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National Assembly

National Assembly | 08 November 2019

Members wrap up debate on Budget 2020

 

Following two days of intense discussions on the debate, members of the National Assembly yesterday entered into their third and last sitting dedicated to their responses to Budget 2020.

Next year’s budget proposes a total sum of R9.2 billion to cater to the country’s services, programmes and expenditures.

The first to intervene yesterday was the United Seychelles (US) MNA for the inner islands, Noline Sophola, who noted that a lot has been accomplished as per the 2019 budget which was themed ‘Stability and progress’, adding that the government in power has always worked to provide the best for Seychelles.

She noted that, again, the 2020 budget theme – which emphasises on resilience, responsibility and prosperity – was well chosen because it ensures that the budget is equitably distributed for the good of the country.

Ms Sophola observed that the opposition members across the table are unable to appreciate this fact.

She lauded the professionals working at the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning for the hard work they have put in the budget.

Relating directly to the budget, Ms Sophola said she was glad to note that expectant mothers on Praslin and La Digue have not been forgotten since, for the first time, the government has committed to supporting them with their move to Mahé when they are about to give birth.

They will be provided with a fix allowance of R1500 to help with their expenses.

“There are some that have said that it is not enough but this is only a start […] gradually this will increase,” she asserted.

Ms Sophola noted that many people have expressed concerns over the revision of the postage and courier tax free personal allowance which is being reduced from R3000 to R1500.

She advised Minister Loustau-Lalanne to reconsider this reduction since many people make use of these services for personal consumption, even though others have taken advantage of this for their own business.

“We cannot condemn everyone,” Ms Sophola highlighted, adding that people often purchase items overseas when these items are unavailable on the local market and these include educational books and medicine.

She further said that the government should make use of technology and innovative ways to identify persons who are involved in illegal sale activities.

Ms Sophola also gladly noted that the government has committed to a sum of R21.7 million to acquire a stand-by generator for La Digue to deal with situations of power outage on the island, such as seen in August and September this year.

She also complemented the government for its efforts to seek out a R143 million loan for a third under-sea cable.

Nonetheless, she requested that the government finds a better location to set up the generator since its present proposed location is in a residential area and, moreover, its presence there would disfigure the part of the island.

François Adelaide, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) MNA for Baie Lazare, expressed his doubts over the statements that have claimed that the proposed budget is looking to address inequalities and correct injustices in Seychelles.

“It will be us Seychellois who will have to pay for all the increases made in this budget, and what is even sadder is that those who are earning low or minimum wages will have to make the extra effort to pay it.”

“Do we need more taxes imposed on the majority of Seychellois? Would it not have been better if the government took the initiative to get business tax from businesses that are not paying? Or would it not be better for the government to find a way to ensure that all businesses in Seychelles pay their dues correctly, so that there is enough money entering the economy?”

He said that Seychellois would now have to pay for the increased 10% tax on alcoholic beverages and further stated that this would discourage manufacturers of alcoholic beverages.

Mr Adelaide listed out the other burdens that Seychellois would have to pay such as the extra R25,000 levy on conventional motor vehicles, new GOP fees and reduction of postage and courier tax free personal allowance.

He was followed by Takamaka representative Paul Ernesta who said that the budget “reflects the fundamental principles of our party, United Seychelles”.

“As President René used to say, our party has always firmly believed in sharing and caring. We believe in shared prosperity, it is us who believe in equality and it is just our party and our president who believe in social justice,” he expressed.

On her part, LDS representative for Glacis, Regina Esparon, noted that she does not believe in the theme chosen for the 2020 budget since the government in power has adopted various themes over the years such as Aspiration 2013, Strategy 2017, Vision 2020 and more recently Vision 2033.

But unfortunately none of these themes and visions has brought concrete changes, she argued.

“Like the name of their party, only the titles of documents have been changed but aside from this, everything else remains the same,” Ms Esparon said.

After analysing the budget, Ms Esparon said that she has come to the conclusion that it is one which is full of promises and populist measures for the upcoming elections.

These, she continued, are cheap politics that does not provide long-term solutions to challenges in the country.

She expressed her disappointment at projects that have been delayed or that have not even started such as the 24/24/24 housing project in Glacis which is pending and the construction of a store and pontoon at the Glacis market which were to start before the end of 2019.

She added that some critical projects, such as the ex-Ferrari housing project, have not been apportioned funds in the 2020 budget.

Ms Esparon also took the opportunity to ask the minister to strongly look into a number of ice plants that are presently not functional, an issue which the government knows very well but nonetheless “refuses to purchase new plants”.

Proportionally elected member for US, Simon Gill, gave various examples of the efficiency of the US government which seeks to better the lives of the country’s citizens such as through investments in the health sector or through various social welfare programmes.

“Seychelles is classified as one of the countries with the highest human capital index and is a model for the Indian Ocean and Africa,” Mr Gill said while dispelling some of the criticisms from the opposition side.

“All of our accomplishments have been achieved through the missions and objectives that are set out in the government’s budgets each year,” he affirmed.

Norbert Loizeau, LDS representative for Bel Air, however took another view stating that US MNAs who claim that Seychelles was not a welfare state were disconnected with the realities of their constituents.

He likened the budget to the play ‘Waiting for Godot’, where two characters wait for someone called Godot who never appears.

Similarly, Mr Loizeau said, the opposition did not observe much of what it had been anticipating in the 2020 budget.

Mr Loizeau spoke of his disappointment that money has not been set aside to fund various sport initiatives such as the All Stars Academy started by Che Dorosamy.

“The Olympics is in 2020 and only one athlete has qualified so far […] but wouldn’t it have been better if there were more, if we would just have encouraged various initiatives like these?” he said.

He also requested that the minister considers increasing the sum given to sports teams to at least R20,000 for sport teams since the R8000 that they are given annually are not sufficient enough to even buy shoes or pairs of socks.

Other interveners of the day were Grand Anse Mahé MNA Waven William, Anse Aux Pins MNA Clifford Andre, Mont Fleuri MNA Jean-François Ferrari, St Louis MNA Sandy Arrisol and concluded with the elected member for Bel Ombre, Speaker Nicholas Prea.

Speaker Prea spoke of the need to encourage Seychellois to invest in their country and the various projects and social initiatives that are yet to be accomplished.

He noted that the north region is dire need of an ambulance – an issue which was brought to the attention of the president since 2016 – as well as a fire-station to cater to emergencies in the north.

The Speaker said that the fire incident which occurred in two houses at Beau Bel on Wednesday evening demonstrates the importance of such a station, particularly in a region where a large number of hotels and guesthouses are located.

He concluded by commending the work of the Beau Vallon district administrator during the fire incident and extended the same compliments to the district administrator in Bel Ombre, and requested that government considers revising the salary package for district administrators who have a lot to deal with.

Minister Loustau-Lalanne will give his response to the various interventions made since Tuesday on Monday, November 11.

 

Elsie Pointe

 

 

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