The new Finance Minister does not seem to consider as alarming the high level of public debt. Rather, he wants to focus on economic expansion to support growth. According to him, if the population has confidence in the economy, it will experience a boost. Thus, emerging sectors like the Sports Economy will play a greater role to contribute to the economy.
During his meeting with the press last Friday, the new Minister of Finance, Dr Renganaden Padayachy, gave the impression that the high public debt was not a major problem. According to him, money borrowed has been invested and the country will feel the positive effects in the longer term.
Using the Metro Express as example, he said that commuters who reach work quickly and comfortably will be more productive and this will result in higher growth. He revealed that, despite our high debt, lenders are queuing at our doorsteps, which is a sign of their confidence in our economy. The Minister seems to have gone along the lines of an article on public debt, published last Friday in News on Sunday.
The said article explained that only a small part of our debt was external, with the bulk being domestic debt, and that too repayable in the very long-term. To those who say that our debt level is alarming, the Minister invited them to see Japan’s debt, which is 236% of its GDP, a fact highlighted in the News on Sunday article last week.
However, Mauritius is not Japan, therefore, how can our country stimulate growth and become a high-income nation? The electoral manifesto of the ruling alliance reveals that the government intends, among other sectors, to tap into the huge potential of emerging sectors. Three major avenues will be thoroughly explored: Health and Life Sciences, Sports Economy and Agricultural and Marine Biotechnology. In this article, we elaborate on the Sports Economy.
“We will capitalise on the leading infrastructure available at the Côte d’Or sports complex and other sports venues to promote Mauritius as a ‘Sports Venue’ of excellence,” says the election manifesto. Indeed, the broad economic dimension of high performance sports has always been overlooked. Sports can be an immense source of revenue as well as an easy path to create interesting jobs and support economic development at national and regional level.
The Sports Economy is a really distinct segment because, apart from its economic contribution, it also generates positive externalities, such as good health, well-being, social inclusion, sharing and unity, in short, all the ingredients it takes to build a nation. With a nation active in sports, the government will certainly see its health budget decrease and the productivity of workers increase, which is extremely beneficial to robust growth.
The Sports Economy is now beginning to be recognised as an official economic sector of high-value addition in Mauritius. Moreover, following the last Budget, the Economic Development Board (EDB) has set up a Sports Economic Commission, whose main objective is to promote this sector in the same way as other productive sectors. The organisation will hold a workshop on 11th December 2019 to bring together all the major players and stakeholders in the sports arena as well as entrepreneurs to bolster synergy and to formulate proposals for developing a fully-fledged sports economy. The EDB also wants to install ‘sportstech’ incubators across the island.
Sports also has a huge commercial side, as it triggers the production of sports wear and other sports equipment and accessories. There is a vast global market that offers multiple opportunities to our budding entrepreneurs eager to diversify and innovate. There is also the mushrooming of gyms, football training centres, gymnastics workshops, self-defence clubs teaching karate or taekwondo, among others. We are also fortunate to welcome foreign sports professionals who set up their own business in Mauritius and who can contribute enormously to the enhancement of our athletes but also instill sports passion in our youth. Unfortunately, many of them struggle to obtain their permits because the relevant authorities have not yet identified the importance of their contribution to our society.
The various sports clubs and associations depend mainly on the generosity of their members and sponsors to survive. These clubs could do even better if they had access to funding. Unfortunately, they are not eligible for CSR funds. Many such clubs could have been given the necessary incentives to become social enterprises in order to commercially exploit sporting activities.
The benefits of Sports Economy
Sports Economy enables entrepreneurs to offer sports-related products and services, thereby supporting business growth, entrepreneurship and job creation, and encouraging innovation and exchanges. It helps to transcend differences and promote universal values of mutual respect and friendship. It improves social well-being, encourages discipline and teamwork. The organisation of sports events enriches the social and cultural fabric of communities and also attracts tourists and investors alike.
After the success of the Film Rebate Scheme, the government now wants to introduce a Rebate Scheme to encourage sports events, especially international ones that can be held locally. Companies sponsoring athletes will be able to benefit from tax allowances. With this in mind, the new Côte d’Or stadium is set to play a very important role by becoming an international venue. Just like films, the hosting of international sporting events in Mauritius will open the gate for multiple business opportunities for transport providers, event management companies, consultants, hotels providing accommodation to foreign delegates, catering entrepreneurs and equipment suppliers, among others, without forgetting the presence of international media to cover the events, the presence of celebrities or famous sportsmen. Sportswomen and world-renowned teams on our soil would boost the country’s popularity and image.
Golf yes, but what about cricket?
