Mauritius

Introduction Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in 1505; it was subsequently held by the Dutch, French, and British before independence was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather, declining sugar prices, and declining textile and apparel production, have slowed economic growth, leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.
History

The first record of Mauritius comes from Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century.[4] The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Three ships of the eight Dutch Second Fleet that were sent to the Spice Islands were blown off course during a cyclone and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands.[5] In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement. Because of tough climatic conditions including cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later. France, which already controlled the neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion) seized Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France (Isle of France). Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production. This economic transformation was initiated in part by governor François Mahé de Labourdonnais.

During their numerous military conflicts with Great Britain, the French harboured the outlawed "corsairs" (privateers or pirates) who frequently took British vessels as they sailed between India and Britain, laden with valuable trade goods. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, Napoleon's only naval victory over the British, the French lost to the British at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to the original Mauritius.

In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to create the British Indian Ocean Territory in order to use the strategic islands for defence purposes in co-operation with the United States. Although the Government of Mauritius agreed to the move at the time,[citation needed] subsequent administrations have laid claim to the islands stating that the divestment was illegal under international law, a claim recognised by the United Nations.[citation needed]

Mauritius attained independence in 1968 and the country became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.

Geography Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates: 20 17 S, 57 33 E
Map references: Political Map of the World
Area: total: 2,040 sq km
land: 2,030 sq km
water: 10 sq km
note: includes Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues
Area - comparative: almost 11 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 177 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)
Terrain: small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Piton 828 m
Natural resources: arable land, fish
Land use: arable land: 49.02%
permanent crops: 2.94%
other: 48.04% (2005)
Irrigated land: 220 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 2.2 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.61 cu km/yr (25%/14%/60%)
per capita: 488 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: cyclones (November to April); almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards
Environment - current issues: water pollution, degradation of coral reefs
Environment - international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: the main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs
Politics

Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy based on the United Kingdom model. The head of state of Mauritius is the President, who is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly, the unicameral Mauritian parliament. The National Assembly consists of 62 members elected directly by popular vote, with between four and eight further members appointed from "best losers" election candidates to represent ethnic minorities, if under represented after the elections. The government is headed by the prime minister and a council of ministers.

The Government is elected on a five-year basis. The most recent general elections took place on 3 July 2005 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues.

Historically, elections have always had a tendency to adhere to a system comprising two major coalitions of parties.

In international affairs, Mauritius is part of the Indian Ocean Commission, the Southern African Development Community and the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie (French speaking countries) amongst others. A more complete list can be found in the main Politics of Mauritius article.

In 2006, Mauritius asked to be an observing member of Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in order to become closer to those countries.

People Population: 1,274,189 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23% (male 148,573/female 143,859)
15-64 years: 70.1% (male 443,968/female 449,670)
65 years and over: 6.9% (male 35,269/female 52,850) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 31.5 years
male: 30.6 years
female: 32.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.8% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.64 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.55 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 12.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.75 years
male: 70.28 years
female: 77.4 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 700 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Mauritian(s)
adjective: Mauritian
Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%
Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4% (2000 census)
Languages: Creole 80.5%, Bhojpuri 12.1%, French 3.4%, English (official; spoken by less than 1% of the population), other 3.7%, unspecified 0.3% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 84.4%
male: 88.4%
female: 80.5% (2000 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Mauritius
conventional short form: Mauritius
local long form: Republic of Mauritius
local short form: Mauritius
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Port Louis
geographic coordinates: 20 09 S, 57 29 E
time difference: UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 9 districts and 3 dependencies*; Agalega Islands*, Black River, Cargados Carajos Shoals*, Flacq, Grand Port, Moka, Pamplemousses, Plaines Wilhems, Port Louis, Riviere du Rempart, Rodrigues*, Savanne
Independence: 12 March 1968 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 March (1968)
Constitution: 12 March 1968; amended 12 March 1992
Legal system: based on French civil law system with elements of English common law in certain areas; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Sir Anerood JUGNAUTH (since 7 October 2003); Vice President Abdool Raouf BUNDHUN (since 25 February 2002)
head of government: Prime Minister Navinchandra RAMGOOLAM (since 5 July 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly for five-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held 25 February 2002 (next to be held in May 2008); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president, responsible to the National Assembly
election results: Karl OFFMANN elected president and Raouf BUNDHUN elected vice president; percent of vote by the National Assembly - NA%; note - Karl OFFMANN stepped down on 30 September 2003
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (70 seats; 62 members elected by popular vote, 8 appointed by the election commission to give representation to various ethnic minorities; to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 3 July 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - AS 38, MSM/MMM 22, OPR 2; appointed seats - AS 4, MSM/MMM 2, OPR 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders: Alliance Sociale or AS [Navinchandra RAMGOOLAM] (governing coalition - includes MLD, MMSM, MR, MSD, PMXD); Mauritian Labor Party or MLP [Navinchandra RAMGOOLAM]; Mauritian Militant Movement or MMM [Paul BERENGER]; Mauritian Socialist Militant Movement or MMSM [Madan DOLLOO]; Militant Socialist Movement or MSM [Nando BODHA]; Mouvement Republicain or MR [Jayarama VALAYDEN]; Parti Mauricien Xavier Duval or PMXD [Xavier Luc DUVAL]; Rodrigues Movement or MR [Joseph (Nicholas) Von MALLY]; Rodrigues Peoples Organization or OPR [Serge CLAIR]
Political pressure groups and leaders: various labor unions
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AU, C, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, InOC, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Usha JEETAH
chancery: 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 441, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 244-1491, 1492
FAX: [1] (202) 966-0983
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Cesar CABRERA
embassy: 4th Floor, Rogers House, John Kennedy Street, Port Louis
mailing address: international mail: P. O. Box 544, Port Louis; US mail: American Embassy, Port Louis, US Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-2450
telephone: [230] 202-4400
FAX: [230] 208-9534
Flag description: four equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, yellow, and green
Culture

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Indian Cuisine, Creole, Chinese and European. It is common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal. The "cari poule" or chicken curry, for example, is a very popular dish[citation needed]. Other common Mauritian dishes include the "dholl puri" (a type of bread, made from lentils) the "mine-frit" (Chinese fried noodle), and "niouk nien" (dumplings). A common Mauritian drink is "alouda", a milk-based drink containing basil seeds.

