DIASPORA: OUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU

Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo as Finance Minister has always had some regard for the expatriates.
When he was Finance Minister in the 1980s, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo introduced the External Account Scheme for expatriates offering them a higher rate of interest (of about 13%, I believe).
The difference between then and now, is that this time he is talking about the experience and expertise of Mauritians residing abroad rather than their money.  In both situations there is a bit to say.
As regards the External Account Scheme I know of a few Mauritians who did open such an account. What has become of the Scheme? Now that Lutchmeenaraidoo is back, would he revive the Scheme?
Mauritians from the UK have always been investing in Mauritius. In the 1980s and 1990s they were buying properties like mad in Mauritius to the point that when property value went up in the island they were held responsible for it.
There are Mauritians who are making millions in the UK. One chap earlier this century bought a whole bank in Mauritius (with its 14 island-wide branches) for 50 million rupees. What an investment! The primary area in Mauritius where UK Mauritians with dough are investing is in the holiday industry.  Many such expatriates have been buying seaside hotels in the country. One such fellow recently bought a string of 30 bungalows for several million rupees.
When Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo introduced the External Account scheme in the 80s I was editing the Mauritius News in London. Mauritius News had then a UK-wide circulation, and I thought that through the paper the External Account scheme could attract the attention a lot of compatriots in this country. When the Finance Minister was in London on mission, I met him at the Portman Hotel (off Oxford Street) where he was staying with his delegation.
I explained to the Minister the role that Mauritius News could play in the diffusing the External Account scheme among the Mauritian expatriates in the UK.  He was pleased with the idea and agreed to advertise the Scheme in Mauritius News. He asked the Mauritius High Commission driver, Gurudev Woochit, attending on him at the hotel, to call the Managing Director of the Mauritius State Bank of his delegation, staying at the hotel. Unfortunately, the Managing Director had gone out. The Finance Minister told me to call on him in Mauritius, as I was to be there a few weeks later.
So I did. A couple of weeks later, I did call on Finance Minister Lutchmeenaraidoo at his office at Government House in Port Louis. He could not get hold of the State Bank Managing Director on the phone. He asked me to go and see him. I made an appointment and went to see the Managing Director. I told him that I was sent by the Minister of Finance about advertising the External Account Scheme in Mauritius News. He asked me why? I told him the Scheme could attract depositors from the UK. He asked me why I thought so because he did not believe that the UK Mauritians could be interested in the Scheme. I told him that India depended so much on money from Indian expatriates.  The Director, Indian himself, said to me  “Do you compare Mauritians with Indians.” Realising that I had met with a stumbling block I gave up. I did not return to the Minister because I had seen how busy he was all the time. The Scheme meant for expatriates was never advertised in the UK, where our compatriots emigrated en masse in the 1960s.
Diaspora Appeal
In his 2015 Budget Speech, the reborn Finance Minister (reelected December 2014) has announced a few measures ‘to attract back to the country qualified and experienced professionals’. In the first instance, the Finance Minister seems to be targeting those on government scholarships who decide to stay away after their studies. If it is a good thing that they should leave room for compatriots in the country, the Government may feel cheated that the new graduates have been depriving the country of their contribution.
What can anybody do about this? No one can put a restriction on the movement of any individual in a free world. Although scholarship holders are compelled to subscribe to a bond guaranteeing their return home, many and their parents find it as easy as anything else to pay off the Bond.
In the second instance, the Minister may have in mind Mauritians who have expatriated themselves at their own expense, because he speaks of those with and without the Mauritian passport. The scheme will be applicable to “All Mauritians holding a Mauritian passport as well as their children, whether they have a Mauritian passport or not, are eligible to apply.”
Well, the first point about this question of Mauritian passport is that a passport does not necessarily establish citizenship. It is meant to confirm identity rather than nationality as a matter of fact. The press reported at one time that foreigners were found to be illegally in possession of Mauritian passports. Even UK-born descendants of Mauritian migrants had been issued with the passport without having obtained the Mauritian nationality in the first instance. This resulted in a Mauritius Government measure forbidding its overseas missions to issue passports. All passport applications are now dealt with by the Passport Office in Mauritius. Consideration must, however, be given to Mauritian nationals with a Mauritian birth certificate but without the Mauritian passport (like me).
As regards the question of children, it must be remembered that we are now two generations away from those who came to the UK in the sixties, and even the seventies. The scheme should now be talking about grandchildren rather than children.
I used to work for the UK Mauritius High Commission in the 1960s, and even then SSR’s favourite catchphrase when he met the young Mauritian migrants was: “what are you doing here… the country needs you.” I know a few who went home to be grossly disappointed for one reason or another.  Perhaps with a well-established scheme, things may work differently. On the other hand, mission accomplie overseas Mauritians may want to come home. Those of the older generation, now mostly retired folks, already have one foot here and one foot there.  They go home every winter, anyway.
Is the Board of Investment the right institution to deal with all the aspects of the return of the Diaspora? Lutchmeenaraidoo’s 1980s External Account Scheme was managed by the Ministry of Finance itself. It did last long.