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|THE MAURITIUS COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Mauritius within the continent of Africa
Map of Mauritius
Flag Description of Mauritius:The Mauritius flag was officially adopted on January 9, 1968.
Designed by the College of Arms in Britain, red is symbolic of the country's independence, yellow the bright future, green the fertile land of the island, and blue the Indian Ocean.
Official name Republic of Mauritius
Form of government republic with one legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state President: Rajkeswur Purryag
Head of government Prime Minister: Sir Anerood Jugnauth
Capital Port Louis
Official language English2
Official religion none
Monetary unit Mauritian rupee (Mau Re; plural Mau Rs)
Population (2013 est.) 1,248,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 788
Total area (sq km) 2,040
- Urban: (2011) 40.4%
- Rural: (2011) 59.6%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2011) 69.7 years
- Female: (2011) 76.9 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2009) 90.6%
- Female: (2009) 85.3%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 9,300
1Includes 7 appointed members.
2French is not official but may be used to address the speaker of the National Assembly.
Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signals intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.
Geography of Mauritius
Mauritius lies about 500 miles (800 km) east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Its outlying territories are Rodrigues Island, situated about 340 miles (550 km) eastward, the Cargados Carajos Shoals, 250 miles (400 km) northeastward, and the Agalega Islands, 580 miles (930 km) northward from the main island. Mauritius also claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago (including Diego Garcia), some 1,250 miles (2,000 km) to the northeast, although this claim is disputed by Britain.
Relief and drainage The island of Mauritius is volcanic in origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. The northern part is a plain that rises to a central plateau, varying in elevation from about 900 to 2,400 feet (270 to 730 metres) above sea level. The plateau is bordered by small mountains that may have formed the rim of an ancient volcano; the highest point (2,717 feet [828 metres]) is Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire in the southwest. The two major rivers, the Grand River South East and the Black River, are the primary sources of hydroelectric power. Lake Vacoas, one of the main reservoirs, is the chief source of water.
Soils and climate More than half of the country’s area is arable, and it is almost entirely planted in sugarcane, the major export crop. Vegetables and tea for local consumption are also grown.
The climate is maritime subtropical, with fairly uniform temperature throughout the year. Mean temperatures vary from the mid-70s F (low to mid-20s C) at sea level to the upper 60s F (upper 10s C) on the high plateau. Two seasons are recognized: hot (December to April) and cool (June to September). Annual rainfall varies from around 35 inches (900 mm) on the west coast to 60 inches (1,525 mm) on the southeast coast and about 200 inches (5,080 mm) on the central plateau.
Plant and animal life The vegetation includes some 600 indigenous species, even though little original forest is left. The fauna includes the samber (a long-tailed, dark brown deer), tenrec (a spiny insectivore), and mongoose, as well as a variety of birds and insects. The island was once home to the dodo, a flightless bird that was extinct by 1681. Efforts began in the late 20th century to save several other species of endemic birds that were close to extinction.
Demography of Mauritius
- Ethnic groups, languages, and religion
Approximately two-thirds of the population is of Indo-Pakistani origin, most of whom are descendants of indentured labourers brought to work in the sugar industry during the 19th and early 20th centuries. About one-fourth of the population is Creole (of mixed French and African descent), and there are small numbers of people of Chinese and Franco-Mauritian descent.
Although English is the official language, it is spoken by a very small percentage of the population. Creole, a French-based patois, is spoken by about four-fifths of the population and is the lingua franca of the country. Bhojpuri, an Indo-Aryan language, is spoken by one-tenth of the population, and French is spoken by a small percentage. Other languages spoken on the island include Hindi, Chinese, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Mauritians commonly speak two, three, or even more languages, and the educational system supports a wide range of language instruction.
Religious affiliation varies: about half of the population is Hindu, about one-third Christian (the majority of which are Roman Catholic), and—with the exception of a small group of Buddhists—the rest are Muslims.
