Shopping Made in Heaven: Mauritius, the Dynamic Indian Ocean Island State, Is Not One to Sit on Its Laurels. It Is about to Add to Its Economic Lustre by Turning Itself into a Shopping Paradise for the Whole World. Tom Nevin Reports
Nevin, Tom, African Business
Deciding it has had enough of the capricious and jittery world sugar market, the idyllic Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is to massively build on its reputation as a favourite global playground by adding another magical ingredient. It plans on becoming the world's first duty-free island, transforming the sunny, carefree archipelago into a tourist "shopping paradise".
Already a holiday magnet for African and hordes of visitors from Europe and Southeast Asia, Mauritius now intends becoming a prime shopping destination for high-end luxury items, or at least well-made alternatives.
Unabashedly, the objective is to seduce a bigger flow of tourists to the island with an irresistible mix of sun, sea, sand, sport, gambling, luxury living, exuberantly Creole/Indian culture and cuisine, and now shopping at prices to beat the world's best.
Notes travel writer Carol Lazar: "The prospect of an array of items soon to be available dutyfree will undoubtedly enhance Mauritius' appeal among those who regard retail therapy as a necessary part of their holiday experience."
The project was launched in April this year and will be implemented over four years. This is not to say that the cane fields will disappear under a welter of luxury hotels and apartments, casinos and shopping malls. Sugar will remain an economic mainstay, but will not have such an impact on the economy when it ducks and dives on world markets.
Declared the island nation's finance minister, Pravind Jugnauth, in delivering his budget in March: "I announce today a historic decision to make Mauritius a dutyfree island," he said. "There is a national purpose for making this historic decision: it is to transform Mauritius into a shopping paradise for tourists; it is to create a new and unprecedented dynamism, for investment and to take a big step toward the full-employment growth path."
Unemployment on Mauritius is currently running at around 8.5% with GDP growth for 2004 at 4.2% and inflation at 5.7%--and the government confidently expects to improve on these figures as the project gathers pace.
The vision of 'a shoppers' dream come true' will happen over four years and, along with the abolition of taxes, will provide an incentive for local and international investors to erect architecturally innovative and new-age malls and other retail centres on a massive scale.
Reports Jugnauth: "We are setting up a shopping mall scheme to promote, encourage and facilitate the development of modern integrated business, shopping and leisure centres."
Mauritius' 2005/06 budget is primarily built around' one new innovative concept--becoming over time a duty-free island--and is clearly aimed at changing the mood of the country with a bold and substantial customs tariff reform which should eventually translate into lower customer prices. PricewaterhouseCoopers says: "This year's Budget will most likely be seen as a breather and as a way of rewarding the nation for patiently enduring four years of belt lightening. …