PORT-LOUIS, November 1, 2010 – Transparency through data is part of the World Bank’s recent Open Data Initiative and it is also working to bring valuable data into the open at the country level. In Mauritius, the World Bank created a dataset of the country’s non-tariff measures as a tool to guide businesses and policy makers as they sort through government regulations.
Non-tariff measures, or NTMs, are barriers other than tariffs that are meant to restrict imports. This can include a broad range of actions, such as quotas, embargoes, fees and other prohibitions placed on imports. Creating this harmonized dataset makes the non-tariff measures put in place by Mauritius readily available and fosters a dialogue on trade flows and investments at the multilateral and regional levels.
“The precision and exhaustiveness of this very unique database makes it an invaluable tool to researchers, the policy community, and above all the business community for whom transparency in regulations is a basic need,” explained Constantine Chikosi, acting country director for Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros.
The World Bank presented the dataset to the Government of Mauritius through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in September. The first of its kind in the country, the dataset is an essential tool for informing policy choices, improving the investment climate and increasing competitiveness.
As it reforms its trade policies, the Government of Mauritius has mainly concentrated on tariffs and has successfully eliminated customs duty on 87 percent of tariff lines. But there are still remaining challenges in liberalizing non-tariff barriers that impede the productivity of firms and negatively impact the investment climate.
The new dataset covers and codes every single non-tariff measure according to the new coding system recommended in 2009 by the Group of Eminent Persons convened by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It also provides references to the legal sources and issuing agencies.
Combined efforts in East Africa
The dataset on Mauritius is produced alongside a parallel effort to collect similar data in a number of East African countries including Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia with the goal of identifying and reducing non-tariff barriers.
Collecting this information will help facilitate a regional dialogue on streamlining these measures. The Bank partnered with academics from the University of Mauritius. Their help working in the Eastern African region helps Mauritius gain an advantage in the broader global effort to foster transparency in non-tariff measures.
A focus on reform
Beyond transparency, the World Bank hopes that a spotlight on the possible impacts of non-tariff measures on the cost of doing business will help put regulatory reform at the center of the national competitiveness agenda.
According to the World Bank, streamlining non-tariff measures should not be construed as a "concession" to trading partners as negotiated tariff reductions are viewed. Instead, it should be part of an ambitious agenda to adopt best practices in all areas of government regulatory activities that happen at the border and domestically.
The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation have a long international experience in assisting countries to set up such regulatory best practices and will continue the dialogue with the Government of Mauritius.