President Michel celebrates nine years in office- ‘Achievements abound, but challenges remain’


President Michel speaking during the En Moman Avek Prezidan programme on SBC TV yesterday eveningHe however expressed the need for us as a nation to step up our efforts to overcome remaining challenges.

In the first En Moman Avek Prezidan programme for this year aired on SBC TV yesterday evening, President Michel looks back at these past nine years and talks about his achievements and challenges.
“Achievements have been many not only for me personally but for the people of Seychelles whom I have always consulted and called upon to take ownership of our country and work together to accomplish what may seem impossible.”

“I truly believe we have accomplished the impossible where a small country like Seychelles has gone through a tough economic reform in a remarkable manner, gained international recognition, our citizens now have the right to express themselves freely and the majority of our people have embraced national unity.

“In the Assembly there is a responsible opposition which criticises but do not insult the government and the country like a small minority is still doing in the gossip corner,” said Mr Michel.

Mr Michel added that the important thing is that the majority of our people in their diversity of opinion find other ways to make known their views which the government takes into consideration.
“Seychelles is our country and the views of everyone is required for us to move forward,” he said.

Our policy of proactive diplomacy has also raised the country’s profile on the world stage.

“Seychelles was not left in isolation but we promoted what we were doing, we championed the causes of small island states. With regard to climate change, today we are seen as a leader in defending the cause, our commitment in the fight against piracy in the region has the world’s admiration and we are being called upon to showcase our success to the world in international forums. All these should make us all proud,” he said.

With regard to building En Nouvo Sesel (A New Seychelles) which was the focus of the presidential election campaign in 2011, three years into his mandate President Michel said work to achieve this is progressing well and a look around shows clearly all the transformation Seychelles is going through.

“Seychelles is today very dynamic, things are moving and something very positive is the fact that we are being successful in creating a sense of national unity where in spite of differences of opinion, which is normal in any democracy, we are developing a society with a strong democratic foundation based on transparency and accountability,” said the President.

Mr Michel said progress made as a result is being recognised by the international community and it is therefore important that we continue to foster the same spirit of unity and solidarity in our diversity of opinion as we work for Seychelles.

“In the new Seychelles diversity of opinion has been accepted by all. Families no longer fight about politics as our people reach political maturity and as a result can discuss and share political views as it should be in a civilised society,” said Mr Michel.

With regard to the economy, Mr Michel said ours is developing in a such a way that it is receiving world admiration at a time when large parts of the world, for instance Europe where most  of our tourists come from, are going through economic difficulties.

While in Greece some 60% of young people are without a job, here in Seychelles there are more jobs than people to fill these positions and we have to resort to foreign labour.
Tourism is doing well because we have been proactive in our approaches – the dynamism created through the open sky policy, the partnership between Air Seychelles and Etihad have all resulted in many more tourists coming to our shores, the President said.

Furthermore with a lull in the frequency of pirate attacks, we expect the fishing industry to pick up and to include transforming our fish into other products for export and this as a result of the new momentum for further development in the sector.

Harsher measures against crime following the recent public outcry that criminality in the country had reached an alarming level, is bringing results.

“Today there has been a remarkable drop in crime and the police are doing a good job, but things are not perfect and we need to continue improving,” he said.

With regard to challenges Mr Michel said social ills are still a big challenge but we are doubling our effort as a nation to find better ways to tackle them.

“I believe we are on the right path to build the new Seychelles and this with a dynamic government which has the support of the people who all want to see further development in the country,” added the President.

Mr Michel admitted though that there are weaknesses; ministries which are not in touch enough with the people but he noted that effort is being stepped up to address these issues.

Looking at small business development in the country, Mr Michel said the spirit of entrepreneurship sown during the nine years is today bearing fruits.

“Many ordinary Seychellois are managing their businesses and in spite of certain difficulties they are taking loans from different institutions. I believe we should not stop here, I firmly want to see small businesses expand otherwise they will always remain small as the large ones grow larger and smother the smaller ones,” the President pointed out.

He stressed that favourable conditions should be created to allow small businesses to develop and expand so as to better take part in the country’s economic development and growth. At this point he once again called on banks to play their role in the country’s economic growth by assisting small businesses with affordable loans.

The President said he has called on the Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment together with other partners to come up with new measures to address the issue with the banks.
“Small entrepreneurs need to have easier access to capitals to better take part in bigger development opportunities,” said the President.
He said the issue with the banks remains a big challenge to overcome in the New Seychelles.

Asked about possible threats to our economy with regard to too much foreign investments especially in the tourism establishment sector and foreign labour in the country, the President said development here is carried out in a controlled manner but the important thing in an economy is we need to bear in mind that for an industry to be viable there needs to be quality and volume as the industry also needs to be sustained.

He added that the tourism industry is not only about hotels but all the other related activities and services associated with it and from which all the benefits are for the country.
“And we need the big investors with large amounts of money to invest in big hotel establishments in order for our people to benefit,” he said.

Mr Michel explained that Seychelles is not an exception as all countries with a sound economic policy must have a percentage of foreign investment needed to fuel development.

With regard to constant reshuffling in his administration which many interprete as a form of disruption in the continuity of government administrative functions  and a lack of trust in people’s abilities and capabilities, Mr Michel said reshuffling has taken place only three times during the nine years he has been in power and all for the right reasons.

The ability to move is a sign of good health and it broadens the understanding of cadres on the functions of different sectors of government, it creates dynamism and allows innovations.

“Being too long in a position makes people too comfortable and complacent, thus the possibility for many things to take place such as risks of corruption among others,” said the President.

“In a small country like Seychelles with a small population, dynamic economy and developing at the speed it is, there is a need for cadres with new qualifications to support these developments. As more institutions are created so does the need for professional cadres with experience to be moved around.’’

He noted that this is not a question of doubting people’s abilities but to give many other young  professionals the chance to progress, gain experience and assume greater responsibilities.
“There is no progress in a state of lethargy but progress takes place where there is dynamism and desire to move further,” added the President.

With regard to the challenges which persist in the education sector in spite of all the large investments government has made there over the years, Mr Michel said effort to address these challenges will be stepped up but government will continue to invest in the sector as the right to education is guaranteed in our Constitution.

“There are many challenges which we will continue to address over time as they cannot be dealt with overnight. These will also require changes in the way we do things, in mindset, mentality, attitude and more public  awareness with regard to education,” said the President.

He further stressed that education is not an area which should entirely fall under government but rather it is a great responsibility which should be shared by families and communities and if parents at home do not instill the good values and importance of education in their children and they are not receiving support from the community, there is no way the children will themselves be interested.

“The school alone cannot be expected to do everything. As part of the social renaissance campaign this is where schools, communities and families should come together to bring about the changes we all want in our children,” said the President.

Mr Michel also pointed out it is a fact that people rarely appreciate what is given for free but it is rather when they have to work hard for it that they see its value and this is the case with education and health here.

“I believe it is time our people -- parents and pupils -- understand that education is a right which should be valued and used for further personal development,” said Mr Michel.
The President added it is important that the education sector does not remain static.

“The Ministry of Education needs to move faster, review its curriculum and programmes; a lot has been done and a lot is being done but the sector needs to be constantly innovative to ensure pupils get an education which adapts to their interests and also meet the needs of the country,” the President said.