Jul 12, 2017 - Mauritius is tackling the root causes of poverty and exclusion by working with poor communities and others left behind to better access basic services such as health and education, social protection measures, and empowerment initiatives for women and youth.
In an innovative approach to social protection in Africa, Mauritians living in absolute poverty – defined nationally as US$ 4.30 per person per day - will now receive cash transfers, and be accompanied by social workers as they tackle life challenges such as education of children, skills training, job search or placement, setting up or improving a small business, social housing, child care, remedial courses, disabilities care, drug addiction treatment, among others.
This is a result of the Social Integration and Empowerment Bill, enacted as part of the country’s Marshall Plan Against Poverty, an ambitious reform plan specifically designed to address persistent pockets of poverty and social exclusion in the high-income country.
While the Plan refers to the official number of poor in the country as 33,600 households or 122,700 individuals, the Government is initially focusing on the absolute poor, about 10,000 households or 37,000 people. It has also committed approximately US$ 63 million, or 2.2 billion rupees for the next three years to implement the Marshall Plan that constitutes 39 actionable and costed proposals.
Among the proposals adopted is the School Completion Premium that encourages youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete secondary education by providing a cash award once they reach 18 years of age. The first 206 students have been selected for the scheme, including from Rodrigues Island, where the drop-out and poverty rates tend to be highest.
“With its emphasis on social inclusion of traditionally disadvantaged populations, the Marshall Plan follows the “leaving no one behind” principle and contributes to the country’s Vision 2030, a policy vehicle for translating the global Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 into action in Mauritius,” said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Mauritius, Simon Springett.
The Plan recognizes the multiple aspects of poverty and inequality and how they can interplay, including income security, access to quality services, opportunities in the labour market, voice and participation, community development, to name a few.
It proposes a community-based approach to service delivery, based on the premise that addressing the social and economic issues facing vulnerable groups will result in their social, political and economic empowerment and integration.
A UNDP interdisciplinary team of experts supported the Mauritius government to develop the Plan. They undertook in-depth analysis, investigated the causes of poverty in the country, and made recommendations for action.
During the 2016 UN General Assembly, the then Prime Minister of Mauritius, Hon. Anerood Jugnauth, highlighted groundwork for the Marshall Plan.
“In Mauritius, we have chosen to focus our first attention on the eradication of extreme forms of poverty. My Government has already undertaken, with the support of the UNDP, to establish a social register of those living in dismal conditions and who require targeted measures and assistance,” Prime Minister Jugnauth said.
Full realization of the Marshall Plan requires a complex interplay of actors and actions. Government budget allocation for the Plan, and recent efforts to strengthen public institutions and mobilize public support are a critical foundation for this ambitious reform aimed at leaving no one behind.