INDIAN Ocean island Mayotte became France’s 101st department yesterday.
This was depite initial confusion as to whether the inauguration would be able to go ahead as planned, due to the postponement of the election of its new council president.
The council, which participated in the recent elections, was reported to be lacking a quorum of members to elect a president, due to absences of UMP and Nouveau Centre councillors.
Mayotte is now France’s fifth départment d’outre mer, which means it becomes not just a French overseas territory but theoretically like a department of mainland France detached and moved to another part of the world.
In the longer term its people should have all the same rights and responsibilities as residents in France, however some aspects, like RSA income support, will be phased in gradually over a number of years (for example it will only be a quarter of France’s at first) so as not to cause too sudden a change to the economy and habits of the island.
Incomes are generally much lower in Mayotte than mainland France.
Local taxes are being brought in in 2014, after a property valuation.
The island, between Madagascar and Mozambique, faces many difficulties in lifting itself up to mainland standards, for example, out of its population of about 200,000 more than a quarter are said to be illegal immigrants.