THE MAURITIAN MIR­A­CLE

Be­neath the palm fronds, the sub­trop­i­cal is­land is trans­form­ing it­self into an eco­nomic pow­er­house

Destiny Man - - NOTEBOOK - | BY EBRAHIM MOOLLA

With its turquoise la­goons, lan­guid stretches of white sand beaches and lush moun­tain vis­tas, idyl­lic Mau­ri­tius has long been a hon­ey­moon­ers’ par­adise for South Africans, but has for many years been over­looked as an in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion. The is­land na­tion of just 1,26 mil­lion peo­ple cel­e­brated its 50th year of in­de­pen­dence from English rule in 2017, yet – over this rel­a­tively brief pe­riod – it’s man­aged to achieve so­cio-eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and suc­cess.

Like SA, Mau­ri­tius boasts a rich ta­pes­try of eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tures, but while the Rain­bow Na­tion con­tin­ues to be buf­feted by eco­nomic headwinds, the In­dian Ocean is­land has cul­ti­vated a busi­ness-friendly en­vi­ron­ment along­side a strong wel­fare sys­tem to en­gi­neer GDP growth.

Ac­cord­ing to a study from in­tel­li­gence firm New World Wealth, the num­ber of mil­lion­aires on the off­shore is­land of Mau­ri­tius has grown by 20% in the past year, mak­ing it the fastest-grow­ing wealth mar­ket in Africa. The re­port, which de­tails the per­for­mance of high-net-worth-in­di­vid­u­als (HNWIs) in se­lected African coun­tries from 2006-2016, placed Mau­ri­tius at the top in the con­ti­nent for HNWIs, with a growth of 230%. HNWIs refer to in­di­vid­u­als with wealth of $1 mil­lion or more. It’s es­ti­mated that 280 mil­lion­aires have moved there from SA alone since 2006.

“In­di­vid­u­als liv­ing in Mau­ri­tius are free to in­vest over­seas (with no ex­change con­trols). This en­cour­ages wealthy peo­ple to use the coun­try as a busi­ness and in­vest­ment hub,” the re­port states.

It’s al­ready re­garded as the best-per­form­ing econ­omy (recog­nised by the World Bank) and boasts the high­est per capita wealth of $25 700, more than dou­ble that of sec­ond-placed SA, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The World Eco­nomic Fo­rum also ranks Mau­ri­tius as the most com­pet­i­tive mar­ket on the con­ti­nent.

The is­land’s ap­peal lies in its strong fun­da­men­tals of po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic growth, invit­ing tax regime and se­cure own­er­ship rights, which are in stark con­trast to other coun­tries in the re­gion. Com­pared with Asian tiger Sin­ga­pore, the coun­try’s built up a solid fi­nan­cial sec­tor, spe­cial­is­ing in off­shore bank­ing, fund man­age­ment and pri­vate bank­ing.

Thanks to its po­si­tion in the In­dian Ocean, Mau­ri­tius is to­day a hub for com­merce, in­vest­ment and tourism, con­nect­ing Africa, In­dia and Asia with the rest of the world. In a con­ve­nient time zone, it’s open for busi­ness be­fore the mar­kets in the Far East close and af­ter those of the USA open. Look­ing be­yond SA, Mau­ri­tius has trade agree­ments with Sene­gal, Ghana and Mada­gas­car, but is look­ing to es­tab­lish trade re­la­tions with more African coun­tries.

It also has a low bar­rier to gain­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dency. Ac­cord­ing to James Bowl­ing, CEO of res­i­dency and cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tor Monarch & Co, non-Mauritian cit­i­zens are el­i­gi­ble for a res­i­dence per­mit upon the pur­chase of a prop­erty un­der the Prop­erty De­vel­op­ment Scheme pro­gramme with a min­i­mum value of $500 000. A beach­front prop­erty can be picked up for as lit­tle as R2,5 mil­lion.

Theo Pi­etersen from Se­eff Mau­ri­tius notes that the is­land is a “fan­tas­tic off­shore prop­erty at­trac­tion for South Africans”.

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