March 4, 2010 / 10:09 AM / 10 years ago

EU, Mauritius sign largest aid deal yet

Tourists survey the unusual natural phenomena of the seven-coloured earth at Chamarel in west Mauritius November 11, 2003. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi DZL

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - The European Union signed its largest aid deal yet with Mauritius on Thursday, saying the 93 million euro package would bolster the island’s economic and social reforms.

Official government forecasts predict the almost $10 billion economy — consistently one of the most prosperous and stable in Africa — will grow by 4.3 percent this year compared with an estimated 2.8 percent in 2009, as a global recovery spurs its tourism and exports such as textiles and sugar.

“The (aid) programme, to be disbursed in 2010 and 2011 fiscal years, aims at contributing to the sustainable economic development of Mauritius by further supporting the 10-year economic and social reform programme implemented since June 2006,” Alessandro Mariani, EU ambassador to Mauritius, said.

The government introduced an economic stimulus plan at the end of 2008 and analysts say the Indian Ocean island has weathered the global economic storm better than expected.

The EU money is conditional on Mauritius meeting targets in sugar reform, governance, macroeconomic stability, and a long-term energy strategy, Mauritian Finance Minister Ramakrishna Sithanen said at the signing ceremony.

He added the aid was meant to spur economic reform while minimising environmental damage and broadening access to education and training.

Famed for its white-sand beaches and luxury spas but fast becoming an offshore financial hub, Mauritius has moved into the top 20 global economies for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank.

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