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2019 STATE-OF-THE-NATION ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT DANNY FAURE February 26, 2019 | 02 April 2019

2019 STATE-OF-THE-NATION ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT DANNY FAURE February 26, 2019

President Faure

‘Together, we need to continue valuing a culture of hard work’

 

Mr Speaker,

Vice-President,

Members of the National Assembly,

Compatriots,

My fellow Seychellois brothers and sisters,

 

It is a great honour and a pleasure for me to address all of you today.

 

Together, as one people, we have maintained peace, we have maintained tranquillity, we have maintained stability and we have maintained our unity. Together, we have continued to work hard, we have continued to make progress, to bring our country to where it is today.

 

For the state of our nation to be even stronger, it is important that the foundation of our society is stronger, and that foundation is the family. In order to continue supporting families, together we need to address several persistent issues affecting them.

 

Alcohol and drug abuse

 

Alcohol abuse is one of these issues. Alcohol advertising, hours of alcohol sale, and an environment where we see people drinking in a small society – all of this has a huge impact on children that are growing up.

 

I receive letters from children themselves, telling me about alcohol abuse in their family and in their community. It is clear today that in homes where there is excessive alcohol consumption, children are at risk.

 

The time has come for us to take action. I invite the National Assembly to make their contribution towards this issue.

                                                                    i.                        From today, we will impose a moratorium on the issuance of licenses for alcohol production

                                                                  ii.                        There is too much alcohol advertising and marketing. It needs to be regulated. There is a need to look at controlling the promotion and advertising that we allow for alcohol.

                                                                iii.                        More and more employees are reporting for work under the influence of alcohol. There is a need to review the Employment Act.

                                                                 iv.                        We need to change the way we tax alcoholic products – the level of tax on alcohol should be based on its concentration. For example, tax on a beer that has 5% alcohol content should be less than on a beer that has 8%. Tax on an alcoholic drink that has 17% alcohol content should be higher than on one that has 7%.

                                                                   v.                        From January 1, 2020, a license to sell alcohol will require a separate area. All shops that currently sell alcohol and other goods together will get one year to do the necessary.

                                                                 vi.                        Market Street is a popular place that is visited by many people. We need to ensure that it remains an area that is safe and accessible. We should not have any shops selling alcohol in this area. When the licenses to sell alcohol of shops on Market Street expire, Government will not renew them.

 

I hope that by June 1 this year, Children’s Day, most of these measures would already have entered into force.

 

Another problem that I would like to discuss today is child abuse. Our children are precious – they are our future. Those who abuse our children destroy the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.

 

Recent statistics from the Judiciary show that in the last 2 years, the Judiciary has ruled on 119 cases where children were victims. At the end of last year, there were 55 cases awaiting judgment. These are just the cases that were reported.

 

It is important that we understand that the abuse of children has an impact on their emotional health, psychological health, and physical health. And later, it also affects their adult life, their professional life and family life.

 

It is critical that all partners work closer together to help our families, and to identify any child victims at the earliest. It is our responsibility as citizens if we see and suspect any abuse to come forward and alert the authorities. Our actions will have a huge impact on the future of these children.

 

Another persistent issue affecting our children is drugs. The creation of the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation just over a year ago was with the aim of assisting us in the war against drugs. The Methadone programme was introduced based on the level of its success in other countries that share certain similarities with Seychelles.

 

We see the results of this intervention. There is no longer a backlog of people that wish to go for treatment. As of today, there are 2000 people registered on this programme with the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation. These 2000 people are not just numbers. They are real people. We know them. We are working with them. We are giving them a second chance in life.

 

According to recent statistics from the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation, the retention rate for people following this programme is more than 80%.

 

Some of the individuals enrolled in this programme have also found formal employment through the Unemployment Relief Scheme. I would like to thank all the employers that have given these citizens a job. Your compassion is sincerely appreciated.

