Mauritius is an independent island republic with a democratic government. It lies in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar and forms part of the Indian Ocean Islands group associated with Africa. The capital city is Port Louis. The other major town is Curepipe. The official languages are English and French but the lingua franca is Mauritian Creole; Hindi is also spoken by 22% of the people. Dwarfed by other countries in terms of total area, mineral deposits and oil reserves, Mauritius is a giant in terms of economic growth and political stability.

Its population is educated, hard working and governed democratically with sound economic policies. Mauritius has a free market economy with positive economic growth, almost full employment and a favourable balance of payments position.

The principal sectors are manufacturing, tourism, textile and sugar cane processing. Mauritius is emerging as a major business and financial sector in the region and in August 1995 became a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The private sector is predominant and the Mauritius Stock Exchange is one of the fastest growing in Africa. The local currency is the Mauritian rupee (R). (US$ / R – current exchange rate).

The Mauritius oil industry is one of the key sub-elements in the economy of the country. The country is dependent on imported products for all its oil and petroleum needs. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Central Electricity Board.

The agricultural and manufacturing industries are important in Mauritius, but the tourism and textiles industries now make up the bulk of the country’s income. Other industries include: food processing (largely sugar milling), chemicals, metal products, transport equipment and non-electrical machinery.

The international time zone for Mauritius is GMT +3 and the international dialling code is +230. The country has a much-improved infrastructure with a mostly tarred road network and an expanded and modernised harbour at Port-Louis. The national carrier, Air Mauritius, as well as British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa and South African Airways are the principal airlines that fly to the island. All visitors to Mauritius require visas except nationals of Commonwealth countries, the European Union, Scandinavian countries, Israel, Japan and the USA.

Mauritius is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Commonwealth and the recently formed Indian Ocean Rim Association of Regional Co-operation (IORARC).

Medical services may require advance payment and can be expensive. Vaccinations may also be required prior to arrival in Mauritius and medical insurance should be arranged. The state of health, current immunisation status, location and the local disease situation create the risk of possible contraction of dengue fever, hepatitis A, malaria, schistosomiasis and typhoid.

The bank of Mauritius, which is the Central Bank of the country, is responsible for the supervision and regulation of the activities of banks to ensure a proper functioning of the banking system. It plays an active role in creating a financial environment conducive to economic expansion. Recently, the cash ratio and non-liquid assets ratio of commercial banks have been reduced. Exchange control has been completely eliminated so as to mobilise extra funds for the EPZ sector and interest rates are market driven.

Shaun Bakamoso

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