The Workers’ Rights Act (2019)

The Workers’ Rights Act (2019) overwrites the Employments Rights Act since 24th of October 2019. This new law has a few salient features that all employers need to be aware of.

A Portable Gratuity Scheme has also been introduced and proclaimed, coming into effect in January 2020. The percentage contribution by the employer is currently stated to be 4.8% but we expect private sector lobbies to hopefully bring it down to, at most, 4%.

Then are other such elements that bring a drastic change to the existing legal environment around employment.

The thirty remuneration orders that regulate specific sectors of the economy have been reviewed, but yet to be published and made accessible to enterprises/the public at large (hence our inability to elaborate on these in this blog). Note that a new remuneration order governing the ICT/BPO sector has also been introduced.

In order to help you understand the changes brought about in this new umbrella law (the Workers’ Rights Act), We will soon publish an extensive article on the main features.

Our team is at your disposal for any further information or clarification that you may require. Note that the new law carries a few grey areas, and we hope to have a stand on these after having attended briefing sessions scheduled shortly by competent bodies.

We also plan to host explanation and debate events around the subject. Should you wish to participate please drop us a line on info@gibsonandhills.com

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

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General Elections in Mauritius, what to expect

The general elections have been announced for 7 November 2019. I believe many of our non-Mauritian friends will experience this event for the first time. Every country has its own habits and folklore. Let’s browse through some of them, so you are not caught by surprise.

While the cyber-island has progressed into the digital era, the on- the-ground display of Election5colors is still a very popular game, most favored among supporters … and some hooligans. There’s no use crying your environmental-friendly-despair over painted trees, plastic buntings, covered road traffic signals and so on. Do not expect elegant, modern and ‘clean’ communication methods in general. Remember, we’ve inherited a lot from Africa and India. So we still keep those vibes.

Very often, you’ll see improvised ‘bases’ where agents from a precise political party have erected and elected a camp. These places are meant for; local campaign organization, team building and also serves as general meeting point. These places also help good husbands find happy escape from home to meet-up with friends, eat / drink and play some board games – with the most honorable excuse of ‘serving the party’ or ultimately ‘ serving the country’. Some music is not unusual too. It’s generally not a good idea to complain against any form of disturbance emanating from such camps.

The political system of Mauritius is not complicated (well nothing is really complicated here). Don’t look for democrats, republicans, left wing, right wing, chicken wing… or anything of that sort. The system generally limited to two groups (several parties allied together) fighting for the country’s control. There’s no specific ideology attached to any group, it’s all about their achievements, proposals and popularity. Basically, you can relate that to a soccer or rugby match. some are die-hard fans, others have some more sense and analyse the track record ,the team/ competence, and the proposals.

Expect to see rallies down the road every now and then. You can either take some Election1distraction out of it, or enjoy some louder music in your car – if you’re blocked in this traffic. Don’t bite your nails or get frustrated. Same for meetings. What we call ‘meeting’s over here is the campaign speeches, led  by orators- usually on a lorry or improvised stage. Speakers with bold tones, shouting and advocating a great sense of patriotism, a willingness to ‘serve’ the country – and crowd clapping or playing the djembes. Most of the crowd people are here to escape monotony – for once something is happening on the island. Here again, expect roadblocks, diversion and unnecessary traffic jams. No, we are not hosting any such events in a conference room or indoor premises; visibility Is the key to popularity. So everything is in the open air ; on roads; major intersections most of the time.

Like in any interesting football or rugby match, there would be some clashes among partisans. A small fight, here and there, but nothing more. No curfews or major riots. Well it do get serious sometimes, but calms down very quickly.

The counting day is another folkloric thing not to be missed. The radio audience reaches its highest peaks. The country is at halt, almost breathless. The match results are announced gradually and usually stretches over the day to keep people in the rhythm. Better than a cricket watch. If you’re running a business, join your employees or put the radio on at workplace, you’ll win hearts. Once counting is over and results announced, there’ll be fireworks, rallies and a final ‘thanksgiving’ meeting by the winning party.

All this done, we all get back to work. The next day is a relatively normal day, except for newly appointed ministers and new government officials. There’s no drastic change in life to be expected, business as usual.

Enjoy, with lots of sega music !

www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

 

 

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The Self-Employed permit

Self-Employed Word Cloud ConceptThe Economic Development Board (EDB) manages different residency permits schemes, designed to attract foreign capital and expertise to Mauritius. Business-oriented permits, under the Occupation Permit scheme are declined in three (3) categories: Investor, Professional and Self-employed. We will focus, on a series of short articles, on the main aspect of the Self-employed permit.

Before digging into technicalities, let’s all understand one fundamental behind the strategy to attract foreign investment and expertise. The island didn’t open its door to increase population density and nor does Mauritius has an under-population issue. We need foreigners to contribute in a very precise way towards the economic development. So, if you do not have capital and/or expertise, Mauritius is not your ideal destination.

Back to it now. Each of the permit categories listed above has its own eligibility criteria and specific conditions to be observed. The Self-employed permit addresses the liberal profession in a wider perspective and therefore uses the personal professional attributes (qualifications) of the applicant as a base. In view of transforming the island into a center of excellence, it was crucial to devise a scheme that would appeal to experts in different sectors.