The production of rum is common throughout the island. Sugarcane was first introduced on the island when the Dutch colonised it in 1638. Even then, the propensity of making rum out of sugarcane was strongly recognised. Sugarcane was mainly cultivated for the production of "arrack", a precursor to rum. Only much later, after almost 60 years, the first proper sugar was produced.[citation needed] However, it was during the French and English administration that sugar production was fully exploited, which considerably contributed to the economical development of the island.[citation needed] It was Pierre Charles François Harel who in 1850 initially proposed the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius. In part due to his efforts, Mauritius today houses three distilleries (Grays, Medine and St Aubin) and is in the process of opening an additional three.

The sega is a local folklore music. Sega has African roots, and main traditional instruments for producing the music are goat-skin percussion instruments called ravane and metallic clicks using metal triangles. The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and has been adapted nowadays as social satires to voice out inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments while women perform an accompanying dance. Shows are regularly hosted in the coastal hotels.

Mauritius was the only known habitat of the extinct Dodo bird.

In 1847, Mauritius became the fifth country in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of stamps issued then, known as the Mauritius "Post Office" stamps, consisting of a Red Penny and Blue Two Pence denomination, are probably the most famous and valuable stamps in the world.

When discovered, the island of Mauritius was home to a previously unknown species of bird, which the Portuguese named the dodo (simpleton), as they appeared not too bright. However, by 1681, all dodos had been killed by settlers or their domesticated animals. An alternate theory suggests that the imported wild boar destroyed the slow breeding dodo population. Nevertheless, the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms (see above).

Maiden 2006 Parade. Horse racing is one of the most popular sports on the island.

The island has also given rise to a diversified literature, prominent in French, English, Creole and Indian languages

Economy Economy - overview: Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period, annual growth has been in the order of 5% to 6%. This remarkable achievement has been reflected in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, and is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 15% of export earnings. The government's development strategy centers on creating vertical and horizontal clusters of development in these sectors. Mauritius has attracted more than 32,000 offshore entities, many aimed at commerce in India, South Africa, and China. Investment in the banking sector alone has reached over $1 billion. Mauritius, with its strong textile sector, has been well poised to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
GDP (purchasing power parity): $14.9 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $7.03 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.6% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $11,900 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 4.8%
industry: 25%
services: 70.1% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 552,700 (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture and fishing 9%, construction and industry 30%, transportation and communication 7%, trade, restaurants, hotels 22%, finance 6%, other services 25% (2007)
Unemployment rate: 8.8% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 8% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 39 (2006 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.8% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 23.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.34 billion
expenditures: $1.642 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2007 est.)
Public debt: 59.9% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses; cattle, goats; fish
Industries: food processing (largely sugar milling), textiles, clothing, mining, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, nonelectrical machinery, tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 4.7% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 2.35 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 90.8%
hydro: 9.2%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 2.068 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2006)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2006)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 23,650 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2006)
Oil - imports: 23,650 bbl/day (2006)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $-552 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $2.475 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses, fish
Exports - partners: UK 32.5%, France 15.1%, UAE 11.4%, US 8.3%, Madagascar 4.8% (2006)
Imports: $3.627 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals
Imports - partners: France 14.3%, India 13.6%, China 8.6%, South Africa 7.3% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $31.93 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.772 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $2.583 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $NA
Market value of publicly traded shares: $5.7 billion (2007)
Currency (code): Mauritian rupee (MUR)
Currency code: MUR
Exchange rates: Mauritian rupees per US dollar - 31.798 (2007), 31.656 (2006), 29.496 (2005), 27.499 (2004), 27.902 (2003)
Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 357,300 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 772,400 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: small system with good service
domestic: monopoly over fixed-line services terminated in 2005; fixed-line teledensity roughly 30 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular services launched in 1989 with teledensity in 2006 exceeding 60 per 100 persons
international: country code - 230; landing point for the SAFE submarine cable that provides links to Asia and South Africa where it connects to the SAT-3/WASC submarine cable that provides further links to parts of East Africa, and Europe; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean); new microwave link to Reunion; HF radiotelephone links to several countries
Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 9, shortwave 0 (2001)
Radios: 420,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 2 (plus several repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 258,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .mu
Internet hosts: 9,792 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 182,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 5 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 2
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 2,020 km
paved: 2,020 km (includes 75 km of expressways) (2005)
Merchant marine: total: 5 ships (1000 GRT or over) 19,417 GRT/19,700 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 2, passenger/cargo 2, refrigerated cargo 1
foreign-owned: 2 (India 2) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Port Louis
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; National Police Force, Special Mobile Force, National Coast Guard (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 313,271 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.3% (2006 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Mauritius claims the Chagos Archipelago (UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory), and its former inhabitants, who reside chiefly in Mauritius; claims French-administered Tromelin Island
Illicit drugs: consumer and transshipment point for heroin from South Asia; small amounts of cannabis produced and consumed locally; significant offshore financial industry creates potential for money laundering, but corruption levels are relatively low and the government appears generally to be committed to regulating its banking industry