 

As you know, the Government will be building a Rehabilitation Centre at Cap Ternay this year. Today, I would like to announce that this centre will be financed entirely by the Government of the United Arab Emirates.

 

Moreover, we are getting support from the French Government and the European Union to develop a comprehensive rehabilitation programme with the aim of reintegrating participants on this programme into gainful employment, and to support them in being productive members of society.

 

Poverty

 

Mr Speaker, another persistent problem that I discussed 2 years ago is poverty. I can say today that we have an improved coordination system between all the relevant agencies. Following a joint survey between the National Bureau of Statistics and the Office for Poverty Alleviation, we now know the families that have been classified as poor.

 

This survey shows that it is not just a lack of financial resources that makes people poor, there are multiple indicators. It is for this reason that since last year we are helping vulnerable families through a better coordinated system, where assistance is not always financial.

 

PUC will introduce pre-paid meters to facilitate assistance that families receive in terms of pre-paid electricity. PUC will introduce these meters from July this year.

 

We have worked with STC for these families to receive a portion of their welfare assistance on a STC card from next month.

 

The survey also showed us that there are people who need assistance but are unaware that assistance is available for them. To address this challenge, we have taken a more proactive role in identifying those families that need welfare assistance, and work is ongoing to identify those families that are at risk.

 

This year the Government budgeted 20 million Rupees that will go towards the repairing of homes that have already been identified, where the condition is poor.

 

Housing

 

In my State-of-the-Nation Address in 2017 and 2018, I said that the housing situation is a real problem for our country. Today, in 2019, despite this remaining a challenge, we have made progress.

 

In 2017, I announced an ambitious programme to build 24 houses in 24 districts in 24 months. Ambitious in terms of financial resources, but also ambitious in terms of human resources, on the part of both Government and contractors.

 

Here is the progress we have made:

                    i.                        178 units have been completed in 5 districts

                  ii.                        355 units are under construction in 16 districts and work will be completed before the end of the year. The delay has been caused primarily by the need for negotiations on land access.

                iii.                        In 4 districts we are experiencing some delays in mobilising contractors for various reasons. The terrain at Bel Ombre was more difficult than we anticipated and we had to re-design the plan. At Les Mamelles and Glacis, the Government had to negotiate for the land. In the case of Cascade, delays were caused by the relocation of the Dog Unit and the Public Security Support Wing (PSSW) of the Seychelles Police Force. Despite these delays, the Government anticipates starting work on these projects before the end of 2019, and these 100 units will be ready by next year.

 

The Government of India has also extended its support for the construction of an additional 3000 houses. We will start the construction of 600 houses in 16 districts this year.

 

Aside from the construction of housing, Government has also established a points system for housing. This points system which is transparent and fair, aims to determine the priority of cases. Since this system was established in 2017, 174 families have been given a home.

 

There are also instances where families approach Government with certain difficulties they have with their land; where land has been registered in their name, but they lack the financial means to build a house, and their financial situation does not enable them to get a loan from the bank. For these cases, Government will introduce a new programme where we will build a house on this land according to a pre-determined plan. In exchange, depending on the size of the property, Government will build one or two additional units on this land so that other families can also be assisted.

 

Mr Speaker, I would like to congratulate the families that have constructed their own homes, and those in the private sector who have constructed housing for rent. Statistics from the Seychelles Planning Authority show that in the last 5 years, the number of applications for residential developments has increased by 25% on average each year. In the last 2 years, Seychelles Planning Authority has given approval to 1571 applications. This excludes Government housing projects. Through statistics from Central Bank we see that last year, the number of loans given to individuals for housing increased by 32%.

 

It takes a lot of sacrifice to build a house. This increase shows the effort to improve the housing situation coming from families and the private sector too. Each house that is built helps our housing situation.

 

Today, HFC is in a better financial position, and one of these reasons is that a big majority of our families that take a loan repay well and on time. I thank you.

