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Prime Minister's Office>Cabinet Decisions taken on 15 February 2007

Cabinet Decisions taken on 15 February 2007

1. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Sugar Industry Efficiency (Amendment) Bill to amend the Sugar Industry Efficiency Act 2001 in order to make provision for the pro-poor dimension of the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy Plan 2006 – 2015, by, inter alia, -
(i) lowering the age limit for VRS, agricultural and non-agricultural workers, from 50 to 45 years for women and from 55 to 50 years for men to benefit from cash compensation equivalent to two months per year of service;
(ii) the possibility for female agricultural and non-agricultural workers reckoning not less than 25 years of service and for male agricultural and non-agricultural workers reckoning not less than 30 years of service to be offered the VRS, irrespective of their age;
(iii) increasing the compensation payable to all other categories of VRS employees who would, henceforth, be entitled to 1.5 months per year of service, irrespective of their length of service;
(iv) the introduction of an Early Retirement Scheme (ERS) for employees of sugar milling factories which are not going to close down;
(v) the possibility for VRS workers, women as from 45 years, men as from 50 years, ERS workers and workers of factories closing down as from 2006 for the same age groups, to be entitled to an earlier receipt of the Actuarially Reduced Contributory Retirement Pension;
(vi) the provision of a time limit of 15 months for completion of infrastructural works on sites identified for transfer to beneficiaries of VRS, ERS and those affected by factory closure;
(vii) the broadening of the scope of courses to which children of voluntarily retired workers may be eligible through scholarships;
(viii) the extension of tax exemption to deeds in respect of land transfers to ERS employees and to income derived under the ERS; and
(ix) the possibility of workers having already voluntarily retired under the VRS introduced in 2001 to benefit from an earlier receipt of Actuarially Reduced Contributory Retirement Pension, namely from 50 to 45 years for women and from 55 to 50 years for men.

2. Cabinet has reviewed the situation regarding the payment of SC and HSC examination fees and taken note that a number of EPZ companies already operate educational schemes to assist children of their employees. Cabinet has further taken note that those which do not have such schemes, have set up loan schemes to support their employees in the payment of SC and HSC examinations fees for their children. These enterprises are CMT Ltée, Beldiam Co. Ltd, Star Knitwear Ltd, Aquarelle Ltd, Tara Knitwear Ltd, Rossanna Textiles Ltd, Chancery Shirts Co. Ltd, St Anne Clothing, RS Fashion Ltd, Mklen Fashion, Tee Sun Ltd, Consolidated Fabrics Ltd, Esquel Mtius Ltd, Prosimex Ind. Co. Ltd, R.T. Knits, World Knits and Floreal Knitwear Ltd.
Cabinet has further taken note that the STC would also extend loans to its employees for the payment of examination fees.

3. Cabinet has taken note that the last statistical bulletin has revealed that 91,628 tourists visited Mauritius in January 2007 as compared to 73,053 in January 2005, i.e., an increase of 25.4%.
The statistics have also confirmed that –
(i) Reunion Island, our second tourist market, which had suffered severely from Chikungunya, has already recovered, recording a growth of 4.7%; and
(ii) the French market continues to recover from the decline noted during the period March to December 2006, with arrivals down by only 3%, i.e., from 26,467 in January 2006 to 25,686 in January 2007.
The other markets have registered growth as follows:
Italy (+19.8%), Sweden (+174%), CIS (+23.5%), Spain (+18.1%), Republic of South Africa (+24.6%), India (+26.1%) and Australia (+22.5%).

4. Cabinet has taken note that, since its inauguration in November 2004 by Smt Sonia Gandhi, the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre has received more than 65,000 visitors. To celebrate the Second Anniversary of its inauguration on 30 November 2006, the Centre opened a new exhibition entitled “Mathematics in our Everyday Life” and would hold a
mini-exhibition of winning projects carried out by school students who took part in the National Science Challenge 2006. With a view to enabling more visitors to avail of the attractions, it is proposed to open the Centre during weekends.

5. With a view to further consolidating existing bilateral relations, Cabinet has taken note that the Pakistani authorities have proposed to finance a project for the construction of a complex on the site on which stands the Ali Jinnah Market at Plaine Verte. The complex would comprise a shopping mall, a market, offices, restaurants, a Business Conference Centre, parking spaces, etc. The complex would bear the name of the founder leader of Pakistan, i.e., “Quaid-E-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah Complex”.

6. Cabinet has taken note of developments regarding the case of the Sri Lankan workers employed by CMT Ltée. Cabinet has further taken note that most of the workers have resumed work today following negotiations between the CMT Management, the representatives of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and the Sri Lankan workers.

7. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the First Council Meeting of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) held in Mauritius on 5 and 6 February 2007.
The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, signed in September 2006, aims at strengthening and expanding trade and investment ties between the USA and Mauritius. The TIFA Council has, subsequently, been set up to address bilateral trade and investment issues and devise specific strategies to enhance bilateral cooperation.
The first Council Meeting adopted a Work Plan which contains 14 areas of cooperation, among which the following five items were considered as priority actions:
(i) Encouraging private sector representatives to identify opportunities, forge linkages, and work towards the removal of specific trade and investment impediments between the two countries.
(ii) Identifying specific competitive sectors in which to promote trade, investment and cooperation.
(iii) Coordinating and consulting on AGOA implementation, including the encouragement of value-added production and trade diversification.
(iv) Exploring the potential for greater cooperation and more comprehensive trade and investment agreements.
(v) Strengthening agricultural trade and agri-business linkages, including value-added agricultural products and processed foods.
With regard to the prioritization of cooperation in investment, the following sectors have been identified: seafood and aqua-culture, hospitality, property development, ICT and knowledge-based industry. On the trade front, the priorities are apparel, seafood products, wooden products and furniture, and agro-processed products.

8. Cabinet has taken note of the status in the development of the National Curriculum Framework by the National Curriculum Steering Committee (NCSC) which has been set up by the Ministry of Education & Human Resources.
The NCSC was set up following recommendations made at a national debate on Curriculum Reforms. The NCSC has produced a Curriculum Framework for Primary Education aiming at enumerating the curricula goals, providing a prominent place to the concept of the “empowered child” and describing the parameters within which assessment of learning would take place. The NCSC has been requested to start working on the report for Secondary Education.
A National Curriculum Advisory Committee has also been set up to, inter alia, -
(a) advise and assist the Ministry of Education & Human Resources in developing and operating high quality education programmes in line with international trends and practices;
(b) assist in the development of curriculum and oversee its implementation as well as its evaluation; and
(c) assist in the review of curriculum programmes with a view to ensuring that labour market demands and student needs are met.

9. Cabinet has agreed to a Committee chaired by the Minister of Housing & Lands looking into the retrieval of State lands and Pas Géometriques leased for grazing purposes and their eventual conversion into socio-economic-related development and hotel development sites.

10. Cabinet has taken note of the activities organized to mark the International Women's Day (IWD) 2007 which is celebrated on 8 March every year.
In 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution whereby 8 March would be declared ‘The Day for Women’s Rights’. The International Women’s Day is commemorated by women’s groups around the world. Women in every country celebrate this event that represents decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. The 8th March is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievement of women.
The theme retained by the United Nations for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women.” In addition to the UN theme, the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare & Consumer Protection has retained the following guiding philosophy for this year’s celebrations “From Commitment to Action”. The rationale is to show Government’s will to translate into action the various commitments taken at international, regional and national levels for the further advancement and protection of women, and for the promotion of gender equality.
To mark the event, the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare & Consumer Protection would, in the month of March 2007, inter alia
(i) inaugurate the National Women Development Centre;
(ii) hand over certificates to women who have successfully completed training courses in various disciplines, such as Home Economics, Handicrafts, Hairdressing, Beauty care, amongst others;
(iii) launch Women's Sports Association; and
(iv) in collaboration with the Rodrigues Regional Assembly, organize various activities in Rodrigues.

11. In line with Government's objective to tap new and emerging tourist markets, Cabinet has taken note that the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications participated in FITUR 2007, a major annual tourism event held in Madrid, to give a boost to our tourism promotional effort and to motivate further tour operators to sell our destination and arouse the interest of international media for Mauritius as an attractive tourism destination.
Spain, which has, from January to December 2006, registered a 13.7% growth over the corresponding period of 2005, is considered as a promising market with its high spenders but has, so far, remained untapped. Moreover, the interesting feature of the Spanish market is that the Spanish travel on long haul destinations, particularly during the period May to September every year, which corresponds to our low season, when there are sufficient rooms in our hotels.
During the event, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications had working sessions with the main tour operators, gave an interview to Canal Viajar, a popular Spanish TV Channel, and addressed members of the Spanish Press on the specificities of the attractiveness of Mauritius as a tourist destination, the incentives provided by Government to promote tourism and our interest for the Spanish tourist market.

12. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the participation of the Minister of Environment & National Development Unit in the Meeting on “Combating Climate Disruption” under the Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance held on 2 and 3 February 2007.
The goal of the Paris Conference was to mobilize international efforts with a view to achieving the following three main objectives:
(i) raising awareness of the urgency of the situation, taking stock altogether of the threats facing the environment and endangering the broad ecological balances of our planet;
(ii) deciding upon priority measures to combat those threats in order to respond to the global ecological issues for our time and for generations to come; and
(iii) taking action, at international level, to create a United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO) with a view to strengthening environmental governance.
During his visit in Paris, the Minister of Environment & National Development Unit met Prince Albert of Monaco and eminent personalities of the Republic of France, including President Jacques Chirac, and Mr Alain Juppé, former French Prime Minister and President of the Honorary Committee of the Conference, with whom he raised issues of climate change and its impact on Small Island Developing States.