The Minister of Arts and Culture, the Honourable Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, and the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius, H.E. Mrs Marjaana Sall, accompanied by eminent speakers and leading actors involved in cultural heritage, held discussions in relation to the economic and social benefits of investing in cultural heritage in Mauritius. The panellists included Mr Charles Cartier, Chairman of the Economic Development Board and Mr René Leclézio, Managing Director, Promotion and Development Ltd, and representative of Business Mauritius. The roundtable was moderated by Mr Jean-François Chaumière, President of Nelson Mandela Centre and Senior Advisor to Prime Minister on Culture.
The Minister of Arts and Culture, the Honourable Prithvirajsing Roopun, in his intervention highlighted:
"Cultural diversity, the common heritage of mankind is a mainspring of sustainable development, source of innovation and creativity. The probation and maintenance of cultural diversity for future generation is an essential requirement for world peace and stability. In this regard, the cultural policy adopted by the Government of Mauritius is mainly geared towards the relentless promotion, recognition and protection of our cultural heritage, be it tangible or intangible. And we encourage the active participation of the community, NGOs as well as the private sector in this endeavor."
In her statement, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius, H.E. Marjaana Sall said:
"Europe regards heritage as a lever to cultural diversity, civic pride and identity, social well-being and economic prosperity. Our heritage is one of the key drivers to meet today's challenges – encouraging social integration, generating economic growth, boosting employment and improving environment. Mauritius' rich cultural heritage can serve as a powerful tool to promote sustainable cities and to further diversify its economy, notably by developing cultural tourism as part of the National Export Strategy.”
The EU and Mauritius underlined the importance of developing an overall understanding of cultural heritage as a key instrument and a useful means to generate direct and indirect economic returns, to create jobs and growth in the construction and tourism sectors, to foster an attractive environment for entrepreneurs and businesses, and a wide range of social and environmental benefits.
The panellists agreed on the importance of ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage be it material - such as buildings, monuments, artefacts, historic districts or archaeological sites - or immaterial -for instance social practices, representations, expressions, and traditional craftsmanship - as an investment rather than a burden. It was highlighted that a cost-centric view of cultural heritage is now outdated and underlined the importance of considering it as an innovative stimulant boosting the economy and providing employment in a wide range of traditional and new industries.
The EU recalled that investment in cultural heritage has been beneficial in Europe by stimulating jobs creation, apprenticeships, growth and innovation in cities and regions.
The panellists agreed that cultural heritage could be a driving force for the Mauritian economy, in particular for tourism sector but also for the creative industries (film, clothing, artwork, books…), by capitalizing on the unique assets of Mauritius instead of going through the standardization brought by globalization.
The range of innovative mechanisms and business models to increase the effectiveness of cultural heritage as a factor of social and economic development were discussed. Alternative approaches and innovative financing, new forms of governance, and public-private partnerships were cited as means to unlock fully the untapped potential of cultural heritage. The involvement of the private sector in exploiting the potential of cultural heritage through instruments such as tax breaks, differentiated VAT rates, loan programmes and public-private partnerships, amongst others, were mentioned.
Panellists also underlined the social benefits of cultural heritage in actively engaging people and securing integration, inclusiveness and social cohesion by contributing to the wellbeing, sense of history, identity and belonging of all citizens.
In addition, they highlighted the environmental benefits of integrated natural and cultural heritage management for sustainable economic growth, noting the important role of sustainable tourism strategies that combine local and regional expertise on biodiversity with the protection of cultural heritage and the production of high quality regional products. These were all seen as necessary ingredients of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The High-Level Panel took place in the Salle des fêtes of the Plaza, Rose Hill.