CABINET DECISIONS - 02 March 2007
1. Cabinet has taken note that, during the visit of the Prime Minister to France where he attended the 24th Conference of Heads of State and Government of Africa and France, on the theme "L'Afrique et l'équilibre du monde", he participated in the Workshop entitled “Raw Materials in Africa”. During his intervention, the Prime Minister highlighted the efforts made by Mauritius since independence to attain sustainable development. He stressed that, despite predictions that the country was doomed to fail, the Government, thanks to the vision of its leaders and the unflinching support of its people, succeeded in transforming a mono-crop agricultural economy into an industrialized one. He, also, spoke of the importance of the various long-standing partnership agreements with the European Union and France.
The Prime Minister, during his meeting with President Chirac, thanked the latter for -
(a) his intervention with Commissioner Louis Michel of the EU for the increase in the capping of funds for Accompanying Measures from 15% to 19.4%; and
(b) the decision of France to reopen the "Agence Française de Développement” in Mauritius and for its cooperation on various projects, including the development of the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
During the Conference, the Prime Minister interacted with other Heads of State and Government, amongst whom were Ms Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and currently President of the European Union, President Ravalomanana of the Malagasy Republic who would be the Chief Guest for the National Day Celebrations, as well as with President Michel of the Republic of Seychelles.
In London, the Prime Minister visited the UK Forensic Science Services Ltd and had very fruitful discussions with its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Dave Werrett. Discussions centred on future collaboration between Forensic Science Services Ltd and the Government relating to DNA profiling, scene of crime, capacity building in this sector and the establishment of a DNA database.
The Prime Minister, also, had a meeting with Lord Donald Anderson of Swansea at the House of Lords. Lord Anderson is, currently, member of the EU Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and International Development. The Prime Minister raised issues pertaining to sugar matters, Aid for Trade and challenges facing the Small Island States. Lord Anderson reiterated his support for Mauritius in its economic reform programme and felt that the International Community, including the European Union, should support the initiatives undertaken by Government in this direction.
2. Cabinet has taken note of latest developments in relation to the support from the EU for the economic reform programme and has agreed to the allocation of EU resources and to the EU Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP) which ring-fences resources for four years and provides significant predictability to Government for restructuring the economy as well as, allowing all stakeholders in the sugar sector and other sectors to plan and coordinate their activities. Endorsement of MIP by the EU would allow the release of funds to the tune of some 127.5 million Euro, i.e., about Rs 5.5 billion, vital and critical for the overall reform programme for the four-year period 2007/2008-2010/2011 and to unlock budget support under the 10th EDF for the implementation of the overall economic reform programme announced in the 2006 Budget Speech to enable the country to move from preference dependence to global competitiveness.
Cabinet has, also, taken note that the intensive lobbying action undertaken under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the quality and comprehensiveness of the overall economic reform, as embodied in those two documents, have been instrumental to a higher level of resources being earmarked for Mauritius, i.e., an additional 110M€ (or Rs 5.0 billion more), i.e., a total of 248 M€ as sugar Accompanying Measures and an overall total EU support of 301 M€, all in the form of grants. In improving their initial assistance, the EU and key EU Member States have been impressed by the speed of response of Mauritius, as reflected in rapidly putting together the Country Strategy Paper, the credibility of the reform programme as assessed by the Bretton Woods institutions, and the courage displayed by political leaders in implementing difficult reforms postponed by previous Governments.
3. Cabinet has taken note of the report of the Central Cyclone and Other Natural Disasters Committee chaired by the Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service following the passage of cyclone Gamede.
Cabinet took note that the highest gusts recorded in Mauritius was 158 km/hr at Fort Wilhems, 155 km/hr at Beaux Songes, 140 km/hr at Domaine Les Pailles and 113 km/hr at Trou aux Cerfs. The highest average rainfall recorded over the period 21 to 25 February 2007 was 386 mm in the west, 153 mm in the north, 266 mm in the south, 223 mm in the east and 464 mm in the centre.
