April 30, 2010 / 2:44 PM / in 9 years

FACTBOX-Mauritius votes in closely contested poll on May 5

April 30 (Reuters) - Mauritius will hold parliamentary elections on May 5 with the ruling Labour Party tipped to win a close contest on the Indian Ocean Island.

Here are some key facts about the leading political figures and the economy:

POLITICAL PLAYERS

* Navinchandra Ramgoolam, 62, is prime minister and leader of the ruling Labour Party. He first held the office from 1995-2000 and then again from 2005. He has formed an alliance with the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) which he defeated in the last ballot in 2005. He is son of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who led the island to independence from Britain in 1968.

* Paul Berenger, of French descent, leads the main opposition party, the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and is the only non-Hindu politician to have served as prime minister from 2003-2005 after he formed a coalition with the MSM. That coalition was defeated by Ramgoolam in 2005.

* Pravind Jugnauth is the son of the incumbent President and former Prime Minister Aneerood Jugnauth and is a former deputy prime minister and one time finance minister. He trained in law in Britain before entering his father’s Militant Socialist Party which he became leader of in 2003.

ECONOMY

* Mauritius’ almost $10 billion economy is forecast to grow at 4.6 percent in 2010 from 3.1 percent last year. Analysts say a timely $340 million stimulus package closely coordinated with an aggressive easing of monetary policy helped the island weather the global economic slump better than expected.

* Once based on sugar and textiles, the economy has diversified into tourism, offshore banking, ICT and business outsourcing. It markets itself as a bridge between Africa and Asia and has cut red tape and simplified taxes to entice foreign investors.

* Mauritius’ annual average inflation eased to 1.9 percent in March from 2.1 percent in February, and a peak of 9.9 percent in Novermber 2008 after soaring oil and food prices globally drove the rate up.

* Government debt as a ratio of GDP (gross domestic product) is seen at 50.4 percent at end Dec. 2010 against an estimated 50.5 percent a year earlier, according to the 2010 budget. For the same periods, public sector debt will be 58.7 and 59.6 percent respectively.

* Mauritius is seeking to tap into the $1 trillion Islamic finance industry. The central bank also has plans to offer sharia-compliant short-term liquidity tools. (Editing by David Clarke

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