Mauritius - Politics, government, and taxation

Mauritius earned its independence from Britain in 1968, which had controlled the islands since 1810, and the Mauritians have continued to follow the British model of government. Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model, with elections being held once every 5 years. There is a 66-seat National Assembly, 62 of whose members are elected by direct popular vote, while 4 are appointed to represent minority interest. The National Assembly elects the president, who in turn selects the prime minister.

Although Mauritius is in general a peaceful society, its politics are somewhat capricious. In spite of the small size of the country, there are a fair number of political parties. Most governments over the past twenty years have been coalitions, comprising 2 or more political parties. The major political parties are the Militant Movement of Mauritius (MMM), the Mauritian Social Democrat Party (PMSD), the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP), and the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM). Voting is based to a certain extent along ethnic lines. Although there are few significant differences among the major parties, the MMM tends to be more socialist in outlook and is favored especially by the Creoles, while the MLP's support-base is mainly Indian.

The elections in September 2000 resulted in a victory for an alliance of Anerood Jugnauth's Militant Socialist Movement and Paul Bérenger's Militant Movement of Mauritius. The alliance ousted Navin Ramgoolam's Mauritian Labor Party, which had gained power in 1995. Jugnauth, in power from 1982-1995, presided over the country's transformation from dependence on sugar to a modern, diversified economy. The MSM/MMM alliance has promised to tackle corruption and mismanagement of public finances (said to be the downfall of the Labor Party), but otherwise will continue with broadly similar policies to those implemented. The voter participation rate in the 2000 elections was high, with over 80 percent of registered voters turning up at the polls.

Taxation in Mauritius is relatively low, with tax revenue comprising only 17.7 percent of GDP in 1998. The highest income tax rate for individuals is 25 percent (recently reduced from 30 percent), while the corporate rate is 15 percent for manufacturing companies. Special tax incentives are available to certain kinds of companies, notably those classified as "offshore businesses" and those locating in the Export Processing Zone.

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