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.