Mauritius

Republic of Mauritius
Flag of Mauritius
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Stella Clavisque Maris Indici"  (Latin)
"Star and Key of the Indian Ocean"
Anthem: Motherland
Location of Mauritius
Capital Port Louis
Largest city Port Louis
Official language English
Government Republic
 - President Anerood Jugnauth
 - Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 - Date March 12 1968 
 - Republic March 12 1992 
Area
 - Total 2,040 km² (179th)
787 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 0.05
Population
 - July 2005 estimate 1,145,000 (153rd)
 - Density 603/km² (17th)
1,564/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 - Total $17.08 billion (115th)
 - Per capita $13,703 (51st)
HDI  (2004) 0.800 (high) (63rd)
Currency Mauritian rupee (MUR)
Time zone MUT (UTC+4)
 - Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+4)
Internet TLD .mu
Calling code +230

Mauritius (pronounced: IPA: [məˈɹɪʃəs]; French: Maurice /mɔʀis/; Mauritian Creole: Moris), officially the Republic of Mauritius (French: République de Maurice), is an island nation off the coast of Africa in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 900 kilometers (560 mi) east of Madagascar and about 3,943 kilometers (2,450 mi) southwest of India. In addition to the island of Mauritius, the republic includes the islands of St. Brandon, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands, with the French island of Réunion 200 kilometers (125 mi) to the southwest. The flag of Mauritius has red, blue, yellow and green stripes. The red stripe represents the struggle for independence. The blue stripe represents the ocean around the island. The yellow stripe represents the sun and golden light of independence. The green stripe represents fruitful soil and vegetation.

Contents

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History

Some historians believe that the Phoenicians visited Mauritius as early as 2000 BC[citation needed]. While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century[citation needed] and Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1505, the island remained uninhabited. The Dutch Second Fleet to the Spice Islands visited the island in 1598 and named it in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands.[1] In 1638 the Dutch established the first settlement. Because of climate changes, cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later. The French controlled the island during the 18th century and named it Ile de France (Isle of France). Despite winning the famous Battle of Grand-Port, Napoleon's only naval win over the British, the French were defeated by the British in the north of the island, at Cap Malheureux (Cape of the Unlucky Ones) three months later, and thus lost possession to the British in 1810. The latter reverted the island to its former name.

In 1965, the United Kingdom split out 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].

A postcard of Mauritius, Port Louis: Theatre, c.1900-1910
A postcard of Mauritius, Port Louis: Theatre, c.1900-1910

Independence was attained in 1968, with the country becoming a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record[2], and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa's highest per capita incomes[3].

Mauritius aims to become the business hub of the Indian Ocean. New business opportunities in banking and the technology sector are being actively sought.

Through the celebration of the Bicentenary of the Battle of Grand Port in 2010, Mauritius is aiming at rebuilding its maritime heritage and reclaiming its title of the Star & the Key of the Indian Ocean.

Mauritius is the only place the dodo bird ever existed.


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Politics

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 4 and 8 further members appointed from "best losers" election candidates to represent ethnic minorities, depending on the results of the election. The government is headed by the prime minister and a council of ministers.

The most recent general elections took place on the 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. Other parties are present but these can be considered insignificant. The system of two major coalitions has been once again epitomised in 2005 with the MSM/MMM/PMSD coalition being voted out of office and the PTR-led Alliance Sociale voted in; which includes the PMXD, Les Verts, MR, MSD and MMSM parties.

The Alliance Sociale coalition won 38 seats and is now in power with PTr leader Navinchandra Ramgoolam as Prime Minister. The MSM/MMM/PMSD coalition won 22 seats has now formed the opposition with Mr Nando Bodha as head of the opposition. The 2 remaining seats for Rodrigues were won by OPR candidates. According to the Constitution, an additional eight seats were allocated to "best losers" to guarantee equitable representation of all ethnic groups. This brought the total representation to 42 Alliance Sociale, 24 MSM/MMM/PMSD, and 4 OPR.

In international affairs, Mauritius is part of the Indian Ocean Commission, the Southern African Development Community and the Commonwealth Of Nations 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 Commonwealth of the Portuguese Speaking Countries in order to become closer to those countries[citation needed].