 

As a result, a new measure that will come into force from July 1 this year is that HFC will increase the repayment period of a loan, raising it from 23 years to 30 years. This choice is being offered for new clients and also for existing clients that already have a loan.

 

There are families that have land, but lack the financial means to survey their property. This means that they are unable to subdivide the plot or give a piece to their children, who may be able to take out a loan and build a house. Following our discussions with these families, HFC will introduce a new type of loan for surveying to resolve this problem. This will launch from July 1 this year.

 

We also discussed with HFC the issue of families that already have a house but which is in need of repairs. HFC currently offers what is known as a ‘Home Improvement Loan’. However, from July 1 this year, HFC will create a special loan facility for this purpose for those that have been clients for more than 12 years.

 

Government has also re-examined the Land Allocation Points System. In the new revision, the financial ability of applicants has been lowered from 800,000 Rupees to 550,000 Rupees. This change also affects the level of salary required of the applicant. The salary requirement has decreased from 15,000 Rupees to 12,000 Rupees a month. For those applications where the salary may be lower, the ministry will take any savings into account. For those applications that have already qualified for a piece of land, these revisions will not make a difference.

 

The criteria to retain ownership following land allocation will remain strict – that is, construction within a period of 5 years.

 

Cost of living

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, the cost of living is a subject that is discussed often. The majority of goods we consume here in Seychelles are imported, be it food, clothes, fuel or equipment. And when we import goods as a country, we are unable to determine its price.

 

There are several measures that the Government has taken in the past to support families with the challenges associated with a high cost of living. These measures in place today have an annual impact on the Government’s Budget.

 

Together, let us go over the measures that we have taken to address the cost of living situation.

 

Tax on hundreds of products has been removed, including meat, vegetables, fruits, juice, eggs, medicines, and most recently, VAT was removed from cans of tuna.

 

For the last 6 years, since 2012, STC has maintained the same price on the following goods: lentils, flour, diesel, sugar, margarine, sunflower oil, rice, powdered milk, baby’s milk, apples, oranges, onions and potatoes. We maintain the same price for these goods on Mahé, on Praslin, and on La Digue. This commitment costs and was an annual expense of 535 million Rupees by STC last year.

 

In our efforts to ensure that the price of fuel on Praslin and La Digue is the same as on Mahé, Seypec will continue to absorb any associated costs with transporting fuel. Last year, this cost was more than 30 million Rupees.

 

98% of workers benefit following the introduction of a fairer Progressive Income Tax system. This is a measure that costs Government more than 450 million Rupees every year. Today this money stays in the pockets of workers.

 

It is important that we are informed on the measures Government has taken. Just these 3 programmes: STC, keeping the fuel prices on Praslin and La Digue consistent, and the introduction of Personal Income Tax, costs the Government approximately 515 million Rupees every year – money that goes directly to reducing the cost of living. This does not include assistance in areas such as housing, SPTC, and other indirect measures such as subsidised tariffs for water and electricity.

 

The increase in the pension for senior citizens, the introduction of the 13th month salary, and the increase in minimum wages, are just 3 other measures.

 

Another measure that will support families that I would like to announce is a reduction in the price of gas. This will decrease from 17 Rupees per kilo to 15 Rupees per kilo. For a 9 kilo gas cylinder, this represents a reduction from 153 Rupees to 135 Rupees. This will take effect from March 15 this year.

 

Mr Speaker, as you know, today there is a maximum pension that people can get from the Seychelles Pension Fund when they retire. I have asked Seychelles Pension Fund to also consider introducing a minimum pension for its members.

 

Health

 

Mr Speaker, the health of our nation also depends on the health of our people. The illnesses prevalent in our society today are comparable to the situation in developed countries of the world. Our healthcare system has a good level of performance on the treatment of these illnesses, but our challenge today is prevention.

 

Last year I shared some of our achievements in the healthcare sector, such as the vaccination rate of our population, or the life expectancy of our people. All of this is very good, but it comes with responsibilities.

