On 11 June 2021, the highly awaited Budget was presented to the parliament and the public, detailing several economic, regulatory, and social measures to improve the standard of living of the Mauritian population.
NGOs, which have been severely constrained in their operations due to lockdowns while social issues have been skyrocketing with the pandemic, could benefit greatly from the schemes, grants and facilities the government will make available to them in the coming financial year.
The CEB Renewable Energy (RE) Scheme for Non-Governmental Organisations & Charitable Institutions
As mentioned in the budget, the state will devote Rs 5.3 billion over the next 3 years to shift to more renewable energy activities, including implementing the CEB RE Scheme for NGOs and Charitable Institutions, in line with SDGs 7, 11 and 13.
Under this scheme, the CEB Green Energy Co Ltd will install a solar PV kit at the NGOs freely and bear all related operational and maintenance costs. Furthermore, the organizations will gain half of the energy produced and exported by the kit every month free of charge. This might help them reduce their electricity costs and allow them to divert these funds towards other crucial expenses and hopefully develop a green culture within the organizations, which can trickle down to its workers and the people they help.
A raise in the grant to NGOs running Special Education Needs (SEN) from Rs 138 million to Rs 151 million
As Plato said, “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” Many NGOs in Mauritius support students with special needs, with 50 such schools run by NGOs and the Roman Catholic Education Authority in 2018, working hard for the holistic wellbeing of the children they care for.
The grant will compose a Rs 600 increase in the Basic Grant for each student to Rs 6000, Rs 15 more per day in meal allowance to Rs 75 and a grant to newly registered NGOs catering for students with autism and visual and hearing impairments. This could facilitate their work, help even more children, improve the number and quality of facilities they can provide to those in need, motivate a healthier or richer diet and allow the new NGOs to grow. Services like sensory rooms that could not be funded earlier can be implemented in the schools, contributing much to the development of these children.
A National Social Inclusion Foundation’s grant of Rs 845 million to NGOs to fight poverty and promote inclusivity
Unfortunately, Mauritius is a high-income country that faces poverty issues, potentially worse with the pandemic, especially in rural areas where several NGOs have been trying to change for years. Yet, the poverty rate in 2017 stood at 9.6%, which would have been at a staggering 23% rate without government transfers, showing the major role of government support in combating poverty and encouraging an inclusive society.
By financially supporting NGOs focused on poverty alleviation, in line with SDG 1, the National Social Inclusion Foundation will motivate the easier and better implementation and realisation of important projects and programmes they can conduct to help families registered under the Social Register of Mauritius and other vulnerable groups, such as the provision of better or more social housing.
The exemption in respect of donations to an approved charitable NGO allowed up to Rs 30 000
In a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, donations are even more important than ever to help sustain NGOs and make the income distribution of our country more equal. Allowing individuals to cut such donations from their net income and thus pay less in taxes could encourage the Mauritian public to develop a donation culture following the financial and moral incentive to do so. This will improve the amount of funds NGOs can raise for their projects, and the better cashflows can help them implement more or better activities, especially important for struggling NGOs. New NGOs might also find it easier to obtain money to implement their social ambitions as the interest in such organizations grows, allowing them to expand their operations faster and touch more people’s lives.
This year’s Budget arguably has great potential in providing much-needed support to the NGOs of our country, especially concerning energy, education, poverty and finance issues. However, the true impact of these measures remains to be seen and will majorly depend on the proper implementation, adoption, and evolvement of the above benefits. Furthermore, with the budget’s focus being the recovery, revival and resilience of our country, the other policies proposed could also indirectly benefit NGOs by improving the economy, society and environment they operate in.
Krshtee Sukhbilas, BSc Economics & Finance student at the University of Mauritius, YUVA Intern