The self-employed appeals to those in liberal professions such as medical practitioners, legal experts (solicitors & barristers), accountants, consultants, etc. The scheme targets expertise and not ‘business-oriented’ units. If an application contains any element of business (trading, sales, etc.) it will be rejected straightaway. The business plan has to stay away from any ‘trading’ or ‘commercial’ component.

Under a Self-employed permit, one cannot hire / employ any party. True that this is a paradox because the holder cannot even hire a secretary for his operations. This condition is debatable but so far has remained intact.

The two basic conditions that lead to a Self-employed permit are:

  • Show an investment of USD35,000
  • Generate annual revenues of MUR600,000 for each of the first two years and thereafter MUR1,200,000 annually

The permit is for an initial period of three years, renewable thereafter, as long as the holder respects condition (b) above. In the even that the activity generates a minimum of MUR 3 million per year, for three consecutive years, the applicant can opt for a 10-year permit called the Permanent Residence (despite having nothing as ‘permanent’ in it)

How to apply?

The EDB operates an online system where the application is made and feedback communicated to applicant. This is mandatory.

Documents required for the online / physical application

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • CV & copies of qualifications
  • Business plan with a 5-year financial forecast
  • Good quality passport photo
  • Passport bio-data page
  • At least two letters of intents from potential clients

All above documents are to be submitted in scan / softcopies through the online system.

On successful processing, an Approval in Principle is issued and following this, the applicant has 90 days to come to Mauritius and finalize his procedures, viz:

  • Registering his activity (obtain a Business Registration Card)
  • Undertake medical examinations
  • Opening of bank account and transfer of USD35,000
  • Arrange payment (either online or through banker’s cheque) to the Government of Mauritius (MUR20,000 for main applicant & MUR5,000 per dependent)
  • Present all original documents previously uploaded in hardcopy versions
  • Obtain appointment with the EDB for final meeting / collection of permit
  • On collection of main permit, dependents permits can be submitted. To be processed and delivered in around 15 working days.

Gibson & Hills can offer you a comprehensive range of services to cover all aspects of a Self-employed permit. This includes pre-application consulting and advice as to the best orientation to give your project. Our services cover application process, meeting with the authorities and clearing of any query that they may have.

www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

 

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Relocation to Mauritius, the (untold) human side of things.

Relocation is not an easy process, despite what is claimed by many professionals and published in the beautiful media showroom. There are two basic angles to look at a relocation project; the technical side and the social side. It is fair to say that the authorities of the island and many so-called professional fails to give the required attention to the social element in a relocation project. We cannot invite foreigners to invest, work, retire or purchase property in Mauritius while completely ignoring the human side.

The different immigration schemes proposed by the island cannot be dissociated from social elements. First, because we are addressing ourselves to humans, encouraging them to move from an established life to an unknown one. In this process, the heads of families carry their families along which is morally heavy in terms of responsibility. While taking the decision to move to Mauritius, one must ensure for instance, that children are properly schooled (access to appropriate education system & cost thereof), that medical aids / system properly caters for the family needs, that the spouse does not get bored into a new life (yes, it counts a lot) or that the savings are invested in a safe & secure plan (compliant to law, regulations, sound business, etc.).

For many  professionals,

relocation is limited to filling forms & ticking out checklists.  

There is an apparent lack of human consideration from locals advising foreigners to settle-down in Mauritius. Well I would, to some extent, understand the authorities (they are not social or humanitarian instances) but I cannot tolerate professionals who, deliberately or not, avoid discussing the social / moral elements to their ‘clients’ before triggering the process.  The promotion campaigns are usually based political stability, social stability (yes !), tropical climate, etc. At the end of it, our proposal ‘better place to live and do business’ is addressed to humans.

The human factor cannot be bypassed.

I have seen a couple of cases where the relocation failed and whole families had to reinvent their lives, returning to their country; where they have very little (or nothing) left. I have also seen dramatic separations, one case of suicide and one death due to problems arising out of the relocation.

When a working couple decides to leave its country and settle-down in Mauritius, the main applicant gets a permit. If the spouse wants to engage in any activity, she/he must obtain her own permit (in many cases) and for this purpose, she is considered at the same level as any foreigner who wants to relocate to the island. A job opportunity would require, for example, that the person falls into a scarcity area (with regards to his/her expertise), and that the salary exceeds certain minima. It is quite logical and correct to impose such conditions as preserving the employment for Mauritius is a must. However, I believe that a central line should accommodate those already living on the island (spouses of permit holders, for instance).

The main applicant is usually someone who has already invested or providing his expertise to the Mauritian economy. We have the choice to leave his/her spouse idle, knowing that allowing him/her to engage in an activity would be beneficial to the country through tax, social contribution, foreign currency income or other means.

Allowing for the ‘idle’ spouse to engage into an occupation through a reduced set of conditions, based on the fact that he / she is already living on the island and idle, can help. In this case, it is not only the financial part but also the social part that plays an important role.

