How does a developing country get a leg up and what’s been big news on my tiny home away from home?
At the very end of January and very beginning of February 2009, the Chinese sent a delegation over to the island of Mauritius to see if there were any potential investment/development opportunities here.
I remember this quite clearly because I was on my way to the airport to head for a visit to France. The main highway that stretches from the south to the north on the island was lined with the People’s Republic red flags. Some of these flagpoles were even installed specifically for this visit and high traffic round-a-bouts were tidied up.
This was clearly a very important visit and the island was preparing itself. The police sent out notifications saying that some roadways would be closed for certain portions of the day and that daily commuters into the city of Port Louis would need to seek alternative routes.
The buzz in the office that day wasn’t really about the ‘why’ or the ‘what’ of the upcoming visit. People were talking mostly about all of the inconvenient fuss and muss of the traffic closures.
The Chinese came. They saw. They struck up some deals. And these deals included some pretty substantial cash that they intended to drop here.
I have read in the local and Indian press that China is investing $750 million in Mauritius. As part of this investment, the Shanxi Tianli Enterprises Business Park will be created and construction is already underway. The main highway (the same one with all those red flags those many months ago) is even being widened to account for potential new traffic flows.
The new business park will bring in different manufacturing industries. Some of the ones mentioned thus far have been coking coal and iron and steel. A new 300-bed hospital, as well as, three new hotels and a planned $200 million airport expansion are also in the midst of development.
Construction crews and equipment can be seen all over the island and it’s all happening with remarkable speed.
There’s a manufacturing plant over by the freeport area in Port Louis. Most days you can see a yellow, brown steady stream of smoggy smoke pumping up into the air.
I mentioned this to one of my co-workers at the time and asked him if he was concerned about the pollution. His only comment was, “Oh, it just blows away into the ocean.”