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Administrative divisions

Districts of Mauritius

The island of Mauritius itself is divided into nine districts:

  1. Black River
  2. Flacq
  3. Grand Port
  4. Moka
  5. Pamplemousses
  6. Plaines Wilhems
  7. Port Louis
  8. Rivière du Rempart
  9. Savanne

Dependencies of Mauritius:

Satellite map of Mauritius
Satellite map of Mauritius

Note: Mauritius also claims the following islands:
In French possession:

In British possession:

Other Mauritian territories:

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Geography

Map of Mauritius
Map of Mauritius

Together with Réunion and Rodrigues, Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands. This archipelago was formed in a series of undersea volcanic eruptions, as the African plate drifted over the Réunion hotspot. Mauritius and Rodrigues were formed 8-10 million years ago. They are no longer volcanically active, and the hotspot now rests under Réunion. The island of Mauritius itself is formed around a central plateau, with its highest peak in the southwest, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 metres (2,717 ft). Around the plateau, the original crater can still be distinguished from several mountains.

The local climate is tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; there is a warm, dry winter from May to November and a hot, wet, and humid summer from November to May. Cyclones affect the country during November-April.

The island's capital and largest city is Port Louis, in the northwest. Other important towns are Curepipe, Vacoas, Phoenix, Quatre Bornes, Rose-Hill and Beau-Bassin.

The island is well known for its exceptional natural beauty; "You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius", as Mark Twain noted in Following the Equator.

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Economy

Port Louis, capital of Mauritius
Port Louis, capital of Mauritius
Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, north of Port Louis
Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, north of Port Louis

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 of the order of 5% to 6%. This has been reflected in increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality and a much improved infrastructure.

Estimated at $16.28 billion for 2005, Mauritius has the 2nd highest GDP per capita in Africa. It is only exceeded by Equatorial Guinea, which derives most of its revenue from oil exports. Mauritius has a mature economy with a great deal of wealth distribution among its citizens[citation needed]. The economy is mainly dependent on sugarcane plantations, tourism, textiles, and services, but other sectors are rapidly developing as well.

Sugar cane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 25% of export earnings. However, a record-setting drought severely damaged the sugar crop in 1999. The government's development strategy centres on foreign investment. Mauritius has attracted more than 9,000 offshore entities; many aimed at commerce in India and South Africa while investment in the banking sector alone has reached over $1 billion. Economic performance during the period from 2000 through 2004 combined strong economic growth with unemployment at 7.6% in December 2004. France is the country's biggest trading partner, and has close ties with the country. They also provide technical assistance in various forms.

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Financial services

Mauritius provides an environment for banks, insurance and reinsurance companies, captive insurance managers, trading companies, ship owners or managers, fund managers and professionals to conduct their international business. The economic success achieved in the 1980s engendered the rapid growth of the financial services sector in Mauritius. The following types of offshore activities can be conducted in Mauritius:

On 4 April 2005 during his budget speech[4], Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development announced that Mauritius will become a duty-free island and that will take about four years. Duty has been decreased (and for many products completely eliminated) for more than 1850 products including clothing, food, jewelry, photographic equipment, audio visual equipment and lighting equipment.

The main motivations are (1) Attract more tourists going to Singapore and Dubai, and, (2) Give all Mauritians easier access to quality products at affordable prices.

A plan by ADB Networks calls for Mauritius to become the first nation to have coast-to-coast wireless internet access. The wireless hot spot currently covers about 60% of the island and is accessible by about 70% of its population. By the end of 2006, antennas should provide access to 90% of the island.

Its biggest trading partners are France and the UK.

Mauritius ranks first in respect of FDI inflows to India amongst all the countries with cumulative inflows amounting to US $ 10.98 billion. Top sectors attracting FDI inflows from Mauritius (from January 2000 to December, 2005) are electrical equipment, telecommunications, fuels, cement & gypsum products and services sector (financial & non-financial)[5].

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Demographics

A beach from Mauritius
A beach from Mauritius

Mauritian society is highly multicultural. Island residents are the descendants of people from the Indian subcontinent, continental Africa, Madagascar, France, England, China plus a few other places. The official language of Mauritius is English. French dominates the media and business, radio and television, despite France having lost its colonial dominion over the island nearly 200 years ago. The French-derived Mauritian Creole, with influences from the other dialects, is widely spoken (80%) on the island and is considered the lingua franca of the country. French and French creole is used in everyday life. Several other languages, including Arabic, Portuguese, Indian languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati or dialects of Chinese like Cantonese, Hakka and Mandarin are also spoken.