In two cases of divorce I’ve seen, it was the idleness and the human feeling of ‘uselessness’ that took over the spouses. The pressure of not being of any use led them to leave their families and continue their previous occupations, back in their countries. In both cases, they were qualified and competent people – they wouldn’t have hindered the chances of any local counterparts, anyway. One was a Spanish-speaking lady and was about to get a job as Spanish content developer – she couldn’t qualify for the self-employed because this activity did not require the USD35,000 investment – but the authorities had this box to tick and wouldn’t listen to anything else. She had clients ready with contracts…

Children, once they are 24, are no longer considered as ‘dependent’ and therefore are bound to either leave the country or find a stand-alone permit, which should fit in the available schemes (Investment, work…obviously not a retired permit). I agree that we cannot extend the dependent age more (it has been extended already from 18 to 24). However, I believe authorities could well look at cases where children above this age are totally dependent on their parents. If studying, they qualify for a student visa which lasts are long as they are into a full-time tertiary program. I’m rather speaking about those children having a dependency on their parents because of medical conditions and other handicaps. I’ve seen such cases receiving very little (next to nothing) attention.  I believe it will cost nothing that a different kind of consideration be given to such cases.

Many foreigners having invested or working on the island are walking on tight ropes. The stress of renewing permits is like the sword on every family.

Tight-ropeTrue that the conditions are stated at the very beginning and the fact that permits (which are normally on 3-year series) can only be renewed if the conditions are respected. After all, we all know that Mauritius applies a selective immigration strategy. However, it would be more appropriate that renewals are given additional consideration if holders encountered difficulties beyond their control. The most brilliant business ideas remain ideas and their suitability cannot be ascertained unless one takes the plunge. The reality is very often different to the business plan (which is submitted initially for residency permit process). There are underlying factors that many foreigners investing in the country are not aware (or made aware) of; human resources behavior & cultural specificity, access to finance & conditions, trade delimitation, business culture, etc.

So, it is not an exact science and nothing on the business plan is guaranteed to happen precisely as planned. After three years of Investor permit, it may happen that the business fails to generate the required turnover and the reasons may be diverse.

The turnover criteria should not be the only factor taken into consideration for a proedurerenewal. Business cannot be limited to a turnover criterion. The authorities should be able to listen to renewal applicants and consider any factor which may have hindered the strict observance of the rules. Probably, an option would be to create a scorecard with a mix of elements such as turnover, tax paid, employment, effective investment, etc.  It is not human to just reject a renewal and impose a ‘return to your country within one month’ condition. This implies closing the business, disposing of assets, removing kids from school, cancelling insurance policies, cancelling rent agreements and taking by deposits…and so many other things. Above all, it means ‘back to square 1 in our country’ – after probably three years of efforts and spending.

It would require quite a voluminous book to contain all the dramas I have witnessed over the years. Many of them could have been avoided easily. Unfortunately, the mindset of many are formatted into an academic frame, probably originating from our education system. Once the situation falls out of this frame, everyone seems to lose their mind. The role of most officers is to tick boxes and if they can’t then there’s no other way around.

consulting-consultantMany professionals deliberately omit to show these realities to ‘potential client’ in the fear of losing a deal. I’ve been told to ‘shut up’ many times by fellow consultants operating in the same field. Others have blamed me of discouraging foreigners to settle-down on the island.

Let’s face the realities on the ground. Mauritius is an ideal location for business or life but that does not mean that it is a 100% hassle-free destination. We need to acknowledge the dark spots and work accordingly. Those making the decision to relocate to Mauritius have the right to information, raw and real.

Relocation cannot be limited to ‘money’, the human factor is at the center of it and cannot be overseen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mauritian Experience, How not to fail it (Part 3 – Officers are not Gods)

Following comments and feedback received on various media (mostly social media) and also from personal experience, I thought about coming up with this article. The contents may not be to the liking of many, mostly some officers on high chairs in some cozy offices in Port Louis. Certain things have to be said, written or expressed, in the interest of a wider population; in this case in the interest of a whole country. I have been frustrated a couple of times because of this situation, almost looking like an incompetent without any clue of the rules in areas within which I’ve been practicing for the past 25 years.

The problem is the tip of the iceberg. It hides a whole system that may crumble because it is rotten at the root. I am referring to the numerous occasions where people have been misled through wrong advice / information given to them by civil service officers. This is now happening too frequently to be pushed under the carpet.

Those who are most affected are foreigners who are relocating to Mauritius.

As in every civilized and developed country, the word of an officer is sacred, even more when you are new to the country and not very familiar with the laws. One would tend to trust an officer and keep him in high regards, going as far as challenging people (like me) who provide information which are contradictory to those of the officer.

Unfortunately, there’s a common phenomenon these days. Not all officers master their respective areas and this has different reasons, which I would not want to dwell into this article. I prefer giving concrete examples to demonstrate the situation and the chaos that it has started to create.

