What the common man expects from Budget 2014
Three fourths of the households surveyed by Africa Money under its Budget Expectations Survey declared that corruption was the single biggest problem facing the economy today. (Image: transparency.org)
The government of Mauritius must sit up and take note before the rot of corruption eats further into the economic framework. Three fourths of the households surveyed by Africa Money under its Budget Expectations Survey declared that corruption was the single biggest problem facing the economy today.
An overwhelming 95% of homemakers and retired individuals surveyed gave the government a poor scorecard on corruption, showing that the evil is widespread and needs to be tackled on an urgent basis. However, professionals and businessmen took a more charitable view of the government’s performance, with around 60% naming corruption as the biggest issue plaguing Mauritius, while lack of infrastructure and delayed economic projects were the other problems pinpointed with the island economy.
Also, more than 60% of those surveyed felt that the departure of the financial secretary, Ali Mansoor, on the eve of the budget had no impact on the presentation of the actual financial document, reiterating the fact that the budget exercise is a team effort and not a one-man show. Even of the 40% who felt he was a significant figure in the financial arena and that his departure was a negative sign indeed, a mere fourth (or 10% of the total respondents surveyed) felt that the budget exercise should have been delayed to account for his departure and reshuffle the budget.
Of the sectors with the maximum potential to power the economy, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector emerged as the people’s choice, with 40% of the respondents surveyed giving a thumbs-up to this emerging arena of the economy. Tourism emerged as the second sector of focus, with 33% of respondents opting for the hospitality sector as an area with massive growth thrust. Global business services was voted in as the other sector of choice, with around 25% of respondents favoring Mauritius as a hub for international investments.
Further, of all measures of Budget 2013 that members of the public would like the current budget to build on, supporting growth and creating employment emerged as the clear favorite with more than 40% of the respondents surveyed opting for the same. Embracing technology and reinforcing the Africa strategy was the next measure which around 30% of the respondents opted for, as an important block to build the economy upon.
On the tax front, a majority of respondents felt that the MTPA’s proposal to increase the individual tax exemption threshold across the board by Rs 10,000 was a fair measure and that they would not want the threshold to be higher or lower. However, more than half who wanted the threshold to be higher felt that greater consideration should be given to those who have retired or have multiple dependents.
Also regarding exemption for education, around 60% of the respondents agreed with the MTPA’s request for additional exemption for dependent children pursuing undergraduate courses for Rs 100,000 in 2014 in place of Rs 80,000; and, for overseas courses, additional exemption of Rs 150,000 for 2014, instead of Rs 125,000. However, a significant 40% felt that education is a crucial sector and must be prioritized for greater exemptions and, especially in case of those pursuing courses overseas, the respondents felt that the threshold must be higher, with proposed increases ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000.
Further, on the home loan exemption threshold, more than 70% of the respondents agreed with the MTPA’s request that interest relief on secured housing loans should be availed over 7 years in place of the current ceiling of 5 years.
From a doing business perspective, around 40% of businessmen and professionals surveyed felt that lack of skilled resources was the biggest bottleneck faced by organizations. The second most frequently faced constraint was lack of fresh investments into Mauritius, with over a third of the respondents feeling that the flow of foreign money into the island nation is drying up against the backdrop of the slower-than-expected economic recovery in Europe and the unresolved tax treaty between India and the island nation.
Finally, more than 75% of those surveyed felt that the economy and environment should grow side by side, giving a thumbs up to the concept of sustainable development outlined in the Mauritius Ile Durable program.
A total of 57 households were surveyed under our Budget Expectations survey which comprised people from all walks of life – homemakers, professionals, businessmen and retired individuals. The respondents straddled all age groups, with the youngest being 21 to the oldest being 82 years of age. More than two thirds of those who chose to respond to the survey were men while the average household size of respondents was three.
- From the editor’s desk, with inputs from Gunadevi Chengalaram, Marie Anne Julie Quenette, Marie-Lorry Coret, Mohammad Moobeen Joomun and Tooshalsing Ramdhony.