CABINET DECISIONS - 2 FEBRUARY 2007
1. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of Dr the Hon Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister, to India where, at the invitation of HE Ms Sonia Gandhi, President of the All India Congress Committee, he attended the International Conference on "Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment: Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century".
The objective of the Conference was to commemorate the Centenary of the "Satyagraha" movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa.
Representatives from 90 countries and 122 organisations participated in the Conference and underlined the relevance of the Gandhian philosophy in today's world.
During his stay in New Delhi, the Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the ruling government alliance (UPA); Mr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India; Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of Foreign Affairs of India, and Mr Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of the State of Bihar.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated the pledge that India would do nothing to harm the interest of Mauritius as the relationship between the two countries goes far beyond economics and relates to emotional ties. He pointed out that he would see to it that a mutually satisfactory solution was found on the issue of the Double Taxation Agreement.
The Chief Minister of Bihar has extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Bihar at a convenient time with a view to further consolidating the deep-rooted relations between Bihar and Mauritius.
2. With regard to the payment of SC and HSC Examination fees, Cabinet has –
(a) reiterated that Government would meet the full cost of the examination fees of students whose parent's monthly income is up to Rs7,500; and
(b) agreed that, in the case where two or more students in a household would be sitting for SC or HSC examinations, Government would meet 50% of the cost of examination fees of the students provided the monthly income of the household does not exceed Rs10,000.
For households with monthly income between Rs 7,500 and Rs10,000, Government is making arrangements with banking institutions for access to finance at preferential rates to pay for SC and HSC Examination fees to be repaid over a period of 18 to 24 months.
3. Cabinet has taken note that the final Nomination Dossier and the draft Management Plan for the inscription of Le Morne on the World Heritage List had been submitted to UNESCO World Heritage Centre on 29 January 2007. Cabinet has further taken note that, as recommended by the Consultants,Dr Abungu and Dr Odendaal, no development would be carried out in the Core Zone. As regards development in the Buffer Zone, promoters would have to follow the guidelines prescribed by UNESCO, the Black River District Council, Le Morne Heritage Trust Fund, as well as those by the Consultants.
4. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Fifth Session of the Joint Working Group between Mauritius and Pakistan held in Islamabad on 11 to 13 January 2007. A Preferential Trade Agreement had been finalized. The Agreement, which provides for trade on preferential terms between the two countries on a mutually agreed list of products, would give a new boost to trade development as well as pave the way for a Free Trade Area Agreement. Under the Preferential Trade Agreement, Mauritius has obtained significant tariff concessions on a list of textile and clothing products of export. This would allow several Mauritian products to enter Pakistani markets on preferential terms. The scope of trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, has been widened and dialogue would be pursued on other sectors, e.g., ICT, with a view to finalizing a framework agreement covering those issues.
5. Cabinet has taken note that the EPZ sector has registered a positive growth of +3.0% in 2006 as compared to negative growth rates of -6.8% and -12.3% in 2004 and 2005 respectively. EPZ output was estimated at Rs 36 bn in 2006.
It is projected that the EPZ sector would grow by around +2.5% in 2007 with an expected output of Rs 39.5 billion.
A survey carried out by the Ministry of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives has revealed that investment of Rs 5.3 bn would be injected, 7200 additional jobs would be created and export growth would be between 10% to 15% in year 2007.
6. With a view to making payment of social benefits more customer-oriented and less cumbersome for beneficiaries, Cabinet has taken note that the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions was making arrangements to shift all payments of pensions by cash to payment by Post Offices as from 1 April 2007. The new system would –
(i) alleviate the burden of beneficiaries to calling at pay sites at a specific date and time. At Post Offices, services would be available on any working day between 0830 hours and 1530 hours; and
(ii) provide a more customer-friendly environment to beneficiaries.
The Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions would shortly issue a communiqué on the matter.
7. In view of the fact that the current formula for apportionment of revenue stream from sugar would no longer be applicable due to the implementation of the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy 2006-2015, centralization and subsequent innovation in technology, Cabinet has agreed to the Management Audit Bureau carrying out a study and making recommendations on how planters could have an equitable share of all revenue stream from sugar cane plant supplied for milling, including sugar, molasses, scum, bagasse, energy, ethanol, and carbon credits as proposed in the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy.
8. Cabinet has taken note of the benefits which the small planters and workers of the sugar sector would obtain from funds under the Accompanying Measures, the pro-poor dimensions of the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy Plan, and the conditionalities attached to the disbursement of funds under the Accompanying Measures to finance projects/programmes contained in the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy Plan.
The Action Plan makes provision for an attractive package to those employees who wish to voluntarily terminate their contract of employment in the context of the rightsizing of production entities and service providing institutions or in the context of factory closure and the provision of reskilling and loan opportunities to facilitate adaptation. Employees would also participate in empowerment and welfare schemes being set up by Government. These schemes would also tackle the problems of women losing their jobs, as well as the adaptation of Trade Unions. The small planter sector would benefit from incentives and assistance to enable them to regroup into larger units and thereby increase their yields and lower their cost of production. Metayers operating in economically and environmentally difficult regions would receive assistance in the form of direct income support for a certain number of years.
9. Cabinet has taken note of the role and work done by the Human Rights Council and has agreed to an enhanced participation of Mauritius in its work for 2007. The Council, established following UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, is responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and will have to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon.
