Back to the future : Vision 2020

In 1994, Vision 2020 – the inspirational product of a ground-breaking exercise in national collaboration – was largely complete. It was not made public until 1997 due to the change in government. We are about half-way there in terms of time but have we achieved 50% of the results ? Let us remind ourselves what we were planning some 12 years ago.

This is an abridged version of the National Long-Term Perspective Study (NLTPS). It presents essential features of the main report of the NLTPS. The language used is non-technical to facilitate an easy grasp of the complex issues examined and to make the document accessible to various population groups ; they all have a stake in the future of Mauritius. This version is aimed at those who, for one reason or another, are unable to go through the main document, but who have a keen interest in the development prospects of the country. The key objective is to rally the population round the vision of “Mauritius 2020” and to enlist their support to translate that vision into reality. For a better and deeper understanding of the major development issues examined, readers are advised to consult the main NLTPS report.

We have come a long way in the past 25 years ; and we can go a long way further in the next 25 years. What could Mauritius be like by the year 2020 ?

The total population in 2020 is greater by about 250,000 than it was in 1997, but the rate of increase is slowing down. There are fewer young people and more old people. Mauritius will enjoy a standard of living which places it among the best in its class. Our higher living standards are the result of another 25 years of rapid economic growth – the economy is now four times as big as it was in 1997.

Getting richer by doing it better

We have kept our economy competitive by finding areas in which we can excel and by going all out for quality – we do not try to do everything, but what we do we aim to do really well. We can never be the biggest, but we can often be the best. Sugar is still king, but the kingdom is a changed one -less land, but more earnings from quality sugars and sugar confectionery, from the ’waste’ bagasse that provides a quarter of our electricity, and from the molasses which feed the new chemical industries and provide the ethanol for half our buses. Earnings from tourism keep rising, despite the ceiling on capacity to protect the environment – there are few other quality destinations still left, and people are willing to pay more for our speciality : friendly efficiency in a beautiful setting. We have dropped out of the mass market in clothing – but we have developed a much more profitable up-market niche based on high style, quality materials and workmanship, and quick response to changes in fashion.

Natural centre for the region

We have become the region’s leading centre for international financial services including, banking, insurance and other financial services – secure, efficient, convenient and a pleasant place in which to do business.We process data from all the main markets for computer services – our people have the computer and linguistic skills, and the satellite teleport makes them instantly accessible all over the world. Small, neutral, stable, accessible, efficient, polycultural and hospitable, Mauritius is the ’natural’ centre for many organisations and events : regional headquarters for companies, economic development and cultural organisations, international agencies ; and the site for a succession of international conferences, trade fairs and festivals. We have become a model for the quality of our industry. By the year 2020, we would have had 50 years of industrialisation and people from all over the world converge to Mauritius not only to buy high-quality products but also to learn from our experience.

Science – the smart way to get ahead

We are reaping from all the specialist knowledge, skill and professionalism we were trained since we have found ways to mobilise this powerful extra force. Not by acquired knowledge only but using our ingenuity. More science means less sweat. We make the fullest use of science and technology : in agricultural and ocean research, in automation and use of ’clean’ technologies in industry, in telecommunications, in informatics. This has brought higher productivity of labour, higher quality of goods and services, and better conditions of work. The ocean depths are the last new frontier to be explored and Mauritius is providing the main base for the whole of the Indian Ocean. The oceanographic work provides jobs and profits in its own right. It has also given us a head start in exploiting the resources of our enormous marine estate – the manganese nodules and the potentially unlimited ocean energy from ’OTEC’. Computer services have become a major employer and source of export earnings. The Informatics Park with its custom satellite facilities global accessibility has been achieved and an expertise has been able to compete, most rewardingly, in the higher value markets which were previously beyond reach.