Tourist visa / Business visa

Dependents of any work or occupation permit holders can enter Mauritius through a Tourist visa and from there apply for their residence permits. A couple of people in such situations have revealed that Immigration Officers on arrival point at the airport insisted that the Law requires Business visa and imposed same on the spouse & children. The major constraint here is that a Business visa is for a maximum of 90 days (120 days in total if spread over 2 visits). A Tourist visa allows, on the other side, for 180 days in a year – giving the family quite a time margin to complete their procedures.

The following categories of persons can come on Tourist visa to complete their procedures: Main applicants & dependents under Non-Citizens Retired Residence Permit AND dependents of any other holder of work / residence permits.

 

Tourism License: Trade v/s trade premises, a concrete example

The Tourism Authority, I’m now fully convinced, is one the most pretentious and backward authorities on the island. It runs on a complete opacity, very often depends on the mood of the day of the officers. They can impose conditions on your business or legal structure, threatening to reject permit applications if they are not obeyed. And this, despite complete lack of sense and legal evidence. Any request to them to support their claim through legal reference gets ignored bluntly. They are not losing anything, they sit quietly and eat tax payers money. They wait for you to bend under the pressure because you can’t operate without license and they won’t give any until you blindly obey to their conditions.

A concrete example: a non-Mauritian acquires a commercial building classified under RES (a restaurant) through approval (and certificate) from the Economic Development Board (EDB). A separate legal structure is created to operate a restaurant under these premises. Separating the property structure from the business structure is quite a normal and wise practice.

The Tourism Authority approves the initial license and the restaurant starts operations. After one year, on renewal, the Tourism Authority imposes a chance in shareholding in the property company requesting that one of the spouses be removed as shareholder from it!

  1. The Tourism Authority has no jurisdiction on the property and its ownership. This has already been approved by the competent authority, EDB. The authority had no reply when asked whether they have jurisdiction to ask the powerful owners of shopping malls to disclose and change their shareholdings (they also host restaurants). No answer.

 

  1. The Tourism Authority further requested that a double license be paid, one for the business structure and the other for the property structure. There cannot be a double license for one and same business! This would mean that two restaurants can operate under one premises.

 

  1. When asked for legal reference with regards to their claims, there’s a complete and dark silence… for months. Up to today, no reply. The buyers have purchased the property and the business for MUR28 million and are now sitting and waiting the Tourism Authority. With such invested, these persons are not able to operate their business and will sooner or later accede to the conditions of the Tourism Authority.

This is a blatant example of unfair use of authority and power – a COMPLETELY ILLEGAL stance.

This case is not the single one. Many operators within the tourism industry have experienced similar situations.

Self-employed shareholding

One of my clients literally accused me of not knowing my stuff because I didn’t disclose shareholding of a self-employed structure to the EDB. He was requested to provide this information by an Assistant Manager of the authority. When an officer, at such level and from such an authority, insist on a requirement you cannot but trust he is right. He isn’t. A self-employed structure, by definition, is not separate from its owner who is a single person. My nerves were seriously put to test. I had to: first, convince the officer that his request was nonsense and second, to convince my client that an officer of that rank was wrong and… I was right.

There are many instances which forced me to write this article. The idea is not to hurt some of the officers but to inform people that sitting behind a desk does not necessarily mean being 100% perfect. No, being an officer does not mean being God and your words are not that of the Gospel.

Training is, in my opinion, the issue. Some posts require training, both on the ground and in the background (laws, rules, regulations, …. common sense) prior to operation.

This is essential before someone can pretend ability to dispense advice. It took me at least 5 years of training before my first boss could put me forward to assist clients in basic procedures. Today it takes 1 week to get someone hired and the next day he’s giving life-impacting advice to people relocating to Mauritius.

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

 

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The Mauritian Experience, How not to fail it (Part 2 – This is not the third world)

The first episode in this series earned us a lot of reactions on different social media platforms. We’re glad it reached such a big audience and triggered many interesting contributions. As usual the idea was not to write fairy-tale type of articles for comfort reading.

Some days ago, someone who curiously seemed inspired by our Part 1 article (The Road Kills), claimed everything was pink on the island and that the roads are safe. The article was written very clearly by an author probably living in fairy tale-candy-marsh-mallow type world. With a pseudo like ‘Mermaid’ I can only deduce that. Anyways.

I have seen so many foreigners settling-down in Mauritius and failing it because of their wrong attitude towards the country and its people.

Understand one basic underlying fact: We are not a backward, under developed country with scarcity of grey matter. You are not an alien with advanced knowledge and/or technology and you are not landing here to educate anybody or conquer anything. If you have this mindset, you won’t last long – unless you derive a sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain and frustration to yourself.

Foreigners are welcomed on the island. Mauritians are known for their warmth and their culture of hospitality. In the early days, agriculture was the main pillar of the economy with sugarcane as the leading economic sector. All the plantations and mills belonged to people of European origin (mostly French). Many households could sustain a living through income derived as laborer’s, factory workers and similar activity – the management always being held by European-origin people. This did not affect the social demographics because it was a generally accepted fact the Asian-origin people were not as competent in administration & management as the European-origin counterparts.