- Settlement patterns
The population density in Mauritius is the highest of African countries and is among the highest in the world. Overpopulation became a serious problem after the eradication of falciparum malaria by the early 1950s led to a sharp increase in population. Driven by government policy, supported by all the Mauritian religious communities, and assisted by the rapid pace of economic growth, the rate of natural increase dropped rapidly in the last decades of the 20th century, and it is now below the world average. Emigration, primarily to Britain and France, also helped slow the annual growth rate.
The birth rate remains well below the world average, while the death rate is similar to the world average. Life expectancy—about 70 years for men and more than 75 years for women—is higher than the world average and is well above the average for African countries. About half of the country’s population is younger than age 30.
Economy of Mauritius
Mauritius has a mixed developing economy based on manufactured exports, agriculture, tourism, and financial services. Government efforts to diversify the economy after 1980 have been successful, and the island is no longer as completely dependent on sugar production as it was throughout most of its history. The gross domestic product, among the highest of African countries, grew more rapidly than the population in the 1990s and 2000s.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Although the significance of the agricultural sector has diminished with efforts to diversify the economy, it is still important. Sugar production, generating about one-sixth of export earnings, occupies about four-fifths of the total arable land. Tea and tobacco are also cash crops. Subsistence crops include potatoes, tomatoes, and bananas. The livestock population primarily consists of poultry, sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle.
Forests make up about one-fifth of the total land area of Mauritius. Rapid deforestation occurred during the colonial era, and non-native species were introduced to repopulate the forestland, including the slash pine (Pinus elliottii), which is predominant, Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), and Moreton Bay pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). Eucalyptus trees and trees that belong to the beefwood (Casuarina) family are also present. Roundwood is the primary forest product, of which some two-fifths is used for fuel; sawn wood is also produced. Mauritius is unique among countries in the region in that it consumes more wood products than it produces and must import the difference.
Technical assistance from Japan and India is regenerating the fishing industry, which has grown in importance. Mauritius’s waters contain many species of fish with commercial value, including tuna, snapper, and grouper. Aquaculture is practiced with such species as channel bass and sea bream.
- Resources, power, and manufacturing
Mauritius has few viable mineral resources. Basalt and lime are mined. Electricity is largely generated from imported petroleum, with a small percentage derived from hydropower. Sugar plantations often use bagasse—the fibre that remains from sugarcane after sugar-bearing juice is extracted—as fuel to produce electricity.
There has been a steady increase in manufacturing since the 1970s. The Mauritius Export Processing Zone, which concentrates on labour-intensive processing of imported raw materials or semifinished goods for the export market, has successfully attracted foreign investment. Economically important manufactures include textiles, food processing, metal and metal products, and chemical products.
- Finance and trade
Mauritius is home to many financial institutions, including a development bank, offshore banking facilities, and several commercial banks. The Bank of Mauritius is the central bank and issues the country’s currency, the Mauritian rupee. The country’s stock exchange is located in Port Louis.
Imports, largely of machinery and transport equipment, petroleum, and foodstuffs, outweigh exports of clothing and textiles, sugar, and fish and fish products. Much of Mauritius’s exports go to the European Union market; important trading partners include the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and China.
- Services, labour, and taxation
Significant growth in tourism since the 1970s has made it a major earner of foreign exchange. Information and communication technology is becoming increasing important. In 2001 the government created the Information and Communication Technologies Authority to promote and oversee the burgeoning sector.
More than two-fifths of the labour force is employed in the areas of finance and services. Construction and manufacturing employ about one-third of the labour force, and about one-tenth is employed in the agricultural sector.
Taxation is an important source of funding in Mauritius, accounting for about nine-tenths of the government’s revenue. About half of the total tax revenue is derived from taxes on goods and services. Trade taxes account for about one-fifth; corporate income tax, about one-eighth.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Mauritius has a strong transportation infrastructure. The road system is well developed and in good repair, and almost all roadways are paved. Most of the country’s shipping activity is conducted through port facilities at Port Louis, which has been cultivated as a free port to encourage its development as an international shipping hub. An international airport is located at Plaisance, and there are other airports located throughout the country. Air Mauritius, the national carrier, flies many international routes. The island does not have any rail service.
