Worldwide: Mauritius IFC Is the Bridge For India And China With Regards To Their Investment Into Africa

Last Updated: 8 September 2016

Mr P. K. Kuriachen, the Acting Chief Executive of the Financial Services Commission, Mauritius, spoke to MIFC Newsroom on how Mauritius is a well-regulated jurisdiction of choice with the potential to channel to investment into Africa.

What has been the role of the Financial Services Commission since its inception in 2001?

The Financial Services Commission is the integrated non- banking activities regulator in Mauritius. The commission regulates the capital markets, insurance sector, global business, pension funds and so on. We also regulate the global and pension funds in Mauritius.  From this perspective, we are always exploring new areas of development, for instance, with respect with the capital markets we have stock exchanges; for the equity markets, debentures, government securities and derivatives.  In 2008, we have broadened the investment regulations to develop fund various fund structures in Mauritius.  In the insurance sector we have recently enacted the captive insurance act which will provide new areas in the insurance industry and in 2012, the government enacted the Private Pension Scheme Act all in view to further enhance the financial services industry.  There is more than 20,000 GBL1 and GBL2 companies under our supervision. Our aim is to promote the development, fairness, efficiency and transparency of financial institutions and capital markets in Mauritius. 

The unveiling of the Mauritius IFC identity in March this year constitute a defining moment in the endeavour to promote Mauritius as a clean jurisdiction of substance and repute. How do you think this new identity can be an opportunity to increase the leverage of Mauritius IFC?

Mauritius has been highly reliant on tax treaties and back office operations especially for the global business sector. Considering the evolving business environment, the Mauritius Financial Services Sector is able to further develop and diversify its product base and broadening choice. Thus, Mauritius needs to prove through diversifying strategies and maintain its competitiveness vis-à-vis other International Financial Centres.  The substance element in conducting business has to be reinforced and the appropriate regulatory environment at par with international standards and good governance principles has to be sustained.
This new identity showcases the efforts of the Government in bringing a new dynamism to the financial services industry. It aimed at reinforcing Mauritius as a well-regulated and reputed jurisdiction with transparency, good governance, and international best practices.
The products and services being offered by Mauritius will be well marketed and investors properly informed.

Mauritius IFC is regarded as a preferred investment gateway for Africa. What distinguishes Mauritius IFC as a pathway to invest in Africa from other jurisdictions?

Mauritius is recognized as an IFC of substance and sound repute. Our jurisdiction has gained significant international recognition over the years. We have a proud record of adherence to international norms and standards.  As one of the most successful economy in Africa, Mauritius is the springboard for investment into the continent, and is rightly set as the facilitator for attracting funding required for African ventures since the country is familiar with the particularities of these countries. Our IFC can effectively prove to be the bridge for India and China with regards to their investment into Africa. 

Some of the advantages of using the Mauritius IFC:

  • Geography – Mauritius belongs and is part of Africa. The comparative advantages of time zone (being only 4 hours ahead of GMT), our political stability coupled with the availability of highly qualified legal, accounting and finance professional's bilingual in English and French, make us into a very attractive business hub to service not only Africa, but also the rest of the world. 
  • On the regional front, Mauritius is an active member of the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
  • Mauritius also has strong economic ties with Europe. The trade relations between the island and the European Union (EU) are strong, multi-layered and have grown over the years. The EU is also one of Mauritius's strategic partners. 
  • Moreover, Mauritius and Asia have traditionally enjoyed close cultural, business and bilateral ties. Mauritius has close cultural links with China and India.  We have established valued and trusted partnerships and signed a wide array of agreements to consolidate and enable cooperation in many sectors with both countries.  Over the last few decades, Mauritius has grown into an attractive, secure and competitive platform for cross-border investments between Africa and Asia. 
  • Mauritius provides valued added services as well as the stability, predictability and security which investors are looking for. Moreover, while the other jurisdiction to where the funds flow benefits from such foreign investments, Mauritius benefits from employment value creation, facilities used by the service providers - therefore economic development. 
  • Opportunities across the African continent are increasingly being tapped by global investors. The FSC Mauritius has an active participation in regional groupings, more closely with the SADC Committee of Insurance, Securities and Non-Bank Financial Authorities (CISNA). 
  • We also work with African countries through the Africa Middle East Regional Committee (AMERC) of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) regrouping securities regulators and supervisors.  

A lot have been said on the tax treaty between India and Mauritius. What is your assessment of the recent amendments made on the Mauritius-India tax treaty?

In the wake of changes happening on the international front regarding the OECD's and the G20's forthcoming measures relating to Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, and bearing in mind the implementation of the GAAR in April 2017, a major move from India to review its existing DTAA with other jurisdictions including Mauritius was to be expected. 

I believe that now that the treaty has been amended after ongoing years of negotiation, the time has come for a paradigm shift in the Global Business Sector. This provides a new opportunity for the jurisdiction. We must look beyond tax-driven considerations and given the competitive financial climate, Mauritius needs to diversify its product base so as to attract investors and foster business. The FSC Mauritius, as the regulator, is committed to provide the appropriate legal framework to promote a whole array of investment vehicles and financial services business to be available in and from our jurisdiction. 

One of the major challenge is the 'Tax-Haven' tag which is often being linked to Mauritius. What are the key solutions Mauritius IFC need to look at in order to respond adequately to these challenges?

From a regulatory perspective, the sound repute of the Mauritius jurisdiction lies in its commitment to transparency and fight against malpractices. To attract business and international investors in today's environment, and at the same time, maintain the sound reputation and credibility of the Mauritius jurisdiction IFC, the sector must be properly regulated in accordance with international norms. Hence, the FSC's adherence to principles set by international standard setting organisations like the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO) and the International Organisation of Pension Supervisors (IOPS) is crucial because our compliance to these norms is a clear benchmark to assess the degree of our regulatory development. The FSC Mauritius also works in collaboration with its international counterparts, other government agencies and industry partners to maintain the good repute of Mauritius as a safe jurisdiction and ensure the competitiveness of our jurisdiction. The FSC Mauritius will continue to focus its supervisory functions in response to international challenges to promote robust regulation of its licensees, safeguard public interest, foster investors' confidence and ensure more effective enforcement. Our aim is to ensure that our licensees are compliant with its legislative framework and are financially sound.

Finally, as an important institution of the Mauritius IFC, what synergies can be developed with the re-vamped parastatal organisation, the Financial Services Promotion Agency with the financial services industry in view to promote Mauritius as an International Financial Centre?  

I believe that all stakeholders in the sector have a clear objective on their respective roles and contribution to the development of financial services in Mauritius. A concerted approach amongst all stakeholders should be maintained.  For example, regular meetings could be arranged with industry representatives to reflect on new products that can be introduced in the Mauritian Financial Services Sector.  This can also act as a think tank in developing a sustainable financial industry for future generation. The FSC Mauritius, as the regulator has always adopted a collaborative approach with its stakeholders and the industry and its licensees to ensure a smooth and sound conduct of business operations in line our mandate. We reiterate our commitment to provide the appropriate regulatory environment to promote business sophistication and the diversification of products to maintain the competitiveness of the Mauritius IFC.         

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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