Logistics and Freeport workshop hosted by EDB
The Economic Development Board (EDB) hosted a Logistics and Freeport workshop articulated around the theme ‘Path to growth’ on Tuesday 27 November 2018, which saw the participation of more than 100 delegates comprising representatives of various ministries, agencies, parastatal bodies and stakeholders from both the private and public sectors. The objective of this workshop, which is part of the effort of EDB to further consolidate the Logistics and Freeport sector, was to provide operators and regulators with a unique opportunity to share informative and insightful views and expectations.
In line with the ambitious outlook of the initiative, EDB engaged Mr. Kevin O’Connor, an experienced Free Zone, FDI Investment and Economic development adviser with extensive international consultancy experience, to moderate the workshop. Mr. François Guibert, CEO of EDB, who officially launched the workshop, depicted an overall picture of the sector via key figures in his opening address. He stated that the logistics sector represents 6.4% of the National GDP and that the Freeport sector contributed 0.6% to the GDP, with a total trade value of MUR 38 billion in 2017, employing over 3,500 persons and with around 230 operators, 7 third party developers and 3 private developers.
Mr. Guibert pointed out that the Freeport sector has been experiencing moderate growth for the past 10 years and that in this regard, the 2018 National Budget addressed a significant challenge, notably by eliminating the last remnants of what the OECD deemed as Harmful Tax Practice. This has resulted in several amendments brought to the Freeport Act, which have been guided by the purpose of transforming the Freeport into an internationally trusted platform, notably via the alignment of our regime with the OCED, EU and WTO requirements, and the elimination of artificial definitions of Tax base, Ring Fencing and Lack of substance. The CEO further highlighted that the Logistics and Freeport workshop reaffirms EDB`s commitment to provide an open platform to share current challenges and opportunities related to the industry.
Apart from the insights provided by EDB, the event also saw interventions from MRA Customs, the Mauritius Port Authority, the Cargo Handling Corporation, Airports of Mauritius and the Financial Services Commission.
Mr. Vinay Guddye, Head of Logistics and Freeport Sector at EDB, along with Mr. Alexander Lutchmun, Managing Director of Mediterranean Shipping Company (Mauritius) Ltd, Mr. Sandesh Seelochun, Director of Port Development at the Mauritius Port Authority, Mr. Cyril Rene, Officer in Charge at the Cargo Handling Corporation Ltd, Mr. Dominique de Froberville, CEO of Mauritius Freeport Development, and Mr. Alain Job, Vice President of the Freeport Operators Association, were among the panelists during the workshop.
The main challenges raised during the panel discussions revolved around the visibility of operators following the policy changes envisaged, the marketability and promotion of the freeport, poor connectivity by both sea and air which hinders the potential of Mauritius as a meaningful regional logistics platform, the efficiency and effectiveness of services at the port, and the unavailability of trained and skilled operators to allow the prompt emergence of startups at the Freeport.
The issue of the omission of the manufacturing and services sectors from Freeport activities has also been raised as operators believe this may hamper their growth potential. To that end, EDB has pledged to work on a draft proposal of a vision and mission statement that should then outline the most appropriate action plan in view of resolutely driving the sector towards its path to growth.