Despite the history of slavery and indentured laborer, our ancestors kept to their roles and worked hard. I remember my grandparents always referring to their ‘employers’ as ‘almost-Gods’ and always referred to them as ‘Missier’ (or Mister) in any conversation. I’m not being a racist here, but ‘white skin’ people earned their respect. This respect showed by my grandparents was transmitted to my parents.

My parents did not experience the same intensity of respect because they were not employed in the same industry – Mauritius started by that time to develop other sectors. From my parents to me, the values were not passed because at this time the concept of equality started to flow around. The country gained independence in 1968 and a nation was building up. There came free education and access to other employment opportunities (public sector, for instance).

In the 80s tourism was introduced. Again, the first tourists were white-skinned people flying down mostly from Europe. The respect and admiration came in again because they were the ones able to pay air-fare and afford stay in ‘concrete and modern’ buildings (most of us were living in thatched roofs and iron sheets houses). They were seen as ‘successful’ people having acquired means to travel by air, while having a motorized vehicle was impossible for most of us. The perception of respect took a second breath and our culture of hospitality also kicked-in, turning our tourism industry into massive success. This is a bit how ‘culturally’ we were tuned to accepting that foreigners can contribute to the progress of the island. From sugarcane to tourism, it was proven,

With the introduction of the manufacturing sector; textiles mostly – the social configuration took an upturn. For the first time, our ladies were out to work and earn salaries in a ‘covered workspace’ and were not just helping hands in manual works for their husbands. The purchasing power increased and was supported by new dynamism in commerce. Courts Mammouth, the first hire-purchase shop landed in Mauritius and people started getting access to modern consumer products; color TV, video players, washing machines, HI-FI sound systems…. (I witnessed the change from Black & White TV to a color one and I can tell you that was a revolution). This was the first economic revolution,

Our youngsters could afford traveling by plane (it still was difficult, but accessible) and many of them traveled to big cities for advanced education. The wealth building process was working to its best.

Successfully shifting from a mono-crop agriculture economy to tourism and thereafter tackling our own ‘industrial revolution’ played a very positive role in building the entrepreneurial mindset of Mauritians. We believed in ourselves. From then, the progress continued and continues. We are now talking about cyberisland, world-class financial service industry, the best commercial port of the region, you name it, Mauritius is always building something new every year. One of our strengths is that successive governments have always kept the same direction, that of modernization of the island and its transformation into a hub of excellence in whatever it undertakes. We have not reached this point yet, but many are working towards it, for decades.

(In a previous article I did mention that many among us have developed a culture of arrogance and feel the world is rushing to our feet. Unfortunately, these are the ones hindering the marvelous culture of hard work and progress that Mauritius is generally about. Without them, we would have been much further in our development. Not afraid to say many of these hindrances are spoilt brats that have inherited from the sweat of others, their parents particularly. They do not know the value of ‘work’).

We wouldn’t be able to achieve any of these without the participation of foreigners. This is the reason, at the base, we understand that foreign participation is important to our development. On the other side, we also reckon that we have built up a nation of educated, trained and skilled people who can stand on their feet. Foreign contribution is now viewed as ‘partnership’ rather than a need in itself. We are not surprised to see demonstration against ‘new hotel projects’ (for example) – it is not only about losing access to public beach, it is more about the ‘conquering’ attitude of certain foreign promoters. The cultural behavior towards foreigners has shifted from benefactors to partnership, with equality as base. Previous generations didn’t feel equal because probably of lack of education, means and track record. Current generations have it all, almost.

A foreigner relocating to Mauritius is no longer an alien with super-powers. He is still needed, but again, as partner to the economic drive. Mauritius can afford a selective immigration strategy exactly because we can now afford choose our partners. The island is not a refugee camp that is obliged to every foreigner who wishes to settle-down here.

It is not because the political situation in South African is uncertain that Mauritius has the duty to accept every South African. This is in reply to someone who thought we were not doing enough to facilitate immigration process.

Basically, in this second article of the series ‘The Mauritian Experience, how not to fail it’ we wanted to highlight the shift in culture in a fast-moving country.

A foreigner might not necessarily understand the different layers of behavior and it remains our duty, as natives & relocation professionals, to highlight these points. Foreign professionals who claim to be experts in Mauritian life might not have such ‘backstage knowledge’ because these are not learned in books but lived in real-life !

Setting-up Business

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

Posted in Business, culture, Economics, Employment, Immigration, Investment, Mauritius, politics, Residence Permit, Residency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tribulations of an Investor in Mauritius

This article was published in the News of Sunday edition of 12 October 2018. Some of the readers have requested an online version, so here it is. Enjoy the read and send your comments and questions. 

By constantly repeating that Mauritius is world hub (for different sectors), many officers and key players seem to have been seduced by their own words. Thinking that this island is the center of the world and that people are racing to come and live here is a mistake. It serves no purpose to do road shows or participate in international salons if authorities maintain their pretentious attitude towards those who finally land here with a view to investing or electing domicile. The abusive use of words such as ‘hub’, ‘centre of excellence’, ‘world class’ should stop until we realize that we have not reached that point yet and that a constant effort is needed, by all parties, private or public.

