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Prime Minister's Office>Cabinet Decisions taken on 10 November 2006

Cabinet Decisions taken on 10 November 2006

1. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Prime Minister to China where he attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation from 4 to 5 November 2006.
The main objective of the Summit, which registered the participation of 48 African countries, 41 of which were represented at the level of Heads of State/Government, was to develop an effective mechanism for conducting collective dialogue, exchanging experience in governance and enhancing mutual trust and cooperation in practical terms between China and African countries.
In his address to the Summit, Mr Hu Jintao, the President of the People's Republic of China recalled inter alia that:-
(a) mutual support is the driving force behind the evergrowing China-Africa Cooperation; and
(b) China would strengthen cooperation with Africa by deepening political relations based on equality and mutual trust, maintaining high-level contacts, broadening economic cooperation, expanding exchanges for cultural enrichment, promoting balanced and harmonious global development, enhancing South-South Cooperation and encouraging North-South dialogue and by strengthening cooperation and mutual support in international affairs.
He announced eight steps that China would take in the years to come to expand partnership with Africa, viz. -
(a) doubling its assistance to Africa by 2009;
(b) setting up of a China-Africa Development Fund which will reach US $ 5 billion to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa and provide support to them;
(c) building a Conference Centre for the African Union to support African countries in their efforts to strengthen themselves through unity and support the process of African integration;
(d) establishing three to five Trade and Economic Cooperation Zones in the next three years in Africa;
(e) providing US $ 3 billion of preferential loans and US $ 2 billion of preferential buyer's credit to Africa in the next three years;
(f) canceling debts in the form of all the interest-free government loans that matured at the end of 2005, owed by the heavily indebted poor countries and the Least Developed Countries in Africa that have diplomatic relations with China;
(g) further opening up China's market to Africa by increasing from 190 to over 440 the number of export items to China receiving zero-tariff treatment from the least developed countries in Africa having diplomatic ties with China; and
(h) over the next three years, training 15,000 African professionals, sending 100 senior agricultural experts to Africa, setting up 10 special agricultural technology demonstration centres in Africa and building 30 hospitals in Africa and increasing the number of Chinese governments scholarships to African students from the current 2000 per year to 4000 per year by 2009.
In his address to a Roundtable of Chinese and African leaders, the Prime Minister, inter alia, -
(a) invited China to become one of the major partners in the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD);
(b) underlined that trade remains the most important engine of growth and development and that the trade deficit of Africa with China should be addressed;
(c) expressed hope for the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement between Mauritius and China, as is the case with other countries;
(d) emphasized the importance for African countries to obtain Foreign Direct Investment and to benefit from technology transfer in order to improve their supply chain, generate employment and propose value-added products and services;
(e) expressed satisfaction that the new strategic partnership would ensure that Chinese investors and entrepreneurs invest in Africa and that, in this respect, Mauritius pledges to offer full protection to such investments as well as an attractive business environment; and
(f) pointed out that Mauritius offers greater prospects for the setting up of a Trade and Economic Cooperation zone.
During the Summit, the Prime Minister attended a High-Level Dialogue between Chinese and African leaders and Business Representatives, which aimed at bringing together African and Chinese businessmen to create an interactive dialogue between the business community on the one hand and the political leaders on the other. In the course of the Dialogue, the Chinese Premier unveiled an ambitious target of raising Sino-African trade to US $ 100 billion by 2010, pledged to open the Chinese market wider by encouraging Chinese firms to increase imports from Africa and announced the formation of a China-Africa Joint Chamber of Commerce.
On the day following the Summit, the Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with a number of Chinese personalities, viz. -
(a) the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who reaffirmed Chinese support for the construction of the new MBC Headquarters, for the provision of close circuit television network for Port Louis and other sensitive areas, for extending facilities for low cost housing, improvement of public health, development of tourism and higher learning. He announced that China would offer to Mauritius an interest-free loan of RMB 30 million, i.e., around Mauritian Rs115 million, to finance projects which would be mutually agreed upon.
(b) The Representative of "Aéroports de Paris" (ADP), together with those of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), who agreed that an MOU be signed between ADP/CSCEC and AML for the extension of the Airport. It is expected that the contract would be signed by August 2007, and work would start the following month and be completed by mid 2009.
(c) Representatives of Shanxi Tianli Enterprise Group which has invested in a state of the art spinning unit in Mauritius. They reviewed the setting up of the Mauritius Tianli Trade and Economic Cooperation Zone at a total investment of around US$ 320m. The Tianli Group would itself invest US$ 100m in infrastructure development. The Tianli Group plans to attract about 40 Chinese investors in the Cooperation Zone. It is foreseen that the zone would create about 7500 local jobs.
The Prime Minister, also, had meetings with representatives of Zhongxing Technology Enterprise which had been identified by the Chinese authorities for the supply of a closed circuit TV network for Port Louis. The project would be funded by China.