The country’s telecommunications sector is well developed and among the best in the region. There has been rapid progress in this area owing to the country’s growing information and communication technology industry. About three-fourths of the population has mobile phone service, and one-fourth has internet service.
Government and Society of Mauritius
Mauritius became independent on March 12, 1968. Under the constitution adopted that year, the country was a constitutional monarchy with the British monarch as head of state. In 1991 a constitutional amendment was passed providing for a republican form of government, with a president as head of state; the amendment went into effect in 1992. Legislative power is vested in a National Assembly, elected every five years and consisting of 62 elected members and up to an additional 8 members drawn from the pool of candidates who were not elected but who may be appointed to broaden representation among minorities or underrepresented parties. Executive power is exercised by a Council of Ministers headed by a prime minister (appointed by the president), who assembles a government from members of the National Assembly. The president and vice president are elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years.
Local government and justice
For administrative purposes, the island of Mauritius is divided into districts. The outlying territories of Agalega, Cargados Carajos Shoals, and Rodrigues Island each have dependency status.
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority and includes courts of civil appeal and criminal appeal. There are also district courts
Political process and security
The constitution provides for universal suffrage for citizens 18 years and older. The political process in Mauritius is open to participation by minorities and women. Minority representation is enhanced by the policy of appointing additional members to the National Assembly to achieve ethnic balance. Although women have held legislative seats and cabinet positions, their numbers have been few.
There are many political parties, but three large parties dominate Mauritian politics: the Mauritius Labour Party (MLP; Parti Travailliste [PTr]), the Mauritian Militant Movement (Mouvement Militant Mauricien; MMM), and the Militant Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialiste Militant; MSM). The MLP and the MSM generally compete for the dominant Hindu vote, although they both have supporters in all communities. The MMM has its base in the minorities—the Creoles, Muslims, and non-Hindi-speaking Indian communities (especially the Tamils and Telugus)—although it too has prominent Hindu supporters. Coalitions among parties are frequent.
Mauritius does not maintain an active military force, although it does have a small paramilitary force that includes a coast guard unit. Despite some unrest, the country has, on the whole, seen political success: Since independence, Mauritius, unlike most African former colonies, has sustained an open, free, democratic, and highly competitive political system. Elections have been held on a regular basis with the losing parties giving way to the winners. Its limited military structure has meant that it has been spared the difficulty of military coups.
Health, welfare, and housing
Since independence Mauritius has developed a substantial social welfare system that provides free basic health services to the entire population. Care is provided through a network of hospitals, dispensaries, family-planning facilities, and social welfare centres. Old age pensions, family allowances, and other measures for social protection are also provided. Overcrowding is prevalent in urban areas, and the government provides loans to local authorities for urban housing schemes.
Education is compulsory between ages 5 and 16. Six years of primary education begins at age 5, which is followed by up to seven years of secondary education. Primary and secondary education are free. The University of Mauritius (1965) has faculties of agriculture, engineering, law and management, science, and social studies and humanities. Other institutions of higher education include the University of Technology, Mauritius (2000). Some students attend universities in India, France, and the United Kingdom. More than four-fifths of the population is literate.
Culture Life of Mauritius
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. 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. 'Alouda' (a milk-based drink with basil seeds) has become a typical Mauritian drink, and the 'dholl puri' can be considered a favorite with all communities.
- Rum trade
The historical evolution of the rum industry in Mauritius is no less enriching than that of the Caribbean or that of South America.
