Income Tax Report

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Peter Ibbotson

The Government is determined, by implementing the Five-Year Plan, to raise the standard of life of the Mauritian worker. It is determined, as it has said, “to control and accentuate the Mauritian Revolution”; and to get rid of those dark patches in the body politic, and their shadows on the country’s economy, which it listed in the pamphlet ‘Mauritius Faces the Future’.

The recently received annual report of the Income Tax Department for the year 1957-58 emphasizes the urgent necessity for an improvement in the standard of living for workers. The report demonstrates clearly the arbitrary and unjust distribution of wealth in Mauritius; the capitalist income structure stretches from well below the poverty line at the bottom to high and probably excessive rewards at the top. The report referred to shows that in 1957-58 there was one Mauritian paying tax on an income of over Rs 500,001; with 7 paying tax on an income of Rs 250,001 to 500,000; and 46 paying taxes on an income of Rs 100,001 to 250,000. But only 7,039 individuals are shown as paying any tax at all, which means that while 53 persons were waxing fat off their Rs 100,001 and more, thousands of workers were eking out a miserable existence on the meagre pittances doled grudgingly out by their employers.

Even with the 15% increase recommended by the Kirkaldy Tribunal, a Class I monthly employed field labourer (man) will not be getting more than Rs 90 per month as his basic wages; yet it is on the efforts of the field labourers that the prosperity of Mauritius ultimately depends. Rs 90 per month — less than Rs 1100 per year; far less than the minimum sum needed to keep body and soul together in decency and in a modicum of comfort. It is only three years since Father Dethise published his famous report on the expenditure of the workers of Port Louis. On food alone, he found that a married man with one child spent an average of Rs 93.39 a month; but the typical Mauritian worker has more than one child. Average monthly expenditure on food alone, Father Dethise found, was Rs 121.35 for a married man with 2, 3 or 4 children: and Rs 138.10 for a married man with 5 or more children. And remember, he arrived at his averages after careful examination of people’s actual monthly budgets.

Here is one family’s monthly food buying:

80 pounds of rice, 150 loaves, 12 bottles of milk, 1 pound of tea, 20 pounds of sugar, 2 tins of butter, 8 bottles of oil, 9 pounds of meat, 12 pounds of fish, and legumes, spices, fruits, and cakes totaling Rs 24.

That family is lucky in being able to afford some meat and fish; many families can’t afford these essential items of diet and have to get along on rice and bread and vegetables — stodgy and lacking in dietetic balance. Small wonder that four-fifths of those seeking treatment from the health services are anaemic, especially when one remembers that milk, bread, and fish are of poor quality anyway.

The Income Tax report I have referred to shows that 7,039 people only were getting enough to be paying income tax. But there are about 180,000 people in Mauritius who are in employment; so that at least 172,000 weren’t earning enough to be paying tax. The average national income per head is about Rs 1,000; and each earner supports two dependents. That means that for a national average of Rs 1,000 per person, the national average income must be Rs 3,000 per earning inhabitant. But how many workers don’t draw even Rs 3,000 a year? Tens of thousands.

Yet at the same time we have the spectacle of a handful of taxpayers with incomes over Rs 100,000 a year; one of them even disposes of over Rs 500,000 a year taxable income!

Truly the distribution of the national income is utterly unjust and arbitrary. Truly the Government has a big job on its hands in trying to raise the standard of life of the low-paid workers. But its determination to do so is unshaken; and will remain unshaken despite the defection of any of its one-time supporters. But there is a long way to go.

The Income Tax report also demonstrates the superiority of the sugar plantations belonging to the sugar companies. From 1953 to 1957 the yield of small plantations has decreased: the total area under sugar has remained fairly constant. From 1953-54 to 1957-58 the total gross incomes accruing to individuals owning sugar plantations increased from Rs 7,659,393 to Rs 8,225,230 — say, by 8 per cent. But the total gross income accruing to companies owning sugar plantations increased during the same period from Rs 56,837,581 to Rs 75,360,757– say, an increase of 60 per cent. Clearly the yield of sugar from the small planters’ and the peasants’ land is below the optimum; the advances in sugar production techniques are benefiting the big fellow but not the small man.

Yet this may not be altogether a bad thing. If the small proprietor’s land is not getting the optimum profit from being planted with sugar, he may well turn to some other crop: foodcrops, perhaps, if the Government were to introduce a programme of assistance to agriculture similar to that in the UK, for which Hon. Ramlallah (Labour Party, Poudre d’Or) has already asked in Council. If there were to be a gradual turnover of small proprietors’ land from sugar to food production, then Mauritius would have to spend less on importing food from abroad, while the reduction in area under sugar would not necessarily reduce the total output of sugar, since the Sugar Industry Research Institute is always at work on possible techniques designed to raise production per arpent.

In the current issue of ‘African and Colonial World’ I have said that an annual sugar production of 750,000 tons (50 per cent above present levels) is well within the bounds of possibility inside five years assuming the acreage under sugar remains stationary. If production were to be stabilised at about 600,000 tons, then more land (given increased productivity per acre) would be released for food crops. “Whether it will be more economical to produce and export more and more sugar, or to restrict sugar production and import less food when more can be grown in Mauritius, remains to be seen…” I added. I assume (rightly, I hope) that the economists of the sugar industry and the Government are carefully considering this problem.

When the Government is looking round for new sources of tax income, I hope too that they will give careful consideration to a form of death duties, which is another way of reducing the iniquitous unbalance of distribution of wealth.

Because it is no use just simply exhorting people to work harder. The carrot must be there too; in this case, the carrot of redistributed wealth, of fairer shares for all. The philosophy of the Labour Party is fairer shares for all; the way ahead is hard, but it will be trodden. At the forthcoming by-elections, the Party looks to the people to give once again an earnest of their faith in the Labour Party and the principles of social justice for which it stands, by voting for the Labour and Labour-supported candidates, who alone have faith in the people of Mauritius and in the possibility of a successful end to the Mauritius Revolution.

6th Year – No 266
Friday 18th September 1959

Promotions & Appointments in the Civil Service

The following promotions in and appointments to the Public Service during the week ended 27th Aug. 1959, are released from the Colonial Secretary’s Office:


Messrs C. Mallet and C. Gopaul, Head Teachers, promoted Superintendents of Primary Schools.

Mr L.R.B. Fanchette, Radio Monitor, Mauritius Broadcasting Service, promoted Senior Archives Assistant, Archives Department.

Mr A.B.A. Ahmadi, Clerical Officer, promoted Assistant Producer, Mauritius Broadcasting Service.


Mr G. F. Cherval appointed Assistant Storekeeper, Health Department.

Mr A. M. Thakoor appointed Messenger.

Mr. C. Perumal appointed Temporary Messenger.

Acting Appointment

Mr C. A. Moutou, Executive Officer to act as Senior Executive Officer.

Published in MT – Issue 28 August 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 5 April 2024

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