2. Cabinet has viewed with shock and dismay the shelling by Israel of residential area in the occupied Gaza Strip, when 18 Palestinian civilians, including children and women, had been killed. Cabinet has agreed to Government supporting the move of Non-Aligned Movement Countries to call for the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Israeli violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

3. Cabinet has taken note of statistics on tourist arrivals for the month of October 2006, which confirm the increasing trend in tourist arrivals for the past four months.
About 75,451 tourists visited Mauritius in the month of October 2006 as compared to 70,999 in October 2005, i.e., an increase of 6.3%, the highest recorded during the past five months.
The trend in our main markets is as follows –
Italy +71.2% United Arab Emirates
Spain +61.6% South Africa +20.5%
Australia +32.8% Seychelles +18%
India +52.2% United Kingdom +13.6%
CIS +51.5%
It is, however, noted that our leading market, France, has not yet fully recovered although there are signs of progress; that market has recorded only a decrease of 13.9% as compared to a decrease of 16.9% last month.
According to projections of the hotel sector, occupancy rate for the months of November and December 2006 would be in the range of 80% to 85% as compared to an average of 75% for the corresponding period of last year.
The result confirms that diversification strategies into new and emerging markets have started to reap fruits.

4. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Labour (Amendment) Bill, which aims at –
(i) raising the minimum age of competency to enter into a contract of employment from 15 to 16 years in order to harmonise the labour legislation with the recent amendment to the Education Act rendering education compulsory up to the age of 16;
(ii) granting a female worker 12 weeks’ maternity leave, with the possibility of taking a maximum of 6 weeks’ leave from that entitlement prior to confinement;
(iii) granting to a female worker two weeks’ leave on full pay immediately after a miscarriage certified by a medical practitioner;
(iv) making the provisions relating to workplace violence applicable to all categories of workers; and
(v) amending the provisions relating to deductions from severance allowance in order that an employer may deduct from any severance allowance payable half the amount of any gratuity or 5 times the amount of any annual pension granted at the age of 60 from any fund or scheme computed by reference only to the share of contributions paid by the employer, instead of by reference to the contributions made by both the employer and the worker.

5. Cabinet has taken note of the holding of Infotech 2006 at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre, Pailles, from 15 to 19 November 2006.
The event, organised by the National Computer Board for the promotion and development of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) industry, aims at creating awareness on latest information and communication technologies thereby promoting ICT as the next engine of economic growth in line with Government policy to make of ICT the fifth pillar of the economy.
Infotech 2006 would have a regional and international dimension and would provide a platform to buyers, investors, entrepreneurs, service providers and the business community from Mauritius, as well as the African and Asian regions to participate and share experiences and, also, to establish business contacts.
On that occasion, an ICT Regional Conference would be held and the following themes would be discussed -
(a) Trends and Development in Offshoring and Outsourcing;
(b) Digital Solutions for Financial Services;
(c) The Revolution of Internet Protocol;
(d) e-Government in Developing Economies; and
(e) Challenges of ICT for Regional Cooperation.

6. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Italian Economic Mission which visited Mauritius from 9 to 16 October 2006.
The scope of the mission was to explore trade and investment opportunities in Mauritius, particularly in the sectors of textile and clothing, hotel industry and tourism, building, logistics, leather works, light-engineering, sea food and the freeport. A proposal was, also, made to use Mauritius as a springboard to penetrate the regional market.
The Mission culminated into, inter alia,
(i) the signing of agreements between the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts of Naples and their local counterparts, namely the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Mauritius Export Processing Zone Association, for the promotion of trade and investment between Mauritius and the Province of Naples;
(ii) a proposal for the establishment of special direct flights between Naples and Mauritius during the period December to April;
(iii) the organisation of inter-island cruises in the Indian Ocean with fast ferry boats;
(iv) the setting up of an ICT Health coordinating centre, including tele-medicine and organ transplant operations;
(v) the construction and sale of beach and indoor electronic wheelchairs to target disabled and their relatives in tourism development; and
(vi) investment in the tourism industry in line with the development plan of the Ministry of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications to increase the number of tourist arrivals.

