The long-awaited annual budget presentation has finally revealed its secrets. Many were waiting the finance minister’s to stumble but he didn’t, fortunately. I do not have any political preferences but I need to say that Pravind Jugnauth, in my opinion, succeeded rather brilliantly. This has definitely something to do with the competent advisers he has hired. Real grey matter with proven track records. Let me just salute Gerard Sanspeur. The gentleman requires no introduction; he has headed several institutions and brought them to new dimensions, the Board of Investment is a clear example.
Through this budget, Government plans to revamp paradise-island.
I won’t, in this article, provide you with an in-depth analysis. I believe that there are several publications in this line and written by more competent people than me. As usual I’ll contend myself in expressing my opinion on the overall measures announced.
Finding the right mix of social and finance has always been a tricky business. It’s never enough for the social and the finance always moans at any surplus expenses made. The Finance Minister seems, at first glance, to have found the best compromise between the two. His speech has left more positives than negatives; the after-taste is not so bad, at least for now. I personally have never heard the Opposition Leader expressing satisfaction on a Finance Minister’s budget exercise, but this time it happened. The different measures announced were coherent with the overall strategy of the budget, confirming that this exercise benefit from the contributions of a certain expertise. Good!
The governing line of the budget was : Creating a new Era for Development. A sound strategy which lies on a multi-fold approach to an objective; that of improving the lives of Mauritians. A collection of ideas and actions that intend to create a nation of entrepreneurs in an economy based on technology, innovation and export. Of course, such an objective can only be met through implementation of several measures which are directly and indirectly related. It includes, for instance: reducing procedural hassles in business creation, improvement to infrastructure, access to finance, and so on. I’m happy to note that budget did take into account all those ‘indirect’ elements as opposed to previous ‘big’ ideas with no heads or tails which I’m so used to.
Creating a nation of entrepreneurs is not a simple task. It cannot be done without the appropriate legal framework, infrastructure and proper mindset. The legal framework, if too cumbersome, acts as a deterrent to any brilliant business idea. Mauritius already offers one of the best legal frameworks for business setting-up and management; all streamlined into simple procedures and no heavy regulations. By proposing to further enhance the ease of doing business, the Minister has shown sensible reasoning. Concrete measures which are designed to further help SMEs breathe. This includes elimination of all Trade Licenses for those paying Rs5,000 or less, and this for the next 3 year, financing from banks or institutions at high preferential rates, easier access to finance, and tax holiday ranging from 4 to 8 years. Licensing procedures will know major changes with a view to allow quick business creations. New: Government will now enforce ‘process time limits’ to regulatory bodies.
Foreigners investing in Mauritius are not neglected. Those who want to set-up their business and invest in Mauritius are welcomed. Residence permit procedures will also know some positive changes, with new (and realistic) conditions. The investor will no longer be required to register his company prior to apply for an Investor occupation permit. He can obtain an ‘agreement in principle’ or some kind of letter of intent from the authorities before moving to register his company and proceed with investment.
Real estate sector is also called to some changes. Foreigners who want to acquire immovable property in Mauritius for business purposes will be able to do so without much hassle. Companies where foreign shareholding is less than 25% can buy directly, without formal authorization from the Prime Minister’s Office. All these cannot but inject dynamism in the economy.
The ICT sector will also be taken care of. Government plans to invest massively in the uplifting of current infrastructure, precisely connectivity. Optical fiber will be a reality around the island. E-commerce, which has not known a real take-off, will be addressed. The Government will lead by example, in offering around 50 e-services to the population. Connectivity and infrastructure are two essential elements and I’m glad to know that our leaders understand this. Our young and ‘to-be’ nerds are encouraged to launch themselves into the coding and mobile apps development sector. Time to unveil those talents. Digital age will really take a visible shape if all these are truly implemented.
Overall, the budget announces a new era. It allows for development of a digital culture, provides encouragement to young talents in the ICT sector and implements a coherent (and realizable) strategy to make Mauritius a real cyber island. Beyond that, the island is expected to sustain its status as a world class destination, for its people and for foreigners who choose it as business or retirement destination. The budget is definitely an interesting one; in substance but it’s interesting also to see how many of these plans will actually be implemented and when.
I can only hope that this is not simply a set of announcements.
The Tiger of Indian Ocean can finally wake up and take control of its destiny.