Mauritius: Country and Foreign Investment
Mauritius is well located between India, Africa and Asia
Mauritius has been an independent member of the Commonwealth since 1968, and became a republic in 1992. The mostly volcanic island has a population of just over 1.3 million (July 2013 est.), with around 150,000 living in the capital, Port Louis. The climate is sub-tropical; average daily temperature ranges from 17 to 30 Celsius; it can be wet. The time zone is 4 hours ahead of GMT.
The official language is English; the dominant ethnic group is Indo-Mauritian and the most popular religion Hindu. The Government is presidential, with a single elected National Assembly and a Council of Ministers headed by a Prime Minister. The legal system reflects mixed French and British ancestry, and administration can be bureaucratic in the French style.
Tourism has become a major contributor to the economy. The airport has good connections with a wide range of countries. GDP per head of USD15,800 (2012 est.) is in a middle range while growth was estimated at 3.3% in 2012 (3.8% in 2011 est.); and unemployment at 8.1% (2011 est.) is on the high side.
. . . and its economic future is dependent on exports.
Mauritius has quite good land so that sugar became and remains the dominant crop; it still accounts for one third of exports. Apart from encouraging tourism, the Government has tried hard to create a manufacturing sector with a range of investment incentives, free trade zones and a freeport, although these are being phased out as part tax reforms aimed at simplifying the system for all users. Garment manufacture has been a particular success. More recently, a financial services sector has developed, including a stock exchange, to take advantage of Mauritius' location offshore India and Africa. The Government is enthusiastic about e-commerce and has built a 'Cyber City'.
The offshore sector is plotting a middle course . . . .
Until 1998, the Offshore Company and the International Company (equivalent to an IBC) allowed zero taxation across a range of offshore activities including banking, shipping, insurance and fund management, as well as in the free trade zones. Since a raft of new legislation in 2001 these two types of company are known as Global Business Companies Categories 1 and 2 (GBC1 and GBC2). Mauritius has decided to be a 'respectable' IOFC and there is now a flat tax rate of 15% in almost all areas. Some dilution of the foreign tax credit applied from 2003. However, Mauritius has signed tax treaties with more than 40 countries, and they can be combined with the offshore regime to give a good result, especially for trade and investment in India. Mauritius was one of six offshore jurisdictions which wrote 'commitment letters' to the OECD in May 2000 in order to avoid being included on the OECD's list of jurisdictions offering 'unfair' tax competition. In 2009, Mauritius committed to the OECD's new tax standard (12 TIEAs).
As is the domestic sector. . . .
The domestic and offshore sectors have traditionally been quite firmly separated, although recent legislation, particularly in the banking sector, has begun to remove the distinction between 'onshore' and 'offshore.' Export-oriented domestic manufacturers and service providers get favoured treatment. Until the introduction of the 15% 'flat tax' domestic income tax, rates were moderately high, and property transactions are expensive in tax terms.