People the key resource

We have built up a top quality work force, with managers who are modern-minded, enterprising and well qualified, and workers with high skills, high motivation and high pay. The total work force is about half as great again as in 1990, with a lower proportion in agriculture, a much higher proportion in international services and, in all sectors, a higher proportion in the more skilled occupations. High general levels of skill have been achieved through training and retraining programmes of good quality, practical relevance and which cover everyone. Education is the key to both personal fulfilment and economic productivity. Everyone now gets to secondary school, and three-quarters stay for the full seven years. And the quality is so much better than it was. We provide the best for everyone because we need the best from everyone. We have full employment because we have made all our people so employable. Everyone is valued because everyone is valuable.The number of women in the work force is twice as high as in 1990, bringing greater independence in incomes and attitudes.

Environment not just an add-on extra

We have kept our environment so good by not taking it for granted. We have taken trouble to look after it because we are the sort of people who care about the quality of where we live. We have made the towns more pleasant to live in and tamed the traffic by speeding up the buses, controlling the cars, and bringing more of the jobs nearer to where people live. A network of mass transit system has become operational to move people rapidly and with comfort. We have made ourselves nearly self sufficient in clean, non-global-warming energy through sensible conservation, and through developing our domestic potential for bagasse, wind, wave and solar energy and, most recently, drawing also on the thermal energy of the ocean. We have kept our air clean and our water pure ; we have kept the natural beauty of our beaches and mountains ; and we have protected the unique range of plants and animals we have inherited. Our island environment is fabulous but fragile -the price of quality is eternal vigilance.

All-round development

We have approached the general economic policy and decision making by adopting the best practice designed to foster fast and sustainable growth while reflecting fully the aspirations of the people. In the drive for economic development we have not lost touch with our traditions of community, in which everyone cares and is cared for. We have used our growing prosperity to eradicate poverty – things are much better now, and we can afford to make sure that no-one gets left out. We have striven for all-round development, with a sensible balance between the commercial and the social. Personal incomes are higher, but so also are welfare benefits and pensions, and more resources have been provided for housing and for health and welfare services, so that everyone shares in higher living standards. Community also has a spatial dimension. We have made sure that people living in not highly urbanised areas do not fall behind, and we have taken special measures to help improve the opportunities for people in Rodrigues and the outer islands.

Making diversity a strength

We have maintained a social harmony which is impressive and precious, with diversity continuing to be a source of enrichment rather than a cause of division. Mauritians get on so well with the tourists because they get on so well with one another. It is based on a continuance of our traditional values of tolerance and mutual respect for different communities, cultures and religions – now extended to cover differences between women and men and young and old. Our young people learn all that is latest and of highest standard and are exposed through the media to foreign attitudes and patterns. Not all but many have adopted these foreign views with vigour. there has become an even greater need for tolerance between traditional values and the new. We see the benefit in better health, longer life expectancy, minimal social problems, low crime rates, high social cohesion.

Political stability

We have democratic institutions that remain the key to political stability ; and efficient, open and honest public administration remains essential to make the economy work well and to make democracy work at all.Democratic control is the only reliable way to ensure that government act in the interest of citizens, and the only safeguard for individual liberties and protection against anguish oppression. We have prevented corruption to establish itself by setting up a legal framework as supervisory institution to regulate the working of the public administration. We have an open economy and an open approach to the world ; we have many friends ; we enjoy domestic harmony and peace.

Sustainability

We have not allowed the pressures of the present to steal the promise of the future : economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, political sustainability. if things are good today, it is because we gave good thought to the future yesterday. We have a dynamic economy, a harmonious society, a sound environment, a secured place in the world -in short, we have made Mauritius a successful country. Not a perfect place, not a place without any worries or problems at all – but all in all, the sort of country we can take pride in and live happily in. By controlling traffic problems, congestion , learning to save energy and natural resources we will make the ecology last longer. We have learn that nature has no cash value but having cared for nature it is caring for us in return which is reward indeed In the wake of development we have not followed the industrialised world in every way ; we have learned also from the mistakes of other countries and avoided them. Instead we have chosen a pattern of development which reflects our own distinctively Mauritian circumstances and needs, and also our culture and values.

The Way to 2020

Much has been achieved in the first quarter of a century since independence ; but much still remains to be done in the coming quarter of a century. And it will be done in a world context which is constantly changing and presents three particular challenges :

Global economy  : the tendency for the economies of the world to work more and more as a single market system will sharpen competition and make international competitiveness essential, particularly for small, open economies.