The first point that authorities dealing with foreign investment and expertise should grasp well is that local professionals are not their competitors but their team players on a global scale, The idea of attracting FDI is first and foremost the creation of wealth through business, employment and economic dynamism in general. At the very base, it somehow means providing business to local professionals. But then, how do we interpret the message when a government website clearly discourages foreign investors from using local consultants? It just demonstrates that some do not really understand the game.

The foreign investor who chooses Mauritius as a business destination is very often (and very soon) confronted to a different reality. There are so many reasons that leads him to frustration and discouragement. Many have abandoned their projects and left the country with a very sour after-taste.

The first obstacle are institutions which have been entrusted with the duty to ‘facilitate’ foreign investment. Many of their officers visibly do not understand the basic strategy and objective of attracting foreign capital and expertise. The investor finds himself sitting in an interrogatory position, with questions from officers who do not understand the fundamentals of business. How do you react when asked to decline the identity of your shareholders when you are in a self-employed activity. By definition, a self-employed does not have a company, he is himself the business. The poor person attempted to answer, but faced an overly pretentious attitude from the officer. There are cases where officers do not understand the scope of intervention of their institution. Companies are requested to ‘amend their shareholding structures’ by an authority having no jurisdiction whatsoever on the business operated by those companies. A knife under the throat, with a clear deadline imposed. No reasons provided. The authority loses its faculty to reply when legal reference and substance behind their request is questioned.

Another example is those officers claiming to operate ‘under their own style’. They request documents in content and form not listed on official checklists and guidelines. Don’t even think to raise the point to the officer. It may result in a ‘refusal’ letter with no explanation whatsoever.

There are different authorities that act in an opposite manner to what is prophesied by the government. The officers believe they hold the key to the island and it increasingly feels that some derive a sadistic pleasure in turning down business applications from foreigners. There will be progress at this level once we understand that Mauritius is in fact in the middle of nowhere, we are not a buzzing metropolis (we are still struggling to have a metro line). We have a limited market, limited infrastructure and limited resources. We still need to realize our ambitions, but we are not there yet.

Unfortunately, the problem lies not only with the authorities. Some major private players also seem to have lost the plot. Banks.  Average onboarding procedures takes between 4 to 6 weeks for a business bank account, Maximum number of days a foreigner can spend on the island under business visa is 120 days. Bank account opening is an opaque procedure where feedback seldom circulates back to the applicant. Often it is a one-way (and very frustrating) process where during several weeks the applicant is called to provide ‘additional documents’ in the form and content imposed by the bank officer – but no feedback is provided from the bank.

Within the 120 an investor must register his company, open the bank account, transfer his funds and only then is he able apply for residency permits. Mission impossible. No one seem to understand the risks that the investor bears while investing in a foreign land. He barely has the time to evaluate all the aspects of his project; local competence, available workforce mass, technical & financial feasibility, market and so on.  On expiry of the 120 days, there is no other choice than to leave the country and return next year. No one seem to understand this challenge, this race against time. Yet we are all shouting on our roofs that Mauritius is a business place and we feel utterly satisfied.

The tribulations of an investor choosing Mauritius for his projects are many. It would require probably a 200 page to contain everything but still, it all stems up from the wrong attitude Mauritian players have adopted and are still maintaining. No crowd is racing to our island, this is reality. Of course, we cannot afford to leave our doors wide open – but then we owe the duty to communicate our objectives in a clear and concise manner. Once for all procedures should be defined and a coherence maintained, both in the administration and in the mindset of administrators.

 

www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Business, Business Facilitation Act, Economics, Finance, Immigration, Investment, Law, Mauritius, Occupation Permit, politics, Residence Permit, Residency, Tourism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Mauritian smile, lethal stuff !

Scrolling through my blog, I came across this piece, written in 2011. It still seems relevant !

It’s spontaneous, takes you by the soul and wraps your heart in the comfort of human kindness.  Makes you believe in humanity.  This is the legendary Mauritian smile; a trade mark of its own.  The Mauritian smile is so powerful that it has helped the tourism industry blossom, up to being the major pillar of the economy, and it keeps on selling paradise-island on the world market.  Of course, our beaches and natural beauty do play a role, a significant one – but we cannot deny the part played by the local smiles.  Beware! A powerful tool in bad hands can harm the world (hmm, feels like Donald Rumsfeld speaking!).  Tourists or businessmen, many a foreigner has seen himself trapped within the spell of a Mauritian smile.  Many lost their fortune and went back home in total disillusion, while others got married and then divorced… and are now paying alimony!  The smile…

Well, let’s first see why the common Mauritian is always smiling to foreigners.  That’s my observation and I’m not inviting any reader to adhere to the views expressed here. If you do, then it’s fantastic. Else, take it as another B-S blog.  To understand local population behaviour, we first need to note that Mauritian population is a mix of different cultures of the world: Indian labourers, African slaves, Chinese traders…etc.  Our ancestors were brought here by European navigators and explorers.  Respect (and fear) of the European race (no negative connotation here!) has, since then, prevailed.  I remember my grandfather (an untamed macho beast) who would always refer to his boss (a French sugar estate owner) as ‘Missié’ (translate ‘Sir’ in English) even in the absence of the latter.  My granddad treated his boss with incomparable respect and acknowledged the fact that without ‘Missié’ his family would maybe die of hunger.   Granddad had faith in ‘Missié’ and nothing could challenge his loyalty.

