Assembly approves budget allocations for two more ministries | 26 November 2019
The National Assembly yesterday approved budget allocations for two ministries, namely the Ministry of Family Affairs and Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status.
Ministry of Family Affairs
- Benefits and approved programmes of Agency for Social Protection (ASP)
The budget for benefits and approved programmes offered by the Agency of Social Protection (ASP), under the Ministry of Family Affairs, was yesterday approved by 24 votes.
The agency, whose budget allocation amounts to R1.45 billion (1,457,787,000), is mandated with providing comprehensive social security services and social relief against vulnerability within the constitutional and legislative framework of Seychelles. The agency was yesterday represented by chief executive Marcus Simeon, as well as Minister for Family Affairs Mitcy Larue and principal secretary for poverty alleviation Alvin Laurence.
As explained by principal secretary for Finance Damien Thésée, under the Appropriation Bill 2020, the entity’s budget has increased by R100 million next year on account of increases in retirement benefits, invalidity and disability benefits as well as the announced increment in minimum wage, applying to home carers in this instance. Of the R100 million, R55 million is to be allocated towards retirement benefits which as announced by President Danny Faure will be raised from R5500 monthly to R5750 as from January 2020, R20 million towards invalidity and disability benefits which is also set to increase by R500 monthly and a further R23 million towards home carers to reflect the announced increase in minimum wage.
CEO Simeon explained that 75 percent, around R800 million, of the budget is for elderly care, R300 million for salary payments for home carers and a further sum of almost R200 million for disability benefits.
Numerous members of the assembly sought clarifications as to the programmes offered by ASP as well as the qualifying criteria for benefits provided by the agency, expressing concerns that a proportion of persons benefitting from welfare assistance are capable of working and earning a living.
It was noted several times that the World Bank is assisting Seychelles to revise benefits schemes and qualifying criteria among others to address the gaps in the current system. A report is expected to be produced followed by reforms within the agency and the services it offers.
The officials reminded the assembly of programmes such as the Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS) and others under the Department of Employment, which according to them has led to a reduction in welfare assistance from R80 million in 2017, to R55 million, and R47 million for 2020. They also highlighted and outlined some of the proposed reforms within the agency.
Among the announced reforms are changes to the home carers system. Minister Larue noted that cabinet has approved the proposal which includes training for home carers as well as a profiling system for persons requiring a home carer in a bid to make the system more efficient. The ministry and concerned agencies are currently holding consultations before the reforms can be finalised and implemented. She also announced that the agency is working in collaboration with La Reunion to build the skills and capacity of functionally limited persons so they can be less dependent on benefits and can participate in economic activities.
With regards to pension benefits, the assembly expressed concern over the qualifying criteria for retirees who have lived and worked away from Seychelles for significant periods and whether the retirement age will be pushed from 63 to 65 years.
Minister Larue stated that the proposal is not finalised, but was instead a recommendation in the ageing population policy.
- National Council for the Elderly (NEC)
The budget for the National Council for the Elderly (NEC) was yesterday approved by 25 votes.The budget allocation for the council amounts to R11.5 million (11,509,000) which is inclusive of R2.9 million for proposed expansions to elderly homes.
Minister Larue noted that the amount applies to 6 units to be built at the facility located at Anse Royale and work is expected to start during the first quarter of next year. The amount also applies to renovations to be carried out in kitchens and bathrooms of all existing 112 units, many of which have not been maintained properly over the years according to chief executive of NEC Marie-France Pereira.
Furthermore, three homes, namely Anse Royale, La Digue and Pointe Larue need urgent works on the sewage systems. Minister Larue noted that the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) has submitted two reports for facilities on La Digue and Anse Royale. The ministry is awaiting the Pointe Larue report.
Members of the assembly questioned the panel as to minor increases such as under transportation and for rental. Ms Pereira noted that the council has over the past year recruited eight more employees, bringing the total to 10 and has established two more offices accounting for the increase in rental allocation.
According to Ms Pereira, there are 31 elderly citizens on the waiting list for a unit within elderly homes.
- Administrative Budgets under Ministry of Family Affairs
The administrative budget for the Ministry of Family Affairs amounting to R73,843,000 was approved by 17 votes.
Twenty-two members voted in favour of the R40,804,000 allocated towards administrative costs for ASP while the administrative budget for the National Council for Children for R14,810,000 was approved by 26 votes.
The administrative budgets for both the National Council for the Disabled amounting to R5,656,000, and the Social workers Council for a sum of R1,001,100 was also approved by the assembly.
Minister for Employment, Immigration and Civil Status
The Minister for Employment, Immigration and Civil Status Myriam Telemaque and special advisor Michel Marie appeared before the assembly yesterday afternoon to defend budget allocations under their ministry.
The budget for the Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status for a sum of R89,936,000 was approved by 15 votes yesterday afternoon. The amount is inclusive of an increment in the scheme for senior border officers from R3000 to R5000 in a bid to retain employees, on account of high turnover over recent years.
Minister Telemaque explained the processes for biometric passports noting an increase in the department’s budget for R16 million covering the process which involves Information Technology (IT) works by the department of Information, Communication and Technology (DICT), noting that it is expected to be ready by 2021.
The assembly will resume with its debates on the Appropriation Bill 2020 and is expected to debate on the budget allocations for the Seychelles Land Transport Authority (SLTA), Seychelles Tourism Board and the Anti-Corruption Commission.