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Mauritius At Crossroads After Boon Under Lome Conventions

Panafrican News Agency (Dakar), 25 April 2001

Port Louis, Mauritius - Deputy Prime minister Paul Berenger said Mauritius has prospered for more than three decades mainly through trade preferences it enjoyed under the successive Lome Conventions amidst severe swings in the world economy.

"Its successor, the Cotonou agreement, has given a clear signal that these trade preferences are not permanent," he however warned Tuesday night at a meeting in Port Louis with private business leaders and trade union representatives.

Highlighting the main areas of concern to the government, Berenger pointed out that Mauritius has very little time for preparation to navigate skilfully in the emerging New World economy environment where unbridled competition is to determine the fate of many countries.

He also spoke on the woes affecting the Mauritian economy - the impact of a weak Euro on the export processing zone sector, the teething problems of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and the phasing out of the Multi-fibre agreement in 2004.

"To add to our woes, the countdown for the sugar sector has started with the recent decision of the European union to allow the partial importation of Least Developed Countries sugar free of duty," Berenger complained.

He suggested that the ability of Mauritius to overcome these challenges would depend on how fast it is able to re-engineer its institutions and policies to strengthen capacity at all levels.

He added: "Also how fast we identify and open up new areas of opportunities and how fast we can remove certain rigidities in our labour market and provide our labour force with the skills required to achieve productivity gains."

"It is not a bleak picture but a stark reality," Berenger emphasised.