7. Cabinet has taken note that the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications would sign the Protocol on Policy and Regulatory Framework for NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure for Eastern and Southern Africa, which would facilitate Member States in the construction, maintenance and operation of the NEPAD Broadband ICT Network for Eastern and Southern Africa on open access principles. The Protocol further provides the promotion of broadband ICT infrastructure to support high-quality, high speed and reliable telecommunications, broadcasting and internet connectivity in the region.

8. Cabinet has taken note of the recommendations of a Study on Capacity Building in Support of Preparation of Economic Partnership Agreement: “Implementing The Transition: Developing Key Service Sectors, Supporting Labour Market Adjustment and Skills Development”, prepared under the Economic Partnership Agreement Support Programme of the European Union. The objective of the Study is to assist Government in examining options for developing key services sectors, as well as supporting labour market adjustment and skills development in the context of its reform programme.
The study, inter alia,
(a) lays emphasis on the increasing importance of skills development with a view to implementing a successful transition of the Mauritian economy;
(b) recommends that Mauritius should redefine its “social contract”, with greater participation of employers and employees in determining needs in terms of skills supply;
(c) identifies key actions to develop Mauritius into a knowledge hub, including improved coordination between the private and the public sectors, to support physical infrastructure in key sectors and to attract foreign universities and students under an enabling legal framework; and
(d) recommends that Government should take a firm policy commitment to an open-sky approach, while at the same time ensure that in the process, reciprocal policy relaxation on the part of other countries is secured for the benefit of Air Mauritius.

9. Cabinet has taken note of action initiated to reactivate and complete the African Peer Review Mechanism, a self monitoring governance mechanism voluntarily acceded by Member States of the African Union. The mechanism aims at fostering the adoption of policies, standards and practices which would lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable and accelerated regional and continental economic integration.
Cabinet has agreed to the National Economic and Social Council being the focal point for the conduct of the peer review exercise.

10. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held in Midrand, South Africa during period 19 to 23 October 2006.
The objects of the Extraordinary Summit were to:
(i) exchange views on the scaling-up of the implementation of the Regional Economic Integration, particularly the launching of the Free Trade Area by 2008 along with the preparation for the Customs Union by 2010; and
(ii) examine SADC’s position on the Africa Union Government.
The Summit unanimously agreed that the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ would continue to be the basis for deepening regional integration in SADC.

11. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade & Cooperation from 25 to 27 October 2006 to Moscow where he inter alia attended the Political Consultation Mechanism Meeting and the Seventh Africa Partnership Forum Meeting.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade & Cooperation and the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding aiming at promoting bilateral cooperation between the two countries and setting up the modalities and mechanism for political consultations between the two Ministries.
The Africa Partnership Forum Meeting inter alia considered Progress Reports on infrastructure, HIV/AIDS, and agriculture. Discussion also took place on the Africa Action Plan, the imperative of overcoming energy poverty in Africa, infectious diseases, market access and resources for development in Africa.
In the margins of the meetings, the Minister had bilateral consultations with, inter alia, -
(i) Mr Vladimir Strajalkovski, Head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency; and
(ii) Ms Hiedemarie Wieczorel-Zuel, Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany who attended the Africa Partnership Forum.

12. Cabinet has taken note of the issue of a Special Commemorative Cover to mark the 25th Anniversary of the International Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Prevention of Drugs and Substance Abuse (IFNGO), a federation of non-governmental organizations dealing with problems associated with substance abuse. The Federation was founded in 1981 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by nine countries, which were members of the Colombo Plan. At present 85 NGOs’ worldwide, including NATReSA, are affiliated members of the Federation.
Cabinet has, also, taken note that the 16th IFNGO-ASEAN Conference would be held from 27 to 29 November in Bangkok, Thailand when NATReSA would share its experience in the field of prevention of substance abuse and treatment and rehabilitation of substance abusers.