 

Our lifestyle choices today play a big role in the condition of our health tomorrow.

 

Complications from diabetes and cardiovascular disease are the biggest cause of death in the country today. The third biggest cause is cancer.

 

The prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in our society is directly aligned with our lifestyle. This includes what we eat, what we drink, the amount of exercise we do, and other factors. It is important that we think about the quality and quantity of what we consume. It is important that we make time to exercise.

 

This year, Government will introduce a new system to support prevention. Certain illnesses, including certain types of cancer, are hereditary. For these hereditary illnesses, Government will establish a system where close family of individuals that have been detected with these illnesses will be encouraged to get tested. Early detection can be the difference between life and death.

 

The Overseas Diagnosis and Treatment Board was established under the Overseas Treatment Act. This Board determines who needs to pursue medical treatment abroad. Just last year, 211 patients received treatment overseas, at a cost of 37.6 million Rupees. Out of these 211 patients, 47 of them were children.

 

It is a pleasure to announce that we will soon launch a project to develop a specialty hospital at Providence. Government will buy this piece of land that belongs to Nouvobanq. We will invite interested international hospital groups to invest in this project. We will retain control of any infrastructure associated with this project, and its operational aspects will be assured by a specialised group in the healthcare industry.

 

We will carry out this project with the support of the Indian Government. It will allow us to offer specialised services locally that currently require overseas treatment. For example, this hospital would offer radiotherapy, which is used to treat certain types of cancer. We are all aware that the number of cancer cases in our population is rising, and the specialty hospital will help us address this challenge systematically.

 

This project is one that brings a new dimension to the healthcare available to our population. It also has the ability to create economic opportunities through medical tourism.

 

I thank all of the professionals and staff in the healthcare sector for their hard work, dedication and commitment.

 

Environment

 

The state of our nation also depends on the state of our environment. Together, we need to continue looking after our environment.

 

We need to continue protecting our rare and endemic species and fragile ecosystems, and also continue managing our natural resources sustainably.

 

With this in mind, Seychelles will continue to protect more areas, in line with the preservation of our marine environment. This is to mitigate and adapt against climate change and is also critical to the development of our blue economy. The number one challenge for the world today is climate change. Here in Seychelles there is great enthusiasm among stakeholders and partners to reduce our impact on the environment and improve our conservation.

 

Last year we declared 15% of our Economic Exclusive Zone as protected, and the Government has committed to increase this to 26% by next month. By December 2020, we would have reached our target of 30%.

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, it is crucial that we always protect and preserve this environment for the betterment of our health, for the visitors that come to Seychelles, and most importantly, for the next generation. A clean environment begins with each one of us and where we live in our communities, but also with public places that we visit.

 

In line with this, last year the Government approved a new policy for Solid Waste Management. This year, with the assitance of the European Union and the World Bank, we will finalise a long-term action plan on the issue of waste management.

 

This year, the Ministry for Environment and the Landscape and Waste Management Agency will begin implementing various new measures, such as glass bottle recyling and a waste to energy project, in partnership with the private sector.

 

Employment

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, economic growth has continued over the last year and we remain on a good trajectory. Along with economic growth there is a demand for human resources, something that I discussed last year. Following recent statistics published by the National Bureau of Statistics, in December 2018 there were 50,353 people in formal employment. This figure includes foreigners on a work permit.

 

In mid-February this year there were 22, 997 foreigners with a work permit. The majority of these permits are for those in the construction sector, which has 6888 permits. Hotels and the tourism industry have 3276 permits. The commercial sector has 977 permits.

 

In the well-established sectors such as tourism, we see that the procedures to employ foreigners work well and the regulations are followed. Employers establish a contract with employees under the supervision of the Department of Employment and the Department of Immigration.

 

Employers and employees know their responsibilities. When this relationship works well, both sides benefit and it helps our economy.

