The British High Commission of Mauritius hosted a high level conference on “The City of London: Your International Gateway” where the British High Commissioner, H.E. Jonathan Drew highlighted that this was the first ever visit to Mauritius of any Lord Mayor and that the UK showed just how important the financial sector can be to a country’s economy, now representing 11.5% of government tax receipts in the country. Mauritius was a ‘younger hub which has come a long way in a short time’ and was now the second most successful in Africa, after Johannesburg.
On 29 February, the British High Commission of Mauritius hosted a high level conference on “The City of London: Your International Gateway” in the presence of The Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman the Lord Mountevans,. Sudarshan Bhadain, Minister of Financial Services, Good Governance, Institutional Reform, Technology and Communication, and leading members of the financial, professional services and education and training sectors of Mauritius and the UK.
Opening the conference, the British High Commissioner, H.E. Jonathan Drew, highlighted that this was the first ever visit to Mauritius of any Lord Mayor and that the UK showed just how important the financial sector can be to a country’s economy, now representing 11.5% of government tax receipts in the country. The High Commissioner noted that there were now 251 foreign banks in London, and that 41% of global foreign exchange was now turned over in the City of London, which was a ‘buzzing, innovative and entrepreneurial hub’. The British High Commissioner noted that Mauritius was a ‘younger hub which has come a long way in a short time’ and was now the second most successful in Africa, after Johannesburg.
Minister Bhadain emphasised that the UK was one of the key trading partners of Mauritius, and that the UK ranks as one of the country’s top sources of FDI and tourism. Looking at the example of London, the Minister stressed that Mauritius would focus on ‘honesty, integrity and a clean, transparent platform of substance as the edifice of our IFC [International Financial Centre]’.
The Minister noted that the creation of his Ministry was intended to ‘link the concept of good governance to financial services’ and that they had decided to ‘come up with a new vision’ and to ‘sit down with operators and get our message across’. The Minister stressed that ‘tax treaties have served Mauritius well but we needed to look beyond that’, and outlined recent initiatives including the Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Act, captive insurance legislation, and the new commodities exchange and derivatives platform to be set up.
Referring to his recent visit to the UK, Minister Bhadain commented that he was seeking to bring global law firms to Mauritius, as ‘all expressed their interest to come, and they want us to make legislative changes which we will do in April’. The Minister also commented that he would bring in legislation on Limited Partnerships. The Minister said that he would be announcing further initiatives under the new Financial Services Promotion Agency at the official launch on 1 March.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London outlined his commitment to ‘helping our international partners with their own cherished ambitions’ and saw that FINTECH had great potential for both the UK and Mauritius, and was an area where the UK could bring its existing strength and expertise. The Lord Mayor explained that London now had 44,000 people working in FINTECH, and that it now represented £20 billion to the UK economy.
The Lord Mayor noted that the success of the financial services ‘online offer’ lagged far behind that of taxi cabs, such as Uber, and that it was often ‘difficult to spot the best ideas’. The Lord Mayor stressed the importance of setting up a ‘friendly environment which brings new ideas to fruition’ and saw that education, training and qualifications were the best way to achieve this, with UK providers ready to help Mauritius. He concluded that ‘your success is our success, and we can all share in the greater trade, employment and prosperity’.
The position of Mauritius as an International Financial Centre was a key topic in the conference debates. David Church, International Development Partner of DLA Piper, noted that Mauritius was able to offer benefits arising from the DTAA and IPPA agreements, which give a measure of risk protection, and saw that challenges for IFCs could include reputational risk and political change.
Richard Arlove, CEO of Abax Services, stressed that if Mauritius wanted to be an international centre of repute then it must not be an offshore centre, since this was linked to a perception of being a tax haven, which Mauritius was not. He stated that ‘behind the image, there needs to be substance’ and that ‘we need to walk the talk’. He suggested that the USPs of Mauritius should be defined in terms of its geographic position and position as a place for investment banking, while focusing on governance.
Offering his own view on the position of Mauritius as an IFC, the Lord Mayor agreed that ‘governance is critical’ and that ‘the bar in London is constantly being raised’. He stated that he had been ‘really impressed by the ambition and vision’ in Mauritius and saw that ‘the plan is very interesting, but it is not the work of a day or a year. Building your reputation and rolling it out will be critical’. He concluded that “Mauritius is well placed to truly join the IFCs’.
-By Samantha Seewoosurrun