Mauritius is a little paradise island that flourishes in its diverse culture and tradition. A closer look reveals a complex history of this archipelago — once colonized by the Dutch, French and finally, the British. Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 and has since transformed itself from a low-income economy mostly dependent on agriculture and fishing to an economy thriving on industrial, financial and tourism growth.
Indeed, a success story.
What is commendable is that the country has achieved this in spite of many roadblocks like remoteness from the world market, racial inequality and high population growth. Of note, between 1977 and 2008, the Mauritius economy averaged a 4.6 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, thanks to sound and pragmatic development strategies adopted by the government.
Less than 1 percent of its population lives on $1 a day or less — which means that extreme poverty is almost non-existent. At the same time, the percentage of people living in relative poverty (set at half the median monthly household income per adult equivalent) stood at 9.4 percent in 2012.
- The island of Rodrigues, a part of the Republic, has 40 percent of its population living below the poverty level. This is because the island does not form part of the tourist attraction nor does it produce any resources to add to exports.
- As the focus of economic development has shifted to export, industries and tourism, the rural households that depend on agriculture as their source of income have become more vulnerable to poverty. Environmental deterioration is one of the biggest cause of low yields of agriculture.
- Women in rural areas are especially prone to poverty as they often have low levels education and have not acquired professional skills. Families that depend on these women for their financial needs are at a higher risk.
- Modernization and industrialization boosted the economy but also led to greater income inequality. This has resulted in high indebtedness in poor households.
- Most important among the causes of poverty in Mauritius is the “triple trade shock” that the country experienced in 2005, referring to losses in trade preferences for textiles and sugar and rising energy prices. The government has brought in many reforms to overcome this crisis. But it is still an ongoing process.
The government has also undertaken the ambitious reform plan known as The Marshall Plan Against Poverty to address the above causes of poverty in Mauritius. Its first goal is to reach the 10,000 households living in absolute poverty. The focus is on social inclusion through education, adhering to the principle of “no one left behind.”
Here are the policy measures adopted to alleviate poverty:
- Housing support
- Community development projects
- Child welfare programs
- Family empowerment
- Training for employment
The government’s commitment to these bold reforms, along with global partnerships could signal that the “Mauritius Miracle” is here to stay.
– Tripti Sinha