We Empower, led by founder and Chairperson, Georgina Ragaven, thinks that this Budget must focus on local industries, SMEs, the youth, and women. The members all agree that Mauritius should work more towards the self-sufficient movement.
• The Budget 2021–2022 will be presented by the Minister of Finance, Renganaden Padayachy, today. According to We Empower, what will be the challenges of the Government for the Budget 2021-22, knowing that Covid-19 is still a threat for the Mauritian economy?
We think that challenges are numerous and on different fronts. The first problem to tackle is to motivate investors to come to Mauritius. In fact, investors will be reluctant to invest in Mauritius as our economy is too dormant. There is no dynamism. Another challenge is the growing rate of unemployment. Covid-19 has increased loss of jobs in the tourism industry and all peripheral activities. Then there are other issues, like being backlisted offshore, inflation and poverty, etc.
• Do you think that this Budget must focus on the youth as they are the ones that will suffer most from Covid-19?
We do think that youth and the general population are too lowly educated to survive this digital economy compared to Asia and other nearby States. There is another issue, the eternal problem of brain drain. Those educated abroad are hardly coming back. We think that there is a need to create job wealth. In other words, to create a work/life balance program. In fact, we do think that there must be more projects to deal with the psychological stress that the population is going through due to Covid-19. We are experiencing a life without leisure. This Budget can bring leisure back and propose the options to create this ‘joie de vivre’ back in the society.
• We can guess that one of the main topics of the Budget 2021–2022 will be the SMEs as they are more and more suffering from the second lockdown and from the fact that the borders are closed since March 2020. Your views.
For SMEs, there shall be more proposals to help them recover. For example, reviewing and providing facilities for payment of trade licenses, grants to facilitate the development of these businesses. Why not providing grants for CEB/CWA/ Social Media access/telephone.
• Entrepreneur spirit is facing a hard time. More and more Mauritians are reluctant to create their own businesses. According to you, how can this Budget encourage Mauritians to start their own business?
There must be a full study on business ideas and start-ups that fit the present environment. This Budget must guide people towards fields /sectors to invest. We wish that there are more studies and projects on how to invest in blue economy. There should be more plans for agricultural projects. We must prepare the youth for the new changing environment. We think that this Covid-19 episode must encourage Mauritians to become more self-sufficient in all fields from clothing, food, services. For example, why import ketchup that are used in all fast-food outlets? This Budget should encourage the Mauritian industries and savoir-faire. Like encouraging local production of chili and tomato paste. Finally, there must be a relaunching of the textile industry.
• Often women are forgotten in the Budget. Your views.
It is a fact. Gender equality is still a myth in most sectors and the glass ceiling problem is still persistent. Unfortunately, there are laws and regulations still putting women totally backwards and this must be rectified. There is also another issue, women remain the most affected by unemployment and low wages compared to men.
• What measures can the Budget 2021-22 bring to improve the situation of women professionally in this time of Covid-19?
Back to meritocracy and fairness in the work environment. There must be solutions for married women with children, like flexitime and work from home ongoing. Women must also have the confidence to put themselves forward. When a tender is launched whether public or private, women entrepreneurs must also be given the support and opportunity to apply. Nothing will change unless women are given the same value, same opportunities, same recognition as men in all sectors of the economy.