The latter South Asian languages are spoken by descendants of the labourers brought from British India during the British rule. The Indo-Mauritians (when the ethnic groups are combined) form approximately 70% of the total population, while the rest of the population is of either African, French, Chinese, or mixed descent. There are approximately 30,000 Mauritians of Chinese descent, from Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese language groups. More than 90% of the Sino-Mauritian community adhere to the Roman Catholic faith.

Of all religiously affiliated Mauritians, Hindus constitute 52%, while the remainder is composed mostly of Christians (28%, mostly catholics) and Muslims (16.6%). Buddhists (2.5%), Sikhs (0.3%) and other religions are also followed[6].

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Culture

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

The mixed colonial past of Mauritius is reflected in its culture. For instance, the cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Indian Cuisine, Creole, Chinese and European. It is not uncommon 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 and eaten by all sections of the Mauritian community. Mauritian Cuisine is a great leveller and brings together all sections of the community, irrespective of religion. The "mine-frit" (Chinese fried noodles) and "niouk nien" (dumplings) are loved by all and readily bought by the Mauritian community either in restaurants or on the sidewalks of main streets. Moreover, since the food stalls by the streets are mainly owned by the Muslim and Indo-Mauritian communities, 'Alouda' (a milky drink with basil seeds) has become a typical Mauritian drink and the 'dholl puri' can be considered the favourite of all communities.

In 1847, Mauritius became the fifth country in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of stamps issued then, known as the Red Penny and the Blue Penny are probably the most famous stamps in the world, being very rare and therefore also very expensive.

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. Nevertheless, the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms (see above).

Mauritius has from time to time also been chosen as setting for films, most of which are Bollywood productions originating from India. The latest Hindi film to feature Mauritius has been Garam Masala (2005).

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Literature

The island has also given rise to an important literature, which is more and more prominent in French, English, Creole and Hindi languages. Names like Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Baudelaire or Toulet, in the past, were closely linked to exotic themes. Other writers like Malcolm de Chazal, a visionary and prolific writer, who sent aesthetic shocks to French Surrealism or Loys Masson, specially acclaimed as a Resistance poet in France[citation needed], made of Mauritius a land where Nature and History have their own inner messages to be shared beyond the coral barriers of Mauritius. Nowadays, writers like Abhimanyu Unnuth thrive in Hindi, Dev Virahsawmy in Creole theatre, while Lindsey Collen has been able to carve out a meeting of imaginaries in the unique political and social setup of this original multi-facetted country. Other younger writers like Ananda Devi, Shenaz Patel, Amal Sewtohul, Natacha Appanah, Alain Gordon-Gentil and Carl de Souza have been constantly exploring the problems of ethnicity, superstition and politics in the novel. Khal Torabully, who has written on Coolitude, a poetics blending the Indian mosaic with the treasures of cultural diversity present on the island, sends potent messages in relation to identity thematics, specially to postcolonial and poststructuralist studies. The recent inscription of the Aapravasi Ghat on the World Heritage list brings scope to his vision of developing an intense dialogue between the coolie route and the slave route in his coral-identity (identité corallienne) paradigm. Other poets include Hassam Wachill, Edouard Maunick, Sedley Assone, Yusuf Kadel and Umar Timol.

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International rankings

Organisation Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal 2006 Index of Economic Freedom 77 out of 157
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (2005) 34 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 42 out of 163
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2006 63 out of 177
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Images of Mauritius

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See also

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Miscellaneous topics

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Notes and references

  1. Mutch, T. D. (1942). The First Discovery of Australia. Sydney: Mutch, Project Gutenberg of Australia, 55., p13
  2. Human Rights Committee Takes Up Report of Mauritius: Experts Praise Creation of National Human Rights Commission but Raise Concerns Regarding Anti-Terrorism Law, 18 March 2005 - retrieved 8 January 2007
  3. CIA World Factbook: Mauritius Introduction
  4. http://mof.gov.mu/budget/20052006/speech.htm
  5. http://www.indlawnews.com/EC1844380C5E7E269C1E2116696BA40E
  6. http://www.gesource.ac.uk/worldguide/html/956_people.html
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Further reading

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External links

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