Mauritians will vote on Thursday in an election that will see Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth vie to win a popular mandate two years after he was handed the top job when his father stepped down.
Nearly a million voters are registered for the parliamentary election in Mauritius, a stable democracy in the Indian Ocean.
Jugnauth succeeded his father Anerood Jugnauth as Prime Minister without a popular vote when the older man stood down in 2017, two years ahead of schedule.
These polls mark the first opportunity for Mauritians to decide whether he should continue to rule.
The opposition unsuccessfully demanded fresh elections two years ago, saying Jugnauth senior anointing his 57-year-old son as leader amounted to little more than nepotism.
That is a rallying cry Navin Ramgoolam, a two-time former Prime Minister and main rival, has taken into the election, calling on voters to “free the country from the grip of the Jugnauth clan”.
“The Mauritian people will have the opportunity to block, once and for all, corruption, nepotism, the perversion of our institutions and the misappropriation of public funds,” said Ramgoolam, whose own father, Seewoosagur, served as prime minister for 14 years between the 1960s and 1980s.
Economic record –
Campaigning lasted for a furious two weeks, with Mauritius bedecked in the flags and colours of the warring parties.
For the first time in decades, three distinct political blocs will vie for power in the legislative elections. New alliances could be likely if none can clinch an absolute majority.
Jugnauth heads the centre-right Morisian Alliance, Ramgoolam leads the centre-left National Alliance and one of his former allies, Paul Berenger, is going out alone with his Mauritian Militant Movement.
Berenger, who briefly served as Prime Minister between 2003 to 2005, has also denounced dynastic “papa-piti” (from father to son) politics and accused Jugnauth of presiding over “scandals of all kinds”.
Jugnauth has weathered attacks over the nature of his appointment by highlighting his economic record.
The country’s economy grew by 3.8 per cent in 2018 thanks to its tourism and banking sectors.
The first stage of a new light rail network is scheduled to open in December.
Jugnauth has also introduced a minimum wage, about €215 euros a month, increased pensions for the elderly and reformed labour laws.
“I have done in two and a half years what the previous government, led by Navin Ramgoolam, did not do between 2005 and 2014,” said Jugnauth, who is also Finance Minister.
Challenges ahead –
Mauritius has developed from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations and financial services hub.
But it has increasingly come under fire for helping global companies avoid paying taxes and was until October on a European Union watch list.
General unemployment, while low compared to the rest of the continent, remains high among youth at 22 per cent, and inequality is seen to be rising. Pope Francis, who visited in September, urged the island against profit at all costs.
Mauritius is a melting pot of religions and ethnic backgrounds. The population of 1.3 million is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities.
Voters have to choose 62 MPs — 60 from the main island of Mauritius, and two from Rodrigues, a small island some 600 kilometres to the east.
The Electoral Commission then appoints eight other representatives from among those not elected, but who received a high number of votes, to rebalance the distribution of seats between parties and communities in the national assembly.
Masiyiwa to Bid for Ethiopian Telecoms License
Zimbabwean Billionaire and founder of Econet Global Ltd, Strive Masiyiwa has disclosed his position on acquiring a telecommunications license in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.
The Horn of African country has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp and to issue two new spectrum licenses.
Carriers including Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have already shown interest in the country of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and internet access.
Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia.
Econet has operations in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, with investments in Europe and South America.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalization of the industry for early this year.
However, it is yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.
Common Customs bond in East Africa will to reduce costs
Importers in East Africa will from July, operate under a common Customs bond, to guarantee uniform import duties and taxes across all partner states.
Currently, the value of Customs bonds varies from country to country because of the application of different duty rates, valuation and sensitivity of goods.
Kenya requires importers of transit goods to secure a Customs bond issued by an insurance company, while delicate or sensitive cargo requires a bank or cash guarantee. In Uganda and Rwanda, the Customs bond is issued by an insurance company with rates based on the taxes charged by the destination country.
According to the East Africa Community Single Custom Territory Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, the common Customs bond will reduce the cost of doing business and goods turnaround time.
This common Customs bond is expected to be adopted during the Council of Ministers in July as part of the pillar to create a Customs Union. It is meant to create a level playing field for the region’s producers by imposing uniform competition laws, Customs procedures and external tariffs on goods imported from countries outside the EAC.
To secure cargo movement in the region, revenue commissioners from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda in attendance, say they are already implementing cargo tracking systems and before the end of this year, there will be one data control centre to monitor and track cargo.
The new data control centre involves computerisation of all Customs systems and it will help in enhancing online tools, which include a regional dashboard, transport observatory system and a geographic information system.
A regional cargo tracking system is already operational on the Northern Corridor and has reduced cargo loss to close to zero in 2019.
According to the committee, the EAC secretariat in collaboration with Trade Mark East Africa and other partner states particularly the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) are looking into the possibility of interfacing the TRA Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTs) platform with existing ECTS systems along the central corridor.
Kenya Revenue Authority regional co-ordinator Southern Region Kenneth Ochola said they are setting up internal mechanisms in consultations with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to monitor compliance.
Carrefour faces Kenyan fines over unfair supplier deals
Kenya’s competition watchdog has fined Carrefour and ordered the French retail giant to review all its supply agreements within 60 days after the supermarket chain was found to be exploiting traders who supply it with goods.
The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) also ordered Carrefour through its franchise holder, Majid al Futtaim’s (MAF) to expunge six items from its supplier contracts that are said to give the store the power to offer ultra-competitive pricing to boost sales and increase market share.
The clauses include forcing suppliers to pay a non-refundable fee to do business with it and forcing merchants offering the retail chain goods to provide extra rebates or discounts.
Carrefour was found to be in breach of the law for forcing suppliers to post their own staff at its outlets at the expense of the suppliers. It was also accused of rejecting goods already delivered.
The retail giant has also been barred from delisting suppliers unilaterally without notice for failure to meet its stringent supply contract.
According to the CAK Director-General, Wang’ombe Kariuki, all current supply agreements of Majid Al Futtaim Limited relating to its Carrefour Hypermarkets in Kenya be amended forthwith and in any event within 60 days of service of this order to expunge all offending provisions.
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