1. I move that the Appropriation 2018-2019 Bill No.VII of 2018be read a second time.
2. Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour to present the fourth national budget in this Government’s mandate.
3. 2018 is a special year in our history.It marks the golden jubilee celebrations of our country. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our achievements as a nation.
4. Five decades that are testimony to ourcountrymen and womenwho have fought together against all odds to enable sustained economic development and prosperity for our Republic.
5. Today, we follow in the footsteps of those great men and women who have showed us that the path to achieving success is hard work, constant dialogue between Government, private sector and civil society, but most importantly a shared vision of unity and harmonious living.
6. These fundamental values have not changed but the times have.
Pursuing our Transformative Journey
7. That is why two years ago, we ushered in a New Era of Development. Indeed, Madam Speaker, Budget 2018-19 is about pursuing that transformative journey.
8. A journey on which our achievements shall not only be measured by the amount of wealth and jobs we create but it shall also be about inclusiveness and sustainability.
9. A journey that is mapped out in a spirit of unity – “LAME DAN LAME”.
10. The “virtuous economic cycles” that I pledged in my 2016-17 Budget are now firmly anchored in our growth path.
11. Both Moody’s and the IMF have praised our economic performance as being strong and resilient.
12. Our GDP is expected to grow by 4.1 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 compared to 3.9 percent in 2017-18.
13. Unemployment has been falling consistently. It was 7.3 percent in 2016 and fell to 7.1 percent in 2017 and is expected to further decline to 6.9 percent in 2018.
14. Inflation rate, estimated at 4.3 percent for fiscal year 2017-18, is forecasted to fall to around 3.5 percent in 2018-19.
15. Private investment as a percentage of GDP went up from 12.8 percent in 2016 to 13.2 percent in 2017, whilst Foreign Direct Investment in 2017 rose to Rs 17.5 billion, from
Rs 13.6 billion in the previous year.
16. As of May 2018, the foreign currency reserves were at their highest recorded level. Our reserves have in fact increased from Rs 124.3 billion in December 2014 to Rs 222 billion representing some 10.7 months of import cover. This speaks about the strength of our financial position as a country.
17. The firm upswing in business and consumer confidence reflects these positive trends.
18. On the social front, with the introduction of the Negative Income Tax in the last budget and the Minimum Wage this year, we have no doubt created new dynamics and increased the purchasing power of those at the lower end of the economic ladder.
19. The 2017 Household Budget Survey of Statistics Mauritius shows a significant reduction in relative poverty whilst income inequality has also decreased.
20. Madam Speaker, this Government is clearly delivering on its commitment.
21. Going forward, we will further build on this robust momentum to position Mauritius as a dynamic economy for the future.
The Seven Pathways on Our Transformative Journey to a High Income Country
22. Indeed, Madam Speaker, we are charting seven main pathways and creating new poles of economic growth as we pursue our Transformative Journey to attain the status of an Inclusive High-Income country based on innovation and sustainable value-creation.
23. First, we will focus on our youth and their future. We will develop a comprehensive approach to equip them with the right set of skills and values to integrate the labour market of now and tomorrow.
24. Second, we will be even more driven by innovation. We will create new opportunities for private investment and job creation by accelerating the country’s move to an age of digitisation through Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain technologies and Fintech.
25. Third, we will foster a new wave of import substitution industry and revive export-led production.
26. Fourth, we will build the strategic and modern infrastructure that is essential for an economy aiming to achieve high-income status.
27. Fifth, to secure sustainable development, we will make significant investment to protect and enhance our environment.
28. Sixth, we will work towards lifting the standard and quality of life of the population by investing in health, sports, education, and most importantly, ensuring that all families have a decent dwelling.
29. Seventh, this Government will continue to fully uphold its public responsibility to create an inclusive and caring society. Accordingly, we will further consolidate our welfare system, enhance the role and participation of women and strengthen support to the elderly.
30. And this will be done by ensuring strong and stable macroeconomic fundamentals and sound public finances.