 

Conversely, when people try to break the rules, it does not work out well and unfortunately, we have seen certain instances where this has happened.

 

When there is no contract, people take advantage of their workers and this is not good. We have seen instances where certain employers are not paying their workers. This is exploitation.

 

I encourage our citizens – if you suspect an employer is taking advantage of employees, please alert the authorities. Let us know so that we can take the necessary action. What is important is that the abuse is stopped immediately and that action is taken against those that are culpable.

 

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics also show that the unemployment rate is at a low of 3.5%. In contrast, the youth unemployment rate, of young people less than 25 years old, is 14.5% – this is high. There are multiple schemes that the Government has put in place to help young people find employment.

 

For example, the Government has a scheme called My First Job which helps young people find employment as soon as they complete their post secondary studies. This scheme is working very well. In the last 2 years, 1481 young people registered with this scheme. Today, according to statistics from the Ministry, only 8 out of the 1481 young people are still looking for a job. I take this opportunity to thank the businesses and employers that are supporting this scheme. There are 175 employers that have hired these young people in the last 2 years.

 

Another initiative is the ‘Reskilling’ programme which helps every Seychellois get the necessary training in order to find a job. From April 1 this year, it will be mandatory for all employers that employ foreigners on a GOP, to take young people on the ‘Reskilling’ programme. This is with the aim of supporting national efforts to address the issue of youth unemployment.

 

To help ensure local technical competencies, Government is working closely with the World Bank to set up a new technical and vocational school on Ile Soleil. This will be developed in partnership with the private sector, and will help in preparing our young people to better integrate and contribute to the development of the country.

 

In 2018, statistics from the Private Employment Agency show that the private sector has registered more than 1225 posts. According to these statistics, in 2017 and 2018, the private sector has put more than 2089 people in employment. I encourage people that are looking for work to register with the Ministry or with a private agency to get the necessary assistance to find a job.

 

Mr Speaker, the number of opportunities in the economy at the moment, and the number of employment opportunities being created by the private sector, brings me to the subject of education. According to statistics, 72% of people (across all age demographics) that are struggling to find employment, did not pursue post-secondary education. This number shows the importance of education.

 

Education & human resources

 

The rate of our economic development requires that our young people leaving school are better equipped for the world of work. Equipped in terms of knowledge, equipped in terms of competence, and equipped in terms of attitude. There is a big expectation that the education system responds to this demand immediately, but this remains a challenge.

 

Despite challenges with infrastructure or a shortage of teachers, there is a concerted effort across the schools and professional centres to improve the situation. I thank all teachers and all staff. They require our continuous support – they need the support of the families of their students and they need the support of the community.

 

Government will continue to support the implementation of the Medium-Term Strategy for Education 2018-22, and the Human Resources Development Strategy 2018-22, both of which aim to improve our human resources in line with the needs of our economy.

 

Today it is evident that problems at home have a great impact on the learning environment and performance at school of our young people. This poses a real challenge for our education system. It is important that we understand that education is a shared responsibility. Education starts at home. Parents are the first teachers of a child.

 

We need to make sure that our children and our young people do not just learn in school, but that they learn in their homes and in their communities too; appreciation and respect for human rights, respect for authority, respect for those close to them, and most importantly, self-respect. Let us recommit ourselves to ensuring our children also learn about our local traditions and heritage, which are so rich and form the foundation of our shared identity. If we fail to act, we will lose our culture.

 

The Ministry of Family Affairs currently has a holiday programme where Civil Society and other partners of the Ministry hold activities in schools. From the April school holidays, this programme will be reinforced by Governmental agencies such as the National Sports Council, the National Youth Council and the National Arts Council.

 

These councils, together with other partners, will increase the number of children that can access the programme. The aim is to provide children with a positive environment during their school holidays, where they have the opportunity to develop and channel their energy into productive activities.