10. In line with International trends, Cabinet has taken note that the "Educationally Sub-Normal School" of Stanley, Rose Hill, as well as the Integrated Units at Solferino Government School and D. Hurry Government School, Goodlands would be renamed as "Special Education Needs School".
11. Cabinet has taken note of the programme of activities for the celebration of the Spring Festival at national level this year. The programme would, inter alia, include -
(a) a cultural show at the Auditorium of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute on 18 February 2007 comprising local items, as well as performances by a 23-member Nanjing Little Red Flower Children’s Art Troupe of the People’s Republic of China; and
(b) a cultural show at Pointe Canon Open Air Theatre, Mahebourg on 18 February 2007,
Moreover, the China Town Cultural Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Municipality of Port Louis, would organize on 20 February 2007, a Cultural Show at Port Louis Waterfront.
Cabinet has further taken note that a show would be held on 4 March 2007 at the Auditorium of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute to mark the Lantern Festival.
12. Following the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) signed between Mauritius and USA on 18 September 2006, Cabinet has taken note that the first official meeting of the TIFA Council, comprising high level delegations from both Mauritius and USA, would be held on 5 and 6 February 2007 in Mauritius to monitor trade and investment relations, identify opportunities for expanding trade and investment, as well as important issues and challenges that the two countries need to address, including further cooperation agreements.
13. With a view to relieving traffic congestion during peak hours in Port Louis City Centre, Cabinet has taken note that as from 5 February 2007, the following traffic measures would be introduced -
(i) vehicles coming from Pope Hennessy Street would be allowed to turn right onto Royal Street, thus, enabling vehicles proceeding to the north to by-pass the motorway from Sookdeo Bissoondoyal Square to Quay-D roundabout. This would relieve the peak hour traffic at the signalised junctions between Sookdeo Bissoondoyal Square and Quay-D roundabout.
(ii) Road markings to segregate the traffic movement onto Royal Street would be made.
14. Cabinet has agreed to the extension of the moratorium to carry mogas on board of fishing vessels by bank fishing operators for a further period of one year as from March 2007. Meanwhile, the assistance of Japan is being sought to advise on alternative methods of fishing with a view to phasing out the use of mogas.
15. Cabinet has taken note that, in line with the British Government Five-Year Asylum and Immigration Strategy and under the provisions of the UK Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) Regulation 2006, the British High Commission has introduced a biometric data collection in the form of finger-scan for all applicants of long term visas for United Kingdom, i.e., visas for more than six months, and for those who wish to have their passport stamped at the High Commission prior to travelling to the UK. The British High Commission has assured that the introduction of the new regime would be made as smoothly as possible with a view to minimizing inconvenience.
16. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the participation of the Minister of Environment & National Development Unit at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) organized by The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi from 22 to 24 January 2007.
Founded in 1974, The Energy and Resources Institute, a reputed non-profit institute in India specialized in environmental matters, organizes DSDS annually with a view to stimulating action towards respectable standards of living and a responsible pattern of production and consumption. It brings together leading personalities from Government, business, industry, non-governmental organizations, multilateral organizations and academia to focus on the challenges of sustainable development. The theme for this year’s Summit was “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals: Exploring the Natural Resource Dimensions”.
In the margins of the meeting, the Minister met the Hon Smt Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, the Hon A. Raja, Minister of Environment and Forests, and Mr A. Kumar, Minister of State for Industry.
17. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the official mission of the Minister of Agro Industry & Fisheries to Seychelles from 23 to 24 January 2007, where he attended the 3rd Regional Meeting for the launching of the Regional Plan on Fisheries Surveillance in the South West of the Indian Ocean. The objective of the Regional Plan on Fisheries Surveillance in the South West of the Indian Ocean as elaborated by the European Commission (EC) includes, inter alia, the commitment of IOC Member States to implement several effective measures consistent with the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The Regional Plan would –
(i) complement national regular Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MSC) fisheries activities;
(ii) increase and coordinate the number of days of patrolling at sea and the number of hours of aerial surveillance by IOC Member States; and
(iii) provide means to implement multilateral MCS activities and making possible the exchange of experiences and knowledge among the national Fisheries Surveillance Centres.
In the margins of the Conference, the Minister of Agro Industry & Fisheries discussed a new Fisheries Partnership Agreement with EC and met Mr Jose Luis Paz Escudero of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Technology of Spain who agreed, in principle, that Spain and Mauritius enter into a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of fisheries for the mutual benefit of both countries.
Cabinet has further taken note that Mauritius would host the 11th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission from 13 to 18 May 2007.
18. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the Conference on AIDS Action and Botswana held from 21 to 24 January 2007 in Gaborone under the auspices of the SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Botswana Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative Partnership in collaboration with the National Assembly of Botswana. The theme of the Conference was “Lessons in Capacity Building and Importance of Research”. The focus was on the following:
(a) Basic information on HIV/AIDS epidemiology, pathophysiology, unique viral characteristics of HIV 1C and its impact on the severity of the epidemic in Southern Africa;
(b) Sharing existing research information on HIV/AIDS with a view to facilitating policy formulation, development and implementation of programs to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS;
(c) Assessing the benefits and challenges of research performed in the SADC region, focusing on the ability of research to build scientific and medical capacity;
(d) How to better coordinate responses to HIV/AIDS in SADC countries to work together in combating HIV/AIDS; and
(e) Establishing priorities and identifying modalities to assist African leaders, development partners and international organizations in carrying forward the capacity building of SADC’s political leadership on the HIV/AIDS and governance agenda.