Monday, June 23, 2008

History of Mauritius

After a brief Dutch settlement, French immigrants who came in 1715 named the island Île de France and established the first road and harbor infrastructure, as well as the sugar industry, under the leadership of Gov. Mahe de Labourdonnais. Blacks from Africa and Madagascar came as slaves to work in the sugarcane fields. In 1810, the British captured the island and in 1814, by the Treaty of Paris, it was ceded to Great Britain along with its dependencies.

Indian immigration, which followed the abolition of slavery in 1835, rapidly changed the fabric of Mauritian society, and the country flourished with the increased cultivation of sugarcane. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 heralded the decline of Mauritius as a port of call for ships rounding the southern tip of Africa, bound for South and East Asia. The economic instability of the price of sugar, the main crop, in the first half of the 20th century brought civil unrest, then economic, administrative, and political reforms. Mauritius became independent on March 12, 1968.

The effects of Cyclone Claudette in 1979 and of falling world sugar prices in the early 1980s led the government to initiate a vigorous program of agricultural diversification and develop the processing of imported goods for the export market. The country formally broke ties with the British Crown in March 1992, becoming a republic within the Commonwealth.

In addition to sugarcane, textile production and tourism are the leading industries. Primary education is free, and Mauritius boasts one of the highest literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

With a complicated ethnic mix—about 30% of the population is of African descent and the remainder is mostly of Indian descent, both Hindu and Muslim—political allegiances are organized according to class and ethnicity.

In Feb. 2002, Mauritius went through four presidents in succession. Two resigned within days of each other, each after refusing to sign a controversial anti-terrorism law that severely curtailed the rights of suspects. The law, supported by the prime minister, was ultimately signed by a third, interim president. At the end of February, a fourth president, Karl Offman, was elected by parliament.

In Oct. 2003, Paul Berenger, a white Mauritian of French ancestry, became the first non-Hindu prime minister in the history of Mauritius. Berenger and the previous prime minister, Anerood Jugnauth, formed a coalition during Sept. 2000 elections. Under their agreement, Jugnauth served as prime minister for three years and Berenger assumed the prime ministership for the remaining two years of the term. Jugnauth then became president in 2003, and in July 2005, Navin Ramgoolam, prime minister from 1995 to 2000, again assumed that office.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Republic of Mauritius

President: Anerood Jugnauth (2003)

Prime Minister: Navin Ramgoolam (2005)

Land area: 714 sq mi (1,849 sq km);
total area: 788 sq mi (2,040 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 1,250,882 (growth rate: 0.8%); birth rate: 15.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 14.1/1000; life expectancy: 72.9; density per sq mi: 1,752

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Port Louis, 577,200 (metro. area), 143,800 (city proper)

Monetary unit: Mauritian rupee

Languages: English less than 1% (official), Creole 81%, Bojpoori 12%, French 3% (2000)

Ethnicity/race: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 24%, other Christian 8%, Islam 17% (2000)

Literacy rate: 86% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $14.9 billion; per capita $ $11,900 . Real growth rate: 5.6%. Inflation: 8.8%. Unemployment: 8.8%. Arable land: 49%. Agriculture: sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses; cattle, goats; fish. Labor force: 552,700; construction and industry 30%, services 25%, agriculture and fishing 9%, trade, restaurants, hotels 22%, transportation and communication 7%, finance 6% (2007). Industries: food processing (largely sugar milling), textiles, clothing, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, nonelectrical machinery, tourism. Natural resources: arable land, fish. Exports: $2.475 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses. Imports: $3.627 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals. Major trading partners: UK, UAE, France, U.S., Madagascar, South Africa, China, India (2006).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 357,300 (2006); mobile cellular: 772,400 (2006). Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 9, shortwave 0 (2002). Radios: 420,000 (1997). Television broadcast stations: 2 (plus several repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 258,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 9,792 (2007). Internet users: 182,000 (2006).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 2,020 km; paved: 2,020 km (including 75 km of expressways) (2005). Ports and harbors: Port Louis. Airports: 5 (2007).

International disputes: Mauritius claims the Chagos Archipelago (UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory), and its former inhabitants, who reside chiefly in Mauritius, but were granted UK citizenship and the right to repatriation in 2001; claims French-administered Tromelin Island.

text taken from infoplease

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Atomium - Brussels

At first glance, the Atomium looks like a candidate for the World's Largest Roadside Attractions. And why not? It puts the World's Largest Baseball Bat and the World's Largest Bicycles to shame. Yet the city fathers of Brussels would hasten to tell you that, far from being an example of kitsch, the Atomium is a lasting symbol of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair and Belgium's answer to the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. Tastes obviously differ regarding the aesthetic appeal of a giant molecule. Still, the Atomium is an impressive structure when viewed from close up. It stands 332 feet (102 meters) high and consists of nine spheres of 59 feet (18 m) diameter connected by tubes measuring 94 feet (29 m) in length and 10 feet (3 m) thick. Escalators connect the spheres, most of which contain science exhibits. An elevator (said to be Europe's fastest) leads to an observation gallery and restaurant in the topmost atom.

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