Amigo -- a friend in need

In an unprecedented move in the Southern African Development Community region the government of Mauritius has mobilised fellow SADC members to join forces in a drive to eradicate poverty.

In 2005 at the Bill Clinton Global Initiative Meeting the prime minister of Mauritius, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, put forward a proposal to host an international conference on poverty and development (ICPD). The proposal was repeated at the 60th session of the UN General Assembly. The 2006 SADC summit in Lesotho endorsed the proposal.

In April 2008 the government of Mauritius hosted the conference, the first of its kind in the region, that united civil society, business, donors and governments under one roof to focus on overcoming poverty.

The ministry of finance and economic development in Mauritius played a leading role in organising the conference.

It was the first SADC summit in which representatives of all stakeholders in development participated on an equal footing.

Civil society was not only given the opportunity to participate in the conference and consultative meetings, but was given a voice.

In his address at the conference the deputy prime minister and minister of finance and economic development, Dr Rama Sithanen, announced that Mauritius, through the finance ministry and its partners, had set itself the goal of eradicating extreme poverty in the next 10 years, thus achieving Millennium Development Goal 1.

The highlight of the ministry’s 2008 budget speech was the announcement of the comprehensive Amigo plan for Mauritius.

Amigo—a Spanish and Portuguese word for friend—stands for building an attractive, modern, inclusive, green and open Mauritius.

It states that a modern Mauritius will have first-rate infrastructure and facilities. An inclusive Mauritius will be attained through food security, for which a five-pronged strategy will be implemented.

The strategy aims to produce food locally, partnering with countries such as Mozambique for food production and markets, and support agriculture and related activities.

The programme aims to create an inclusive Mauritius by means of a national e-Inclusion foundation through a joint public and private partnership and cheaper telecommunications.

An inclusive Mauritius will fast-track the programme to eradicate extreme poverty, focusing on the island’s 229 pockets of extreme poverty.

The programme aims to provide housing, enable poor children to attend pre-primary and primary school and give them access to food and clothes. It will create opportunities for poor parents to be trained so that they can get employment.

At the same time a green Mauritius will see a shift from imported fossil fuel towards local renewable resources of energy, the creation of an Energy Observatory, grants for solar water heaters, replacing sodium vapour lamps with energy-efficient lamps and efforts to protect the environment.

An open Mauritius will establish more facilities for business and small enterprises and will include an economic system where workers’ rights are fully protected.

An open Mauritius will see massive investment in human resources and infrastructure in higher and tertiary education. A human resource development fund will be created to finance student loans and scholarships.

An open Mauritius will put structures in place to promote maximum use of information and communication technology.

One of the resolutions of the ICPD was the establishment of a regional poverty observatory to monitor poverty eradication.

The decentralised cooperation programme in Mauritius, funded by the European Union and under the aegis of the ministry of finance and economic development, has commissioned a study on the establishment of a poverty observatory.

The observatory will monitor and evaluate infrastructure to enable Mauritius to develop adequate capacity for effective implementation of local poverty eradication programmes.

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