From there, came also the perception that people like ‘Missié’ are in fact superior.  You wouldn’t want to argue with my granddad on that one! Like any other descendants of Indian origin, he had a sacred faith in people within the same category as his boss.  This notion of superiority was transmitted to my dad… And then came the independence, and free education and emancipation.  So here you have an idea why foreigners were initially perceived as superior.  Believe me, this is not a racist comment, but an observation of the social reality of the country.

Even with education and emancipation, the Mauritian still, in his subconscious mind, has a complex of inferiority.  Tourism further sustained the perception.  When the tourism industry was officially launched, a sensible government campaign explained the importance of tourists.  The latter obviously got every attention possible.  We didn’t want to fail in our demonstration of respect and sense of hospitality.  Tourists brought additional social elements to enforce the feeling of foreigners’ superiority.  The first element is what I call the E.T effect.  Blame that on Mr Spielberg if you want, but I define it as follows:

‘If they travelled over to your world before you could even realize their existence,  then surely they are  of a superior class.’

The average Mauritian, during the 80s did not even have a motorcycle!  Now imagine him in front of people who have just landed from an airplane.  You got me?  Ok, ok, I’m coming to the lethal smile thing, I promise.

Yes, so the poor local guy makes himself visible and gentle, he smiles on every occasion. What else can he do? Once again, with the tourism (five-star hotels, luxury cars, beautifully clad people, etc) the superiority of foreigners is affirmed.  He smiles in the hope of getting under the wings of a superior race, he smiles to say that he’s ready to serve…and we all became known for our smile!  Frustration is lurking around…

We all know that in this material world, superiority is most commonly measured by the amount of money one has.  Who has more money?  Ok, we dig further : Euro1 = Rs40 and USD1= Rs30.  Got it? Read on.

Today the Mauritian is using his smile for a different objective. Not all of us, thank God! If you are from a different country, then you need to know that not every local smile is authentic.  Some of us have learned the tricks of the trade; we know that a tourist can be hypnotized and ordered to imitate a money tap (LO!).  By the time you’ve started to understand the fake smile, you’ve gone over your holiday budget. Tourists are short-term victims.  They leave the country with a sour after-taste, and that’s it.

The thing gets more serious when it comes to expatriates and foreign businessmen.  They are long term residents and have more at stake.  Their presence has created a new sort of back-stage profession in the country:  Professional swindlers, specialized in foreigners ripping-off.  The smile is the perfect accessory of the learned swindler.  Your wish is his command, well at first. He’s there to transform your wildest fantasies into reality.  You want to setup a business? He’s got the expertise, even if he’s only a taxi driver or a hairdresser.  He knows people, Ministers if not the Prime Minister himself! You want to try? Ask your taxi driver, his uncle should be a Minister.  If you’re lucky he will tell you that the Prime Minister was his classmate and best-friend.  How can you not believe him?  Are you insensible to that smile?  Once your soul is captured, you are aspired in a whirlpool.  With the same smile, your new brother will convince you that he is an expert in business and immigration, he’ll prove his business management skills to you and you won’t resist putting all your faith in him.  His wife will be the managing director of your company (He’s not interested in business and money, he’s just helping you out).

Consultants and accountant become mere money eaters and you’ll keep yourself away from professional advice. You’ll soon be having your Mauritian citizenship (remember the Prime Minister was a schoolmate!?)

Now, if mix that smile with the right dose of other tasty elements, you get something explosive.  An absolute banker!  That’s where the smile is the most effective and dangerous.  You will be invited for dinner at home, or at the nephew’s wedding ceremony.  You’ll be in a trance; you’re be part of the family… Life is beautiful, champagne is good!  Payback time is not far.

The Mauritian is not naive.  The biggest mistake foreigners make is taking the locals for granted.  You should never lower your guard and never hesitate to seek professional advice whenever there is legal or financial aspects involved.  We are not different human beings, and we did not fall in any ‘naive-rendering’ magic potion in our childhood.  Material gain, greed and easy money are the sons of a super power Devil and we all need to agree that the Devil also loves the sea and sun of paradise-island.

 

The Smile is one of the things that differentiate humans from wild animals, my dad once told me!

 

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The Mauritian experience, how not to fail it (Part 1 – The Road kills)

The magazines, YouTube videos and internet contents have seduced you. Mauritius is where you want to be. After all, how can we resist to such a place; it has got it all: climatic and political stability, stunning natural beauty, welcoming people… to list a few. Yet, some do fail their Mauritian experience and leave the country with a sour after-taste. There are certain things that are not told or exposed publicly, which means you only get a feel of them once you are hit.

I’ll try to give you some hints on what not to do on the island to ensure that you enjoy the paradise-like feeling. Expect a series of short articles following this one soon.

The road kills

Mauritius is known for its bad drivers. We have some nice roads, latest vehicles (all the top brands & models are here) but strangely things are not working that fine.