Population and resources  : rapid population growth in some regions, together with economic expansion, will put increasing pressure on food supplies and other natural resources.

Global warming  : the threat of unlimited rises in world temperatures due to emissions of greenhouse gases will bring increasingly strong international measures to reduce consumption of petroleum and other fossil fuels.

Rise in population Between 1997 and 2020 the population of Mauritius is likely to increase by about 250,000 (22 per cent) from 1.12 million to about 1.37 million – possibly more. The rate of increase has been declining, and is expected to continue to do so. There seems no risk of the population explosion that is happening in some African countries where fertility rates are three times as high as here. Even so, Mauritius already has the fifth highest density of population per square kilometre in the world, and will become somewhat more crowded still by 2020. However, it will not necessarily feel more crowded, if the use of space is carefully planned.

Ageing population More important than the increase in total size of population will be changes in its age distribution. The proportion in the most economically active age groups (15-64) is expected to rise from 64 per cent of the total to about 69 per cent – making possible a much bigger increase in the size of the potential work force. The proportion of young people aged less than 15 is expected to fall from 28 per cent of the total to about 20 per cent – reducing the burden of infant care and making it easier to achieve improvements in education.

4x 2x growth To achieve all our aims we need a very rapid pace of economic development. Over the past 25 years the economy grew by an average of 5.6 per cent a year, so that by 1997 it has become 4 times as big as it was in 1970. Over the next 25 years we want the economy to go on growing by an average of 5.6 per cent a year, so that by 2020 it will have become 4 times as big as in 1997. So we want it to grow 4 times, twice over – ’4x 2x’. If we can get it to grow even faster than before, by 7.3 per cent a year, that will be even better. By 2020 it will have become nearly 6 times as big as in 1997. Population is rising as well, but even if we allow for this, with a total growth rate of 5.6 per cent, by 2020 output (’GDP’) per head will be about 3 times as high as in 1997 (and with the faster 7.3 per cent rate, nearly 5 times as high.)

Rising productivity, changing structure To achieve such a rate of economic development will not be easy. It implies increases in output many times greater than the expected increases in the labour force – and hence great increases in productivity. And it implies imports several times higher than before – and export earnings several times higher also in order to pay for them. And it implies big structural changes in the economy – a further decline in the relative importance of agriculture, and a trebling of the share of the new ’quaternary’ sector providing international services.

4 cylinder engine of growth In colonial times the economy was driven solely by sugar – slowly, like a car running on only one cylinder. In the past 25 years, tourism and the export industries of the EPZ have come in – and driven the economy much faster, like a car running on three cylinders instead of only one. In the next 25 years we shall need to bring in also the new high-tech international services – so that with the full power of all four cylinders we can keep up speed in the decades ahead.

Higher sugar yields The sugar industry faces increasing labour shortages and rising labour costs, and the prospect of lower prices in the European market (our main one) as a result of the GATT Uruguay Round agreement. It is proposed to reduce labour costs and improve profitability, while optimising output and reducing the land under cultivation by about a quarter. It is envisaged that this will be achieved by improving efficiency and raising yields through further mechanisation, more effective irrigation, better labour management, a reduction in the yield gap between the miller planters and the small planters and, most important, the introduction of improved varieties.

Higher earnings from sugar Earnings should be increased in three ways. Greater emphasis can be given to special sugars which command premium prices. More bagasse ’waste’ can be used for generating electricity : it already provides 18 per cent of the total, and by 2020 could be used to provide more than a quarter of a total which by then might be 5 times as great. And more can be earned from molasses : some is already used by local distilleries, some could be used to produce ethanol as a substitute for petroleum imports, and some could provide feedstock for new chemical industries.

Agricultural diversification The land released from sugar will make possible increased production of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products, reducing the need for food imports. There should be scope for substantial exports of flowers and also of pineapples and some other fruits if world quality standards can be maintained. There may also be scope for new, high value products such as essential oils. By 2020 it should be possible to treble fish production, providing a larger share of rising home consumption and a quadrupling of exports.