Mauritius is known as an international golf destination par excellence, having even been awarded several times. The growth of golf tourism has accelerated in recent years. The holding of major events like the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the MCB Tour Championship or the SBM Golf Open, have greatly helped to develop this sector. According to official figures, the country has welcomed about 80,000 golfers in 2018. The government now wants to develop football, especially with the establishment in the island of an international football academy in collaboration with Liverpool Football Club. For many observers, especially expatriates, Mauritius tends to forget another important discipline, cricket, which can also help turn the country into an international sporting destination.
Frankie Tang : “We should develop Sports Tourism”
Economist Frankie Tang finds the idea of a sports economy an excellent one, but he says we must know how to diversify the offer to have the maximum socioeconomic impact. He believes we have all the elements to succeed in this emerging sector. He further cites the example of Singapore, which regularly organises friendly matches between famous international football teams for the pleasure of tourists. “The exhibition games are always a huge success and attract thousands of tourists. We can try the same experiment. Sports tourism must be developed,” he says. The economist concludes that he is keen to share his ideas with the authorities.
Don Limaye : “Cricket will enhance the sports economy”
A dentist by profession and an avid cricket enthusiast, Don Limaye is also very much engaged in Chambers of Commerce, sports associations and tourism groups in Mumbai, India. Having worked for several years in Mauritius, he finds it intriguing that Mauritius is the only country in the Commonwealth not to be playing cricket as a national game. Yet according to him, Mauritius has everything to gain with cricket. “Mauritius has the ability to become an international branded destination for high-level cricket tournaments. It is essential that the country builds a cricket stadium according to international standards. Imagine the number of tourists who will come to watch the game here,” says Don Limaye. He adds that he is ready to help the country to realise such a project. He strongly believes our Sports Economy must seriously consider the benefits of cricket. “Cricket will boost tourism, entrepreneurship and help strengthen ties with other Commonwealth countries.”
Battling for the ground
Rahul Chawla says there is an existing ground for cricket which was allotted to the Federation back in 2007, but the power keepers of the Federation at that time, wrongfully, using political power, usurped the ground and made it a trust. “I appeal to the authorities to help the Federation get back its cricket ground,” he says. At present all the eight registered clubs of the Federation have to pay up to 10,000 per day to play a game of cricket at the SSR Cricket Trust ground. The ground is also used to host DJ nights and events by the trustees. “If the authorities intervene and get the Federation in control of its ground, then all Asian countries will be willing to come and participate here.”
Rahul Chawla reveals he has recently been to the International Cricket Council (ICC), the international governing body of cricket based in Dubai. “They are most willing to help, once the Federation sorts out its grounds.”
“All small countries like Seychelles Maldives, etc., have registered with ICC and they get aid every year, but not Mauritius, because the previous position holders of the Federation were never keen to promote the game; they were keen to hold the ground for themselves. Once ICC registers Mauritius, then with the aid coming in, Mauritius will be pitched on the world cricket map,” states Rahul Chawla, adding that he has a vision in the near future to host international matches here.
“Mauritius has a suitable weather round the year for cricket and is a blessed country. Moreover, since Mauritius will be a neutral venue, it will attract tourists from all cricket-loving countries. Countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Seychelles, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will all tour here,” explains Rahul Chawla.
He says he was also recently at the hub of cricket in India in Bangalore, the National Cricket Academy, owned by BCCI. There he met Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul, amongst some prominent cricketers and they are willing to assist the MCF. “I estimate tourism to initially go up by at least 10,000 per year when club cricket is played, and if we manage to hold 2 to 3 international tournaments per year, the tourism increase will be above 100,000,” says the cricket enthusiast.
Rahul Chawla concludes that his Federation would be happy to collaborate with the authorities to draw a roadmap for the successful introduction of cricket at national level.
Rubina Kawsar : “Cricket as a growth avenue”
Rubina Kawsar, a Travel Agency operator in Pakistan, states that cricket in Mauritius will definitely boost tourism in Mauritius. “The Pakistani elite travels a lot to cricket venues like UK, Sharjah, New Zealand, etc., to watch international tournaments. The holding of international cricket events in Mauritius will definitely attract them,” says the travel agent, who has herself visited Mauritius. “Travel agents can easily sell cricket tour packages to tourists.”
Rahul Chawla : “Cricket will diversify the sports economy”
He came to Mauritius as an investor in the manufacturing sector and today, Mauritius is his second home. Rahul Chawla is also very fond of cricket and is the secretary of the Mauritius Cricket Federation (MCF). He believes that Indian elite clubs would be eager to come and play in Mauritius if the facilities exist. The MCF is actively promoting cricket among Mauritian youth and various tournaments are organised. “I would like to see an Indian Ocean Cricket league set up one day. I would be happy to help towards that,” he says. “Cricket has a good future here. It can be an important contributor to the economy. You already have a new modern stadium at Cote d’Or. My wish is that one day a cricket pitch is added to it. Even the climate there is excellent for playing cricket,” says Rahul Chawla. He says the holding of international tournaments in Mauritius would boost tourism.
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