Reasons are many and here is not the appropriate platform for a debate. The Traffic offense signgovernment is trying to introduce policies to tackle this evil from its roots. True that they removed the penalty points system and this hasn’t helped a lot. If you’re driving a Porsche, then you can afford the fines (that has been the philosophy of careless drivers so far). A new set of rules and fine rates have just been introduced – deliberately high to really affect your pockets and your brains.

Beyond the civic instinct of observing law is the human instinct of preserving lives, yours and others. Mauritian roads have witnessed many human dramas, most of them unnecessary and silly. You don’t want to be part of this sad thing.

Bikes

accident clipart40.2% of road victims are bikers. There are many modified motorcycles and the licensing systems are very blurred, both for the bikes & bikers. To correct this, aspiring riders now face a tougher learning & licensing framework. In the past, you could ride any bike you wanted with a ‘Learner Permit’. It meant that a very few found it useful to pass and get a real permit. Many riders are circus stuntmen riding wild on open roads and many of them end up in nice coffins. Don’t be one of them.

You want to live in Mauritius, not die here.

To enjoy riding in Mauritius, putting your knee down from time to time, do it in groups (there are many of them I can introduce you to).

If the bike is your everyday transport, invest in appropriate gear. We have specialized shops now and they can provide you with the latest in terms of safety gear. Intra-town lanes are quite narrow, there’s still room for lane-splitting but many blind spots… and blind drivers – bear that in mind.

Speed limits

speed-cameras-mauritius16The maximum allowed on the island (on highways) are at 110KmH while you can enjoy 40 to 80 KmH in town. Most of the speed-prone areas are equipped with camera & radar systems. They are usually painted in yellow and quite visible, announced by sign boards.

 

Their effectiveness is another debate; the Mauritian driver fails to understand the concept of ‘speed zone’ – they slow down near the camera and accelerate abruptly after passing it. New devices, capable of measuring average speed over a zone, will be introduced soon to help educate those who still haven’t grasped the concept of speed limit.

Speed limits are not for birds. You have to respect them

Lane Discipline

Do not stay on the fast lane (right side of highway) if you think you’re not driving fast laneenough. There’s always a psycho-driver behind you, driving with a knife between his teeth. His car will shout at yours, flashing violently their lights or swearing at you through their honks. Keep to your left, except when overtaking. Do not respond to aggressive behavior. Keep calm… if you sense real danger, stop at the next police station. I’m not saying the country is dangerous but remember that psychos do not have any specific habitat, they can be found anywhere in any form.

Road rage exists in Mauritius, but you don’t want to learn it the hard way.

To cut it short, you might have a go at someone and win your battle of the moment, then after 2 days get yourself greeted at your own gate by a lorry packed with furious X-men. The island is small, you are traceable. Full stop.

Seat belt

Do not start your car if you do not have your seat belt on. I don’t think I need to say more on this subject. It is now common human knowledge that seat belts save lives. They can also save you from paying big fines. There’s a certain tolerance for passengers on the back-seat but by law they need to have their seat belts on.

Buckle-up ! Full-stop.

 

Drink driving

Drink & Drive is a definite No No. The alcohol limit has been reduced and literally you cannot have more than a glass of whisky if you are behind the wheels. Police squad (fully equipped) can surprise you anytime, anywhere. There is a strict policy on drunk driving – and there’s probably no escaping the wrath of authorities if you are on the bad side. Zero tolerance at this level and it is fully justified. For decades we thought we had responsible drinkers, but it doesn’t go along responsible driving.

 It is always good to have that one clean and sober friend with if you feel the night’s wilderness is irresistible.

Mobile phones

Park your car if you have an urgent call to make or attend to. I repeat, park your car. The roads are too small, and you cannot trust other road users. An abrupt change of lane or speed variation (often when using a communication device while driving) will most probably lead to your vehicle French-kissing another one. Using mobile phones is prohibited, whether you have hands-free system with your latest in-car Bluetooth technology.

No, mobile phones are simply not allowed while driving.

Renting a car

Many foreigners go for car rental for short, medium or long periods. You have to be very careful while dealing with this. There can be nice offers coming from non-registered individuals renting out cars. These vehicles do not have insurance cover for rental and in case of accident, you might be in trouble. In addition, there’s no guarantee on the safety of such vehicles – they may have been repaired after heavy damage, etc.

To be safe, use only registered car rental companies. Do not hesitate to ask for their documents. Check for the papers on the windscreen, look for the validity of insurance, fitness certificate (if applicable) and validity of road tax. Make sure your rental contract has all information required. Check the car thoroughly if you don’t want claims for damage you didn’t do.

Gibson & Hills

We have, for the past 2 decades (and more) been helping foreigners relocate to auritius. Part of our responsibilities is to ensure that the local culture is understood by those who have chosen the island as their new home. We feel it is our duty to give as much information as possible to non-Mauritians and help them get the best out of paradise-island.

Our team is availabe to answer any of your questions. Feel free to contact us.

FULL PACKAGE

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

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Business opportunities in #Mauritius

Business-sale

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