The position, as at 1 March 2007, was as follows –
(a) 3,300 customers, out of a total number of 36,9472 (i.e. 0.9%), were still not connected to the electric grid and that the Central Electricity Board would attend to most cases by the end of the week.
(b) Water supply throughout the island was back to normal.
(c) There were 261 cyclone refugees in the Cyclone Refugee Centres. The Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions was carrying out an enquiry into the case of each of the cyclone refugees for submission to the authorities concerned for appropriate action.
(d) As regards public health, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life was carrying out a sensitization campaign on the need to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds with a view to preventing the resurgence of Chikungunya and other vector-borne diseases. The public has been advised to boil water before consumption and to take other basic sanitary precautions.
(e) Out of 350,000 telephone subscribers, some 4,000 had not yet been reconnected to the service. Mauritius Telecoms intends to complete all repair works by the weekend.
(f) The Ministry of Environment & National Development Unit and the Ministry of Local Government, with the assistance of the Private Sector, have undertaken cleaning works across the island. Six temporary dump sites had been opened and green, bulky and domestic wastes were being segregated and collected separately. Collection of waste on beaches is well underway. The Ministry of Environment & National Development Unit, together with the Road Development Authority, have undertaken the clearing of main drains.
(g) The Government Fire Services recorded more than 3,000 requests for pumping of water as a result of heavy rainfall. The areas mostly affected were in the upper Plaines Wilhems, namely, Vacoas, La Caverne, Glen Park, Curepipe and Quatre Bornes. Over 200 interventions had been effected to provide relief to inhabitants.
(h) The port and airport were already operational.
(i) Surveys carried out by the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit (AREU) and the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI) have revealed that crops most severely affected were bean, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, greens/fine herbs and tomato. The Ministry of Agro Industry & Fisheries had made arrangements for the issue of permits for the importation of certain vegetables. The Agricultural Marketing Board has taken necessary measures to avoid any shortage of onions and potatoes and canned tomatoes on the market. According to the MSIRI, sugar cane across the Island has not been severely affected except in rare cases in exposed areas.
(j) The road network has, by and large, not been affected. However, some potholes have been noted along certain roads. The Road Development Authority is carrying out rehabilitation works.
Cabinet has, further, taken note that the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance & Economic Development and the Minister of Agro Industry & Fisheries were working on a scheme to assist small planters, fishermen, vegetable and flower growers, as well as breeders.
4. Cabinet has taken note that Mr Robert Ahnee, CSK, former Judge, has been appointed Commissioner for the Protection of Borrowers, as provided for in the Borrower Protection Act. The functions and powers of the Commissioner are, inter alia, to –
(a) ensure that proper and adequate information is given to borrowers concerning the proper ways and means of obtaining a credit facility;
(b) promote public understanding of credit facilities, including awareness of the benefits and risks associated with them;
(c) ensure that the terms and conditions of a credit agreement referred to him are not extortionate;
(d) strive to strike a fair balance between the rights and obligations of borrowers and of lenders;
(e) deal with complaints received from borrowers; and
(f) cause investigations to be conducted and, where appropriate, convene hearings.
5. Following the announcement made in 2006-2007 Budget Speech for the State to ensure that it obtains a fair return on its prime land assets, Cabinet has taken note of the new Campement Site Lease Policy, which, inter alia, stipulates the following -
(a) The offer of a new lease will be sent to all Campement Site lessees, including the campement site lessees whose sites may potentially be required for creating public beaches or for any development purpose.
(b) The new lease will be for a term of 60 years and the leasehold rights may be transferred. In case of transfer of such leasehold rights, the transaction would be dealt with in the same manner as a freehold transaction, with the relevant duties and taxes, being applicable as in cases of freehold transactions. The lessee should notify the Ministry of Housing & Lands of such transactions for necessary recordings to be made.
(c) The new lease agreement will include a commitment from Government to the effect that no specific and special tax will be introduced on campements on 'Pas Géométriques'.
(d) In case of early termination of the new lease by Government, the lessee will be indemnified at market value of the leasehold land and any buildings thereon, as may be assessed by the Chief Government Valuer at the date of termination.
