nurse and a stonemason, would visit cemeteries, and perform services at graves.
8. Cabinet has taken note that a regional workshop on the theme 'Administration and Funding of Parliament' organized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, would be held in Mauritius in September 2006. The Workshop, which would group around 30 participants from the African Region, would assist Members to adopt good practices of democratic governance and strengthen the institution of Parliament, as well as increase the availability of professional development programmes to Members of parliamentary staff.
9.Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the participation of the Minister of Local Government in the SADC Local Government Ministers Forum held in Pretoria, South Africa on 30 January 2006. The Meeting, which was the first formal gathering of Ministers responsible for Local Government matters from SADC Member States, considered the incorporation of Local Government into SADC formal structures through the establishment of a desk for local government in the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana and also discussed inter alia the following issues –
(i) the proposed budget of the Local Government Desk for the next 3 years;
(ii) the organization structure of the Local Government Desk; and
(iii) the setting up of a sub committee of Ministers of Local Government.
10.In view of the importance of distance learning in the setting up of a knowledge society, Cabinet has taken note of the holding of the Third Technical Committee Meeting of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Working Group on Distance Education and Open Learning on 27 and 28 February 2006 in Mauritius. The Working Group on Distance Education and Open Learning is one of the eleven Working Groups of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa to help Ministries of Education, training institutions, and NGOs in Africa improve overall issues pertaining to education access, quality and equity and, in particular, to strengthen the capacity of the education systems. The Technical Committee Meeting, which will comprise some 17 participants from the African region, will inter alia:
(i) take stock of work done by the Working Group;
(ii) orient its future direction in the light of its achievements and objectives;
(iii) discuss operational constraints; and
(iv) discuss funding matters.
11.Cabinet has taken note that, with a view to addressing the scourge of substance abuse and ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in its sensitization campaign, NATReSA has consolidated its sensitization and prevention programmes in substance abuse and has set up the Community Preventive Programme, a new structure with a broader range of activities so as to cater for a wider population. In this respect, Mauritius has been divided into six zones each headed by a Coordinator who is supported by a network comprising high calibre resource persons from Government Agency and NGOs.
12.With a view to providing students of law an equal chance to train at the Attorney General’s Office, Cabinet has taken note that the present scheme of pupillage at the Attorney General’s Office would be extended to officers from the parastatal bodies, who have successfully completed their Bar Vocational course. This approach will provide these officers with the opportunity to have a better exposure to the drafting of legislation and to the conduct of prosecutions.
13.Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Forum organized by Enterprise Mauritius on the State of the Textile and Clothing Sector and the Way Forward, and that there was a consensus that moving up the value chain though the production of fashion goods for the niche market and non-factory competitiveness would play a critical role for the survival of the sector. Given the importance of the non-factory competitiveness factors, Cabinet has taken note of the establishment of an Industrial Services Monitoring Cell, under the chairmanship of the Minister of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives and comprising representatives from both the public and private sectors, to follow up closely on the delivery and cost of services to the Textile and Clothing Sector, to examine the impact on the sector of increase in cost and to explore ways and means to improve the delivery and efficiency of services.
14.Cabinet has taken note of the Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of Mauritius, adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 27 January 2006 and of the setting up of a Monitoring Committee comprising all stakeholders at the level of the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare & Consumer Protection to ensure full implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee and to address the various areas of concern. In the Report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed its appreciation concerning various measures taken by Government to amend existing laws and introduce new ones to ensure compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also noted with appreciation the process of reviewing the Children's Policy as well as the National Plan of Action.
15.With a view to increasing sanitation and in the effort to increase the level of coverage by the public sewer system to 50% before the year 2010, Cabinet has taken note of developments in the implementation of the Plaines Wilhems Sewerage Project, the biggest waste water project ever implemented in Mauritius.