Q Why should companies consider investing in Mauritius?

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A There are a number of reasons. The first is that you not only have the opportunity for investment in Mauritius but also you can use us as a gateway to the broader region. Second, we have created one of the best investment climates in the world in terms of doing business, low taxation and openness. We can never compare with China, India and Nigeria. But we are an emerging market and people are keen to harness some of the potential.

Q What are the opportunities for investment?

A There are opportunities in a whole range of activities, from the traditional sectors to what we call the emerging pillars – renewables, business process outsourcing (BPO) and information and communications technology (ICT). We are in an excellent time zone for global business because you can do morning business with east Asia, midday with Europe and America in the late afternoon. We also speak French and English, there is no capital gains tax, there are no foreign exchange controls and we are a very reputable jurisdiction for financial services. Mauritius also has political stability and we are one of the most stable countries in this region, which is why we were ranked number one on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance this year. If you are looking for safe and secure places to structure your global business, Mauritius is one of them.

Q When your government came to power in 2005 you enacted bold economic reforms. Why were you so proactive?

A When we came back to power the legacy was a poor one: unemployment was rising, growth was declining, and the budget deficit was high. We decided to cease being an economy based on trade preferences to become one driven by international competition. So the first thing we did was change how business is carried out in our country. We issued some guidelines for health, safety, the environment and labour standards. Then you have to be compliant with things such as due diligence. We created a silent agreement principle – the old system was if you wanted to get a business licence you had to go from office to office and pester. We have shifted the burden to the bureaucrat so if you do not hear an objection in three days then it is approved. We also made taxation simple, easy and transparent.

Q Mauritius aims to establish itself as an international ICT centre. Can you compete with other countries?

A This could be asked of any activity performed in Mauritius. Why do people come to see our beaches and sun when they could go to 50 other destinations in the world? Why do people manufacture textiles here when they can do it cheaper in India and China? Why do people invest in financial services when they can do it elsewhere? We want to consolidate existing sectors, sharpen their competitiveness, add more value and at the same time we want to broaden the economic base.

ICT is an emerging sector. In 2005 ICT accounted for 0.5% of GDP in 2005, now it accounts for 5.5%. We started with the low end of the market – with call centres. Then we moved to BPO, then into software development, now we are moving into IT systems and business continuity. So what we are looking at is more share of the total market in order to diversify while, at the same time, trying to enhance what we already have.

Curriculum Vitae

Rama Sithanen

2005Mauritius

Deputy prime minister and minister of finance

1997Air Seychelles

Adviser to executive chairman

1991Mauritius

Minister of finance

The cost of this supplement was underwritten by the Mauritius Board of Investment. Reporting and editing were carried out independently by fDi Magazine.