The 2024-25 Budget receives a rather mixed reception from economic observers. If some question the financing of the measures set out and express their apprehensions in relation to inflation, others, on the other hand, evoke the benefits of certain measures on various segments of the population.

In the wake of a recovery from COVID-19, Mauritius confirmed a sustained GDP growth rate at 7% in 2023, following an exceptional growth of 8.9% in 2022. The economy exceeded expectations with GDP reaching Rs. 651.7 billion in 2023, surpassing the initial estimate.

Total investment saw a significant increase, with growth of 30.9%, driven by an increase of 20.3% in private investment and 73.5% in public investment.

The business climate has improved, creating more confidence among foreign investors. This translates into foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows reaching a new record of Rs. 37 billion in 2023, surpassing the previous figure of Rs. 33.5 billion. Exports of goods and services jumped by Rs. 30.8 billion, while the unemployment rate fell to an unprecedented low of 6.1%. Inflation, which had exceeded 10% due to the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, is now on a downward trend to 7% for the 2023 financial year.

The government was expected to be at a turning point on how it would approach the recommendations in accordance with the IMF's advice on fiscal consolidation, by improving the management of its expenditure and boosting revenues. After experiencing increased spending during the pandemic and massive investments in infrastructure, economic growth and a recovering economy have led to a decline in public sector debt to 78% of GDP by the end of 2023. This trend is expected to continue. maintain if the economy continues on this trajectory.

The Minister mentions that growth must be inclusive. No business environment can be fully conducive to national development if growth is not shared and the morale of the population after years of hardship is not raised. The budget includes measures to strengthen the purchasing power of various income groups. This includes increasing the minimum wage, the CSG allowance and a substantial increase in basic retirement pensions.

Some of these measures could put pressure on businesses, particularly SMEs. The government should very quickly move forward with additional support plans to those already announced. The increase in minimum wages will also require an adjustment of salary scales for employees with higher incomes.

Furthermore, to meet the high expectations of Mauritian consumers, the government announced the maintenance and increase of subsidies on basic necessities such as bread, rice, flour and household gas. Global food insecurity is a pressing issue affecting nations around the world, and Mauritius is not far behind. With 80% of its food consumption dependent on imports, the country's vulnerability to global market fluctuations is a major concern.

The Mauritian government has recognized this vulnerability and has taken proactive measures to mitigate risks by prioritizing the improvement of local agricultural production. The strategic objective is to achieve self-sufficiency in essential vegetables, such as potatoes, which are a staple in the Mauritian diet, and to increase vegetable production while improving the efficiency of supply chain with better production, storage and retail.

The textile industry presents itself as a pillar of Mauritius' manufacturing sector, strengthened by strategic incentives. The implementation of the “Africa Warehousing Scheme” catalyzed a remarkable increase in exports, multiplying them tenfold to reach an impressive Rs. 475 million in less than three years. In recognition of its success, the horizon of the scheme has been extended to 2027 and its geographical scope now includes Kenya. This expansion is a testament to the sector’s robust trajectory and signals a future of sustained growth and prosperity.

One of the main drivers of Mauritius' economic recovery is tourism. The tourism sector is experiencing a remarkable resurgence. According to the United Nations, the island's tourism industry has returned to 94% of its pre-pandemic performance, surpassing the global recovery rate of 88%. In 2023, the sector saw a significant increase, with tourism revenues amounting to Rs. 86 billion, marking an increase of 36% compared to 2019. This recovery is supported by the anticipated arrival of 1.4 million tourists. The post-pandemic era has brought about a change in tourist behavior, with extended stays and increased spending, thereby propelling the industry towards an ambitious revenue target of Rs. 100 billion.

SMEs and cooperatives, vital for employment, will benefit from continued support, including financial assistance for Barcoding and a scheme covering 50% of digitization costs up to Rs. 100,000.

In 2024, Mauritius strengthened its role as a financial service, with GDP growth of 4.9%. The country attracts investors with tax advantages and “The Fund and Asset Manager Certificate will be reviewed to include at least 2 qualified officers”

As a gateway to Africa, Mauritius offers incentives for Payment Intermediary Services and introduces a 10-year permit for foreign experts, aiming to stabilize the financial sector and attract international talent in wealth management and virtual assets.

To promote stability in the financial sector, fees will be imposed for the appointment of executives, directors, auditors, actuaries, new controllers, beneficial owners, management companies and registered agents.

Environmental conservation is at the heart of this year's budget, with measures to encourage the transition to greener energy, to promote photovoltaic installations and low-emission vehicles. A 2% corporate climate responsibility tax on profits for companies with a turnover of more than Rs. 50 million will support these initiatives.

The 2024-2025 budget meets the needs of various economic sectors. It is a budget of continuity, building on the foundations laid in the post-pandemic era, guiding Mauritius towards a brighter and sustainable future.

Darsen Rungien: Director of Operations at JurisTax Ltd

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