(e) The rent will be readjusted every three years on the basis of the cumulated inflation rate for the period, measured by the Consumer Price Index which is a known and objective basis, capped at 15.7625% over the three years.
(f) A lessee will, subject to the prior approval of the Minister of Housing & Lands, be allowed to split an existing campement site and retain only part of it for the purposes of the new lease agreement provided that the relinquished part is physically and technically buildable.
(g) In cases where the lease is currently held by a succession or a 'société', possibility will be given for splitting the site into smaller lots for the various heirs or partners opting for the new terms and conditions offered, provided that was physically feasible and in conformity with planning guidelines. For those who decline the offer, the existing terms and remaining life of the lease will continue.
6. Cabinet has taken note of the findings of the Time Use Survey carried out by the Central Statistics Office in line with the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action to recognise and make visible the full extent of women's work and their contributions to the economy, including their contribution in the unremunerated and domestic sectors.
An analysis for the Survey has revealed that -
(i) women continue to be concentrated in low-skilled and low paid employment as compared to their male counterpart.
(ii) The time spent by men in System National Account (SNA) production is almost twice the time spent by women while time spent by women in non-SNA production is more than three times the time spent by men.
(iii) The unaccounted contribution of men to the economy as a percentage of the GDP of market price lies in the range of 3.9% to 6.6% while that of women is almost three times more, in the higher range of 11.3% to 24.1%.(iv) There is a relative gender pay gap of 36% in Mauritius, with the average man earning Rs 48.92 per hour, while the average woman earns Rs 35.96 per hour. The relative gender pay gap is uneven across different occupations and widens as age increases.
(v) The average man earns 13% less than the average woman in the public sector, while the average man earns 50% more in the private sector.
(vi) The average woman spends 314 minutes per day on unpaid work, i.e., four times more than the average of 80 minutes for the average man.
(vii) Mothers are spending four to five times more than fathers on household works.
(viii) Women are academically more qualified than men, but still earn less in the labour market.
7. With a view to diversifying the tourism portfolio and making Rodrigues a complementary destination to Mauritius, Cabinet has taken note that the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications led a delegation to Rodrigues from 16 to 18 February 2007 with a view to -
(i) reviewing the tourism sector in Rodrigues;
(ii) identifying the constraints and challenges facing the Rodrigues tourism sector;
(iii) formulating the appropriate promotion strategy to address the constraints and to boosting up tourist arrivals in Rodrigues; and
(iv) working out proposals to improve the attractiveness of Rodrigues destination and to diversifying the tourism product portfolio of Rodrigues.
Cabinet has, further, taken note that arrangements would be made with Airport of Mauritius Ltd for a special Transfer Desk for passengers in transit to Rodrigues at SSR International Airport.
8. Cabinet has taken note of the Master Plan of the proposed tourism-related development projects in the region of Poste de Flacq/Choisy. The plan provides, inter alia, for the following:
(i) hotel sites;
(ii) bungalow sites;
(iii) public areas;
(iv) upgrading of the cemetery;
(v) extension of Prince Maurice hotel; and
(vi) provision of accesses and utilities, the costs of which would be borne by the beneficiaries on a cost-sharing basis .
Cabinet has, further, taken note of the status of development projects in the tourism and hospitality industry at Palmar and of other projects in the Reduit Triangle.
9. Cabinet has taken note that, following the closure of the DWC, necessary arrangements have been made with the Ministry of Civil Service & Administrative Reforms, SICOM, and the Development Works Corporation for the early payment of benefits to the retiring employees. SICOM has started the payment of gratuity and pension. Payment of the additional compensation and accrued benefits would be effected by mid-March 2007 at latest.
Cabinet has, further, taken note that, in line with Government's policy to encourage the setting up of small and medium enterprises, the moveable assets of the DWC which would be handed over to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport & Shipping, would, in the first instance, be auctioned off to the public, including retiring employees of the DWC.
10. Cabinet has taken note that the Private Secondary Schools Authority had taken necessary steps to implement the recommendations on the Comprehensive Grant Formula to Private Secondary Schools as from July 2006 and for the payment of the monthly-grant-in aid.