Quality tourism – the ’green ceiling’ Mauritius combination of beautiful beaches, well run hotels and friendly people has enabled tourism to grow from nothing to become one of the three main industries. Mauritius popularity is such that the number of tourists, which rose 4-fold between 1975 and 1992, could, in theory, rise a further 4-fold by 2020. However, Mauritius appeal is as a quality destination, exotic, safe, beautiful and peaceful. An equally appealing feature is the harmonious coexistence of diverse cultures which make up the Mauritian nation. Over-development would destroy this appeal, threaten the ecology of the lagoons, and deprive Mauritians of a proper share of their own beaches. Accordingly it has been estimated that total capacity can be increased from the present 5,300 hotel rooms only to a maximum of 9,000 rooms. Beyond this ’green ceiling’, increased earnings will have to come, not from higher numbers, but from higher spending per visitor, with still higher standards of provision and a wider range of activities, including, perhaps, inland and eco-tourism.

Tougher competition The new factories in the Export Processing Zone have in the course of the past 25 years transformed the Mauritian economy from a monocrop agricultural economy to a diversified industrial one. Further expansion of export-oriented manufacturing industry will be needed in the next 25 years. However, the main industry at present is clothing and textiles, and this has been experiencing difficulties lately. International competition has been getting tougher and is likely to become tougher still with the phasing out of the Multi Fibre Agreement following the GATT Uruguay Round.

High value niches The solution will be to sidestep the stronger low-cost, high volume competition expected from large producers such as India, Pakistan and China, by going up-market and building up a position in higher value added quality lines – both in clothing and in other industries too. To compete effectively in quality will need a combination of : high productivity, highly skilled, highly motivated labour ; enterprising management ; modern technology ; local linkages ; international partnerships ; effective infrastructure ; and supportive government.

International services – the extra boost The fastest growing sector in world trade is international services, particularly the new high-tech-based ones, and these could provide the fourth cylinder to give the Mauritian economy the extra boost it needs to keep up speed in the coming 25 years. There are three areas where the scope appears to be particularly great.

International financial services First, there is a growing tendency for banking, insurance and other financial services to go offshore to take advantage of a more favourable fiscal or legal regime, or a more stable economy or government. Mauritius is well placed to provide these services for the developing economies around the Indian Ocean rim on account of : its relatively inexpensive but well educated labour force ; fluency in French, English and a number of other languages ; good supporting infrastructure and communications ; efficient public administration ; open economy ; and political and social stability.

World computer services Second, the explosion in use of information technology-based systems has created a $200bn market for computer services. Most of the demand is generated in the industrial countries, but an increasing proportion of the services are provided by offshore suppliers in countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and India. The services are very labour intensive and require varied levels of special skills and good telecommunications facilities. To get into this rapidly expanding area, particularly the higher value parts of it, Mauritius should create a special regime comparable with the Export Processing Zone for manufacturing ; with a low tariff satellite teleport (to make the services competitive world-wide) ; and training schemes for the software and other skills needed.

Ocean Exploration Third, managing our enormous marine estate can be the third great new area of activity. The ocean depths will be the new frontier of the 21st century, and their exploration will attract increasingly large international resources because of the imperative need for a better understanding of ocean processes as part of the response to the threat of global warming. The establishment of an Ocean Research Centre in Mauritius could make it the main base for research and exploration work for the whole of the Indian Ocean.

Ocean energy and metals Ocean research, in addition to providing valuable jobs and foreign exchange earnings in the short term, could also provide a much bigger pay-off in the exploitation of new ocean resources in the longer term. Manganese nodules have already been found within Mauritius’ exclusive zone. Further exploration could reveal deposits which will be of major commercial significance later when metal prices become higher. And there may be suitable locations for ’OTEC’ – energy from ocean temperature differences – which in due course might become a major source of environment-friendly energy.

