BUDGET 2015-16 : The challenge will be to ensure the sustainability of the proposed measures

The Minister has stated that this is a “No Tax Budget” and truly we can say that this budget is rather generous. Any budget putting people and the planet before profi ts would look signifi cantly different and “safe” to the largely austere budget we have seen, or rather forced down out throat, in the last few years. The budget with a gender lens tells a different story.
The only measure which is directly concerned with women is the increase of provision for children and women in distress. This is the “what” of this part of the budget – nothing has been said about the “how”. How would the funds be used, what measures would be implemented and what is the feasibility and relative costing of these measures. We expect the relevant Ministries to implement measured solutions that would elevate the quality of life of women in Mauritius. The budget is glaringly silent on women-related issues and measures that would promote gender equality in our society. To give some credit to the budget, we can consider some of the measures that would indirectly impact the quality of life of women generally:
Health
Women-related health issues have seen a signifi cant increase in past few years, such as breast cancer and cervical cancer. Both curative and preventive measures are sorely lacking in our medical health services. Although, more targeted measures are required to deal with women-related issues, a generous budget is allocated to the health sector to, amongst others, set up a New Cancer Centre.
Housing & living conditions
More often than not, women are affected with the issues of housing. We applaud the plan to construct 1,000 low cost housing units for families whose monthly income is below Rs 10,000 and 700 housing unit for vulnerable families. In interest of protection women of our society, part of the housing scheme should be allocated for single mothers without support.
The concept of “parrainage” is innovative. Again, the quality of life of women is directly related to the “cité” and “poche de pauvreté”. This concept would hopefully accompany the development of these areas through sustainable and long-term investment instead of one-off projects with no ownership. This concept should have a “women focus” with projects that help women to overcome the vicious circle of poverty.
SME Scheme
The Minister has called the SME sector the backbone of our economy. To that end, the comprehensive “one stop shop” approach towards SME is favorable. But the budget is silent on how the government would give a push to women entrepreneur. The budget is silent on the “encadrement” that women need to become economically and fi nancially independent. This independence is the backbone of gender equality.
Nation Zougadere
The society was in great need of the austere measure against the rise of gambling. Studies have shown that women and children are often the most affected by a “gambler” society. Salaries that are wasted in gambling often lead to extreme distress at home where the women are given the task of managing the “kitchen” budget as well as the education budget of children. The increase in taxes and the outright ban on certain type of gambling is positive.
Overall, indeed, this budget is a “social” budget. It is not as “safe” as one might think considering the predicted raise in statutory debt to GDP. It is however a budget with a good line of right. The challenge will be to ensure the sustainability of the proposed measures.
The budget however is not a gender-responsive budget and that is a key lacking. We can hope that the indirect measure illustrated above would improve the quality of life of women. The economic, financial and social status of women is critical in taking a step closer to gender equality.