The Mauritius Business Growth Scheme (MBGS) was set up by the Government of Mauritius (GM) in June 2010 in collaboration with the World Bank (WB) in order to support enterprise growth and competitiveness in the manufacturing and services sectors. The over-riding objective of MBGS was to maximise the rate of sales growth in supported enterprises by delivering two core services to them: Hand-holding/mentoring/coaching services on a free-of-charge basis; and a 50-50 cost-sharing scheme for the buying-in of specialised outside expert services.
A dedicated MBGS Unit was thus set up in July 2010 to act as the implementing agency. It was set up as a separate, semi-autonomous and independent entity staffed by individuals recruited on individual contracts. The Unit was to be headed by a Manager to be recruited on the international scene.
However, ever since its inception, the MBGS Unit has been facing tough constraints and challenges at various levels. It became, for instance, fully operational only around March 2011, i.e., some eight months after creation. Prior to that, it had to go through painful teething problems. The reasons were manifold and included: heavy bureaucratic constraints (given the relatively large number of stakeholders involved); red-tapism; delays at all levels despite the good faith of stakeholders; tedious approval procedures; under- and poor- staffing, since the initial recruitment process was flawed and incomplete; and lack of appropriate infrastructure at the MBGS Unit.
Another problem was the fact that the Unit had already been officially launched in November 2010. Its objectives and targets for the year had been announced in public. Yet, despite the fact that a number of applications were being received and an increasing number of visitors turning up, the MBGS Unit could not deliver an exceptional service as promised. The essential business tools, instruments and templates (such as a website, brochures, and registration forms) were not available and were being created and used internally in a haphasard manner.
In addition, whilst a Grants Approval Committee had been set up to approve applications submitted by enterprises, it could only hold its first meeting in November 2010. At that time, most of the core MBGS documents (such as the client’s contract) were not ready implying that, despite the fact that projects were being approved, beneficiaries could not proceed to implementation stage.
The credibility of the MBGS Unit was being questioned, especially by the business community, which MBGS was supposed to serve.
It became clear by early 2011 that, should nothing bold be undertaken, the whole MBGS initiative would be threatened, with serious reputational consequences for those involved in crafting and implementing the project.
It is also noteworthy that both the WB and GM acknowledged the fact that there had been no prior experience for such a royalties-based matching grants program open to all enterprises in the past. Past international experience was scarce: In Israel where this scheme had been run, it was only for start-ups and highly innovative firms.
The challenge, therefore, was enormous for Mauritius.