Expanding labour force People are the key resource on which all development depends. The numbers in the labour force are expected to increase as a result of rising population, a higher proportion of it in the most economically active age groups, and a higher proportion of women entering the labour market – female activity rates in Mauritius used to be very low compared with other countries, but they doubled between 1972 and 1990, and are expected probably to rise further by about a quarter by 2020. Taking these factors together, it is expected that between 1990 and 2020 the total potential labour force in Mauritius will increase by about a half. The number of males will increase by only about a third. The number of females in the labour force, which trebled between 1972 and 1990, is expected to double between 1990 and 2020, when women will constitute 40 per cent of the total.

Employment changes Over the coming 25 years there will be falling numbers of jobs in sugar, only partly offset by more in other branches of agriculture, and rising numbers of jobs in the new international services. There will be falling numbers in unskilled and low-skill occupations, and rising numbers in highly skilled and professional occupations.

Quality labour The increase in the numbers in the labour force should provide about one fifth of the increase in output we are looking for ; the other four-fifths will need to come from higher productivity. So quality will be more important than numbers. There will be a need for greater use of new technology, for higher standards of management and for higher productivity from the workers. To compete in top quality of goods and services we shall need top quality technology, management and labour.

Skills, training and education The crucial requirement will be for improvement in skills, at all levels, to equip people for the more skill-demanding jobs of the future. Higher skills means better training. And better training must be based on better education. It will be essential, alike for human fulfilment and for economic development, to strengthen education : increasing the proportions of young people who get into secondary schools, who stay the full seven years, who go on to further and higher education ; increasing the proportions who take scientific and technical subjects, and ensuring basic computer literacy for all ; and transforming the atmosphere to provide more stimulus to original, enquiring minds.

Science and technology More important than working harder will be working smarter. Science and technology can provide the means for higher productivity, better quality, lower costs, higher sales, larger profits, higher pay and improved working conditions. Agricultural research has given Mauritian sugar its leading position and is the key to improved varieties, higher yields and better profits in the future. Automation will keep industry competitive. Informatics will improve business and social services. Clean industrial technologies will remove pollution at source. Alternative energy technologies will provide greenhouse gas-free electricity from domestic sources. A range of marine technologies will explore the depths of the ocean and harvest its resources. The full potential of science and technology will need to be harnessed through : improved general education, vocational education and training ; increased research and development work ; technology transfer from international partners ; and pump-priming measures to speed up diffusion of use.

Environmental risks Mauritius is a small island country with a finite land area, a high population density and a fragile ecological balance. We cannot afford to make mistakes. We shall need to make sure that all the developments envisaged up to 2020 take full account of their environmental impact, so that they are sustainable in the longer term.

Towns and transport The more crowded our towns become, the more important it will be to ensure that they are designed and operated to meet the needs of the people living in them. And the more crowded our roads become, the more important it will be to prevent unlimited use of cars bringing unlimited increases in congestion, accidents, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel import costs and urban disruption. Projections of anything from 3 to 7 times as many cars by 2020 threaten to bring not mobility but frustration We shall need instead to make it easier for people to get where they want to be by giving priority to better public transport services, including a mass transit system, and by bringing more jobs to nearer where people live.

Home grown Energy At present four-fifths of our primary energy is from petroleum and coal, which have to be imported and which produce greenhouse gases. With rapid economic growth to European levels, energy consumption could become much higher – consumption per head is 9 times as high in Germany and Japan and 16 times as high in Singapore. We have the potential to get far more of our energy from bagasse and from wind, wave and solar power and, eventually, from the ocean thermal power from our exclusive marine zone. We need to develop and use these clean, domestic sources of energy ; and reduce our needs through sensible conservation measures.

Prevention of pollution Air pollution can be checked by fitting catalytic converters to vehicles and using clean technologies or installing treatment plant in factories and power stations. Water pollution is potentially a more serious problem since, despite plentiful rainfall, Mauritius has moved from being a ’water abundant’ country to a ’water stress’ one, and contamination of groundwater supplies poses a deadly threat.

