Getus’ position paper on COVID-19 situation in Seychelles | 24 March 2020
Getus (General Employer Trade Union of Seychelles) joins SCCI (Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in support of the private sector. It is now clear that all sectors in the economy will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most vulnerable ones being: tourism and other related services,manufacturing, trade, agriculture, fishing, transportation and construction. Do not forget the micro and small enterprises such as street vendors, “bus” takes away, etc.
The economic plan formulated by the Central Bank of Seychelles and the financial provision announced by the President in his speech are a positive approach to alleviate the difficult period that the private sector starts to face and will continue to face for the upcoming months.
Getus and its members are looking forward to seeing the announced additional resources in response to the situation which were expected to be gazetted yesterday, Monday March 23 by the Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon.
The 30-day ban for all Seychellois imposed by the President is a measure of control that will for sure make an impact on the control of the pandemic. Business persons that usually travel for trade will be impacted but this is one strict measure that is necessary.
For GOP holders outside the country who are not allowed to return until further notice will for sure impact on businesses but the fact that the majority of businesses are now reducing their operations and keeping the business running but healthy is also a good decision.
Closure of schools was needed and parents who have been authorised to work from home will be able to look after their children. The important thing is that everyone will be able to avoid as much as possible contact with people who have potentially been in contact with potential carrier of the COVID-19.
We know that there is a need for additional facilities for quarantine, the private sector will always be ready to collaborate with the government where there is need.
The support announced by the president to assist businesses through the payment of salaries and financial support for micro industries is important. We did not hear about the self employed though but we can assume that they will be also considered by the Agency of Social Protection. These include taxi drivers, musicians, street vendors, etc. who do not have employees to give a salary to but are unable to generate any revenue for themselves and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to note that it is not fair for government to use Seychelles taxpayers’ money to pay salaries of expatriate workers. Foreign owned companies, especially in construction, have billions of rupees of accumulated profit over the years in foreign bank accounts and should use this to pay their expatriate workers.
For the private sector the reduction on loan repayment will be like a “deep breath of fresh air” removing the worry on how to manage the repayment of interest and loans.
The grace period for tax repayment, as per the statement of Mr Bastienne, chairman of SCCI, is also a very positive move that has given a bit more “relief” to the private sector in this difficult period. The contribution that employers are required to make toward the Pension Fund is now due in September 2020 and this also will help the private sector and especially the small and medium enterprises.
Ensuring that the local agricultural produce will be bought by STC is also an assurance for farmers to continue to produce with no worries about who will buy the surplus as hotels and restaurants are not operating at normal speed. This is really a very important approach but the government with STC will have to ensure that the agricultural produce will be sold at a reasonable price and maybe if possible, even lower than what they should to make it affordable to everyone.
There is ongoing discussion on a possible lockdown. If we analyse the actual situation, Seychelles is already in a partial lockdown and people are still not respecting the directives and guidelines. A complete lockdown of the country will impact badly on the entire economy and if the decision is to be considered, there will be a need for the government to have all parties involved, from the public and private sectors.
Acting chair & executive secretary of Getus