Academic journal article Migration Letters

'High Net Worth' Migration in Mauritius: A Critical Analysis

Academic journal article Migration Letters

'High Net Worth' Migration in Mauritius: A Critical Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

The island of Mauritius of about 720 square miles lies in the South West of the Indian Ocean. Migration has always formed part of the history of Mauritius and continues to play a major role in the development of the country. The French ruled the island from 1715 until the British took in 1810 and Mauritius became independent in 1968. Mauritius does not have an indigenous population and the French were the first permanent settlers and landowners. Slaves were brought from East and West Africa to work in the sugar cane plantations. Following the abolition of slavery, cheap labour was sourced from India in the form of indentured labour. Chinese migrants also came to the island, initially as indentured workers and later as merchants and traders. The different groups of migrants contributed to the diversity of the current population such that Mauritius has become one of the most ethnically heterogeneous nations (Srebrenik, 2002: 277).

Mauritian society is a highly stratified plural society which at one time, revolved around the sugar industry that was mainly owned and controlled by the tiny Franco-Mauritian elite. The current population of 1.3 million is estimated to be composed of six 'ethnic communities': Hindus (40 per cent), Creoles of African or mixed African descent (28 per cent), Muslims (17 per cent), Tamils (7 per cent), Sino-Mauritians (or Chinese) (3 per cent), and Franco-Mauritians (about 2 per cent) (Eriksen, 1991; Carroll & Carroll, 2000; Hempel, 2009). In postcolonial Mauritius, political rule has been dominated by the Hindus, although the electoral system ensures the representation of smaller communities. The Franco-Mauritians, who are the descendants of the French settlers, own and control a significant share of the resources on the island relative to the size of the community, especially land. As such, for many Mauritians, land is reminiscent of the unequal economic power and unfair colonial heritage that this white elite benefited from (Salverda, 2013: 504).

Despite the odds of managing a plural and stratified society, Mauritius enjoys a relatively stable political landscape and has maintained multiparty parliamentary democracy since independence in 1968. Mauritius has been lauded for its developmental success and labelled 'Africa's miracle in the Indian Ocean' (Mistry, 1999: 552; Miles, 1999: 91). The World Economic Forum's global competitiveness index ranked Mauritius at 45 out of 148 countries in 2013-2014, ahead of all African countries. Mauritius also topped the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance and was ranked 20th globally in the 2014 World Bank Doing Business Report (World Bank, 2014). Mauritius is currently considered an upper middle-income country with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita at US$ 9,227 (2013) and is ranked high in terms of competitiveness, investment climate and governance (World Bank, 2014). Moreover, Mauritius has solid economic fundamentals, high standards of governance and a business friendly environment.

While at independence, Mauritius was a monocrop economy that was entirely dependent on the sugar sector, industrialisation and economic diversification led to substantial growth. Mauritius also benefitted from preferential trade agreements from the European Union for its sugar exports. However, the phasing out of preferential agreements under the regulations of the World Trade Organisation led to pressure on the sugar industry to increase efficiency and restructuring of the economy. Among the strategies set up by the government in collaboration with the big landowners from the sugar sector, mainly the Franco-Mauritians, to boost economic growth and development are the investor and residential migration schemes, which is the focus of this paper. While these schemes are primarily geared towards attracting qualified and 'high net worth migrants' and at drawing foreign direct investment into the country, they have led to an increase in the number of foreigners owning prime property in the country, mainly on the coast with access to the beach. …

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