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      India to the rescue

      Posted AtMauritius Times

      The large composite delegation to India led by Navin Ramgoolam has produced its results. The Indian government has made available a line of credit of Rs 3 billion and a donation of Rs 700 million, or is it a loan without interest? Only after the return of the delegation will we have more details about how the money is to be spent. So far, we are told that the line of credit is for the production of energy and the development of maritime communications. A line of credit does not mean that one can sign a cheque and cash the money. Projects must be worked out and approved by both parties before any fund can be released. As to energy, bagasse and ethanol are already ongoing projects. But there are possibilities for further expansion and that is where the Indian line of credit becomes very useful. Maritime communications require further studies and should be spelt out for the public to know what it exactly means. We have a few hints given in the press that is to be found in one of the seven agreements already signed between the two countries.

      Our exclusive economic zone in the ocean around our islands is already marred by British claim of sovereignty over Chagos and by the French over Tromelin. We have to get British permission to fish in the waters of the Archipelago. The economic zone around Tromelin is claimed as French property and trespasses can be arraigned and prosecuted. The rest of the zone, however, over which Mauritius exercises the right of exclusivity, is vast enough and can be of immense benefit if properly exploited without interference from the intrusion of illegal fishing boats with their long lines.

      Navin Ramgoolam must thank his stars that after his two electoral successes, he has now scooped an outstanding financial deal with India at a time when the country needed some oxygen to breathe.
      The next phase to which the delegation is now directing its attention is the business sector to attract private investment to start new ventures so badly needed for economic growth and creation of employment.

      Indians are smart businessmen. They will not be moved by sentiments of historical past and common origin. As Raj Meetarbhan has pointed out in his editorial of last Tuesday: "oles journaux indiens qui©voquent la visite de Navin Ramgoolam parlent de commerce, d'investissement et pas d'affinit'©s culturelles, historiques et religieuses". If they decide to come to Mauritius it is for their own benefit. They do not have any special preference for our country, because if they can get better deals elsewhere, they will not hesitate to abandon us. Only attractive terms can persuade them to come to our shores. Using our economic free zone as a springboard to penetrate the market of Eastern and Southern Africa under the free trade agreement between the SADC countries might be an inducement. The task of the private sector in the delegation may not be easy but as they are business people themselves and share a common vocabulary with their Indian counterparts, they might be able to succeed.

      Although our balance of trade with India is entirely in her favour, she has shown so far no inclination to make an attempt at diminishing it. Indians travel all over the world to set up shop to sell products made in India. The only product we can offer in return is our reputation as a tourist destination. Indian tourists could be attracted to spend their holidays in a relaxed atmosphere that we can provide. The Indian market has not been sufficiently explored in spite of the fact there is a big potential among the business class who have the means to spend holidays abroad. We meet them everywhere in Europe and in the Far East but only a small trickle is to be found on our beaches. The number could be increased quite substantially by some intensive campaign in the main cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chenai, etc.

      Government must have no illusion, it will take time before we can feel the impact of the new projects under the line of Indian credit. People's expectations which have been raised too high can show signs of impatience if there is no hope for any improvement. The Alliance Sociale has made a good start by keeping its promises to bring about changes in people's life during the first 100 days. The feel-good factor that has characterised the mood of the general public is a goodwill that must not be allowed to wane.

      The main problem remains unemployment. Ministers are besieged night and day by young men and women looking for jobs. All our social evils like theft, bank robbery, drugs, prostitution are related to unemployment. I know there is no shortcut to a solution. It is part of the inheritance from the previous government. But unfortunately the new administration has to shoulder the responsibility and pull up its socks as a demonstration of its seriousness to tackle the problem. The team that constitutes the government has the capacity to deliver and we have every hope that it will succeed.

      October 28, 2005


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