Pure water At present a lot of water is wasted though inefficient irrigation systems and through leaks in distribution systems – estimated to amount to as much as 50 per cent. Stopping the leaks and improving the irrigation system will make the present supplies go further and reduce the dependence on ground water sources. The danger of contamination by fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, or by industrial effluents, some of which can be highly toxic, make it urgent : to undertake a comprehensive survey of the extent of any existing contamination ; to discourage excessive or inappropriate use of agricultural chemicals ; and to monitor and enforce standards for discharges of effluents.

Waste management The sewer system also gives ground for concern. Although in 1990 only 20 per cent of households were connected to the sewer system, it was already proving inadequate to the domestic and industrial demands placed upon it, with only one of the four networks providing more than preliminary treatment, with overflowing due to channelling of floodwater into sewers, with leakage of up to 40 per cent, and with offshore outfalls too close to ensure proper dilution and dispersion of the discharges. With major further industrial development, and with a higher proportion of households connected to the sewer system, it will be necessary to contemplate a major upgrading of the sewer system to enable it to meet the much greater demands of the future.

Beauty and ecology Finally, it will be important to protect the heritage of wild plants and animals, the magnificent mountains and the beautiful coastline. The coastal zone is the most vulnerable point in the whole environment of the country, for the ecology of the lagoons is very fragile and could be damaged easily and irreversibly, by shortsighted development. It will be essential to monitor change and control use and, in particular, to place a firm limit on further hotel development – too many more rooms could destroy a unique national asset and, with it, the tourism industry.

Social cohesion Mauritius has acquired a world reputation for being a country which is at once both exceptionally diverse and outstandingly harmonious. This social cohesion is founded on a set of values and institutional arrangements which ensure that everyone is accepted and provided for and no-one is rejected or left out. There are a number of ways in which these may come under strain in the years ahead.

Value of welfare state Competition is getting fiercer in an increasingly global market system, and it is sometimes argued that, to compete effectively, it will be necessary to accept greater inequalities in income distribution and shed much of the burden of the welfare state. However, studies by the World Bank have concluded that there is no evidence that inequality is associated with faster growth ; and it can as well be argued that the welfare state in Mauritius, so far from being a ’burden’ impeding rapid economic growth in the past, has in fact been a major factor in the social cohesion which was the pre-condition for economic progress.

Pension problems There are, however, serious problems for the future of the welfare state from a different quarter – the ageing population. The increase in the number of older people will make difficulties for pensions. It will be necessary : either to raise the retirement age, on the ground that people are living longer, and staying fit and active and able to work for longer too ; or to reduce the level of pensions ; or to require higher contributions from those still at work ; or some combination of these.

Education and housing Demographic change will make some things more difficult, but other things easier. The smaller number of children should make it easier to improve education standards. And the slowing down of population increase should help clear the housing backlog.

Leisure and mass media Better education and higher incomes are likely to be associated with an increasing range of leisure activities – and the need for provision of additional recreational facilities. While active sports and other outdoor activities are likely to grow in popularity, virtual vision and multi-media supported by satellite and cable technology will greatly transform the nature and scope of our leisure activities.

Social harmony At the root of social harmony in the past have been traditional values of tolerance and mutual respect for other communities, cultures and religions, and equal rights for all regardless of these differences. This will be as important for social cohesion in the future as it has been in the past. Indeed, it will need to be extended to two additional fields : to differences in attitudes and behaviour between young and old, as some young people are attracted to new ideas from other cultures and countries ; and to changing roles for women and men, as more women enter the labour market and become more independent in their incomes and in their attitudes.

Political stability If social cohesion has been one pillar of past national success, the other has been political stability, founded on democratic institutions and honest and efficient public administration operating in a transparent and in a predictable manner. The maintenance of both of these is vital to everything we aspire to in 2020. The future is not something fixed and immutable. To a large extent it will be what we choose to make it : not as good as it might be if we choose not to bother about it ; significantly better than otherwise if we think ahead about what we want, and seek actively to bring it about. We can have a vision of the sort of Mauritius we would like to see in 2020. We can think through the requirements for bringing it about. And we can build up a national consensus in favour of doing what needs to be done. That way we can hope to turn the 2020 vision into reality.

Source : May 1997 © Ministry of Economic Development and Productivity

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5 comments

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