Sugarcane was first introduced on the island when the Dutch colonized it in 1638. Even then, the propensity of making rum out of sugarcane was strongly recognized. Sugarcane was mainly cultivated for the production of “arrack,” a precursor to rum. Only much later, almost 60 years after, was the first proper sugar produced. However, it was during the French and English administration that sugar production was fully exploited. This highly contributed to the economic development of the island. It was Pierre Charles François Harel who initially proposed the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius, in 1850. In part due to his efforts, Mauritius today houses three distilleries and is opening another three.
The sega is the local folklore music. Sega has African roots, and the music is produced using goat-skin percussion instruments called ravane and metallic clicks using metal triangles. The song usually describes the miseries of slavery and has been adapted nowadays as social satires to voice inequalities felt by the blacks. The rhythm, however, remains very festive and while the men are at the instruments, the Creole women gyrate in large fluid and revealing skirts with bright colors. Shows are regularly hosted in the coastal hotels.
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. An alternate theory suggests that the imported wild boar destroyed the slow-breeding dodo population. Nevertheless, the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms (see image above).
Horse racing (April-December) is one of the most popular sports on the island and the electrifying ambiance at Port Louis (Champ de Mars), notably for the Maiden Cup (listed race), is unique in world racing.
The island has also given rise to a diversified literature, prominent in French, English, Creole, and Hindi languages.
History of Mauritius
Mauritius was probably visited by Arabs and Malays in the Middle Ages. Portuguese sailors visited it in the 16th cent. The island was occupied by the Dutch from 1598 to 1710 and named after Prince Maurice of Nassau. The French settled the island in 1722 and called it Île de France. It became an important way station on the route to India. The French introduced the cultivation of sugarcane and imported large numbers of African slaves to work the plantations. The British captured the island in 1810 and restored the Dutch name. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, indentured laborers were brought from India; their descendants constitute a majority of the population today.
Politics on Mauritius was long the preserve of the French and the creoles, but the extension of the franchise under the 1947 constitution gave the Indians political power. Indian leaders in the 1950s and 60s favored independence, while the French and creoles wanted continuing association with Britain, fearing domination by the Hindu Indian majority. In 1965, Britain separated the strategic Chagos Archipelago (see British Indian Ocean Territory) from Mauritius, but Mauritius continues to claim the islands and has sought their return. The 1967 election gave a majority in the assembly to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam's proindependence Labor party. Independence was granted in 1968, and Ramgoolam became the first prime minister. Mauritius joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.
The 1960s saw the rise of left-wing militancy, while in the 1970s and 80s political coalitions formed along ethnic and class lines. The economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 80s, after Cyclone Claudette and a drop in world sugar prices, intensified internal disputes.
In 1982 the left-wing Mauritius Militant Movement (MMM) came to power, and Anerood Jugnauth became prime minister. The following year a split in the MMM led Jugnauth to form the Mauritius Socialist Movement (MSM). Jugnauth headed a series of coalition governments. In 1992, Mauritius became a republic, with Cassam Uteem as its first president. In 1995, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the former prime minister, and a Labor-led coalition came to power after defeating Jugnauth in a landslide, but in Sept., 2000, Jugnauth and an MSM-MMM coalition returned to power in a similar landslide.
President Uteem resigned in 2002; Karl Offmann was elected by the national assembly to succeed him. In Sept., 2003, Jugnauth resigned and his MMM coalition partner, Paul Bérenger, became prime minister. Bérenger became the first person not of Indian descent to hold the post. The following month Offman was succeeded as president by Jugnauth. In the July, 2005, national assembly elections, Ramgoolam's Labor-led Social Alliance won a majority of the seats, and he became prime minister; he and his coalition were returned to power in the May, 2010, elections. Jugnauth resigned in Mar., 2012, to return to active party politics; Rajkeswar Purryag was elected to succeed him in July.
Mauritius Area: 2,040 sq km (788 sq mi) Population (2009 est.): 1,276,000 Capital: Port Louis Chief of state: President Sir Anerood Jugnauth Head of government: Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam ...>>>Read On<<<
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