On 4 June 2020 the Mauritius Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development tabled the National Budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 under the theme "Our New Normal: The Economy of Life". The measures announced in the National Budget have now been implemented in the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 which was published in the Government Gazette on 7 August 2020.
A highlight of the new measures in the Finance Act is set out below.
The Banking Act
The Banking Act has been amended to:
- introduce "digital banking business" as a type of banking business which is carried on exclusively through digital means or electronically;
- redefine "significant interest" to include the ability, directly or indirectly, alone or together with a related party or the power, to appoint 20 per cent or more of the members of the board of a financial institution.
The Bank of Mauritius Act has also been amended to introduce the concept of "digital currency" as the central bank digital currency issued by the Bank of Mauritius.
The Companies Act
The Companies Act 2001 has been amended with the result that henceforth the board of directors of a public company must at all times include at least 2 'independent directors' which has been defined as a director who is a non-executive director and who:
- is not an employee;
- does not have material business relationship with the company either directly or as a partner, shareholder, director or senior employee of an organisation that has such relationship with the company;
- does not receive remuneration from the company except remuneration or any other benefit given to him as a director in accordance with the Companies Act;
- is not a nominated director representing a 'substantial shareholder', as defined by the Companies Act;
- does not have close family ties with any of the advisers, directors or senior employees of the company;
- does not have cross directorships or significant link with other directors through involvement in other companies or other organisations; or
- has not served on the board of directors of the company for more than 9 continuous years from the date of his first election.
Economic Development Board Act
The Economic Development Board Act has been amended in order to introduce the following schemes:
The Smart and Innovative Mauritius Development Scheme, which concerns smart and innovative-driven projects in the fields of activity listed below:
- additive manufacturing;
- data economy;
- high tech farming and smart agriculture;
- life sciences and biotechnology;
- smart manufacturing and assembly of electric vehicles;
- virtual economy; and
- technical education and training programmes in any of the above fields.
Thus, any person who proposes to undertake a project under the Smart and Innovative Mauritius Development Scheme must apply to the Economic Development Board for a Smart and Innovative Mauritius Development certificate delivered under the above scheme.
The Business Obstacle Alert Mechanism, which is designed to perform the functions below:
- enable an enterprise to log in any bottlenecks in relation to delays in the determination of licences, permits, authorisations or other clearances;
- inquire about any issue and make recommendations to public sector agencies; and
- report and publish any remedial action(s) taken.
The National Pensions Act
The national pension system is being revamped through the introduction of a contributory, participative and collective system.
In this regard, the Contribution Sociale Généralisée is being introduced in our pension landscape by which every participant and every employer of a participant will pay the CSG to the Director-General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority at such rate as may be prescribed and in such manner, and at such times, as may be prescribed. It becomes payable monthly starting from September 2020.
The Workers' Rights Act
The Workers' Rights Act has been amended as follows:
- a special allowance becomes payable by the Director-General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority to a worker, as defined by the Workers' Rights Act;
- the monthly Transition Unemployment Benefit of MUR 5,100 now becomes due to in respect of the period starting 01 July 2020 and ending 31 December 2020;
- an employer is prohibited from (i) reducing its workforce (whether temporarily or permanently) or (ii) terminating the employment of any of his workers during such period as may be prescribed.
However, this prohibition does not extend to an employer specified in section 72A of the Workers' Rights Act or an employer who has applied for any of the financial assistance schemes set up by the Development Bank of Mauritius Ltd, Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd, and the State Investment Corporation Limited, for the purposes of providing financial support to an enterprise adversely affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and has not had their application approved.
PERMANENT RESIDENCE PERMITS & THE IMMIGRATION ACT
The criteria for granting Permanent Residence permits has been reviewed as follows:
(1) the candidate must reckon a minimum investment of the order of USD 375,000 in a qualifying business activity; or either:
(a) have held an occupation permit as investor for at least 3 years; or
(b) reckon a minimum annual gross income of MUR 15 million [± USD 40,000] or its aggregate for a period of 3 years preceding application.
(1) the candidate must have been the holder of an occupation permit as a professional for at least 3 years; and,
(2) the candidate's monthly basic salary must stand to the minimum of MUR 150,000 [±USD 4,100]for 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the application.
(1) the candidate must hold an occupation permit as self-employed; and
(2) the candidate must reckon an annual business income of at least MUR 3 million [±USD 8,200] for 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the application.
(1) the candidate must hold a residence permit as a retired non-citizen for at least 3 years; and
(2) the candidate must transfer such amounts, by instalments or otherwise, the aggregate of which shall be at least USD 54,000 or its equivalent in freely convertible foreign currency, during the above mentioned 3-year period.
In the same breath, the Immigration Act is amended in order to implement the following measures:
- decrease the threshold of the value of the immovable property for the grant of a Residence Permit from USD 500,000 to USD 375,000;
- add a "parent" to the list of dependent person(s) related to a person who holds a residence permit;
- a permanent residence permit issued under the Immigration Act will be valid for a period of 20 years as from the expiry date of a retired non-citizen's occupation or residence permit, instead of 10 years as it stood previously;
- extend the validity period of occupation permit for an investor or a self-employed non-citizen to a period of 10 years instead of 3 years; and
- a person who holds an occupation permit by reason of being a professional or a retired non-citizen may invest in any business subject to certain conditions.
The Registrar of Companies must now provide notice through the Government Gazette and by any electronic means in order that she proceeds to restore a company which has been removed from her register of companies.
The measures announced in the National Budget 2020-2021 which have been given legislative effect are of particular importance for this financial year as Mauritius strives to weather the formidable economic, cultural and environmental challenges which lie ahead as we endeavor as a nation to emerge from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and define our 'new normal'.
Vaishali Damonaiko, pupil to Sharmilla Bhima, helped with the preparation of this article.
Originally published 11 August 2020
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