 

The holiday programme will also familiarise more children with civic responsibilities and activities. For example, in the environment sector, we see many organisations and NGOs today that are supporting environmental intiatives in areas such as conservation, or raising awareness on global issues. We see that lots of these organisations are established and led by young people, and these are the organisations that have a lot of impact. Seychelles has done a lot in the domain of environment and I am proud when I see our young people taking this sector forward.

 

Sports, arts & culture

 

Sports, arts, and culture are positive forces in our lives. This new way of integrating our programmes will create additional opportunities to increase participation. I encourage all children and young people to make the most of these activities and remain engaged in their communities.

 

This year the 10th Indian Ocean Island Games will take place. Our athletes are currently training and working hard. I wish our team the best of luck, make Seychelles proud in July this year.

 

Mr Speaker, certain areas have great value for our society in terms of cultural heritage. One such area is the Beau Vallon promenade where Regatta takes place every year. For decades, this land was owned by a private proprietor who granted permission to hold activities in the area.

 

Today, I would like to announce that Government has bought this land. As a result, our children, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will also be able to enjoy access to this property. We plan to construct facilities in this area so that families will be able to make use of the area.

 

Economy

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, each one of us contributes to our economy. Those of us who are fishermen, farmers, employed in tourism, telecommunications, the blue economy, financial services, construction, commerce, small businesses, and others.

 

The state of our economy is stable. We are managing the economy carefully. Economic growth remained positive in 2019, and is expected to continue following an estimated growth rate of 3.6% in 2018.

 

It is the dedication and hard work of each one of us that allows us to maintain this progress. Tourism levels remain stable and the production sector has grown. For example, official statistics show that the production of tuna cans last year reached an all-time high compared to the last 10 years.

 

Last year we welcomed 361,844 visitors to Seychelles, a 3% increase compared to 2017. The amount of foreign exchange that the tourism industry has brought has increased by 16%. Statistics from Central Bank Seychelles also show that a bigger portion of this revenue is staying in Seychelles.

 

The new classification system for hotels will come into force this year. The preservation of local culture in these establishments will form part of the criteria that determines their classification, by including elements such as local art, music, Creole cuisine and others. This will also help increase the benefits that the tourism industry brings to the economy, and support the preservation of our culture.

 

The foreign exchange revenue from the whole economy increased by 12% last year, with 727 million Dollars entering the country. However our consumption is also growing. Almost the same amount of money that is coming into the country, is going out of the country through our expenditure.

 

Foreign exchange outflows came to 701 million Dollars in 2018, representing an increase of 24% compared to 2017. Statistics from the Central Bank show that individual loans increased by 13% in this same period. This shows that demand is high in the economy.

 

Despite the economy performing well, there are global uncertainties and instabilities. Economic powerhouses of the world differ in trade policies, or monetary policies. International oil prices remain volatile. Europe, where the majority of our tourists come from, is also facing uncertainties. In light of these global developments, we need to stay vigilant.

 

Air Seychelles

The aviation business is not one that is easy, and it comes with a lot of risks. Particularly for a small company like Air Seychelles where resources are limited.

 

Air Seychelles has been going through a transformation exercise that started last year. This includes the exchange of 2 existing planes for 2 new planes that are more efficient. One will arrive in July this year, and the next one will arrive early next year. This will allow Air Seychelles to concentrate on its regional routes.

 

This transformation exercise requires Governmental support. Without this support, Air Seychelles would be a company that only flies domestically and offers ground handling services to international airlines that stop in Seychelles. This option would be one that is simpler and more profitable, but it is an option that would make Seychelles economically vulnerable. We would need to be 100 percent dependent on foreign airlines to bring tourists to Seychelles.

 

From a strategic perspective, Government is not ready to put the country in this situation.

 

Today there are a lot of airlines that come to Seychelles, but as you all know, we have no guarantee that this will always be the case. With an economy that is dependent on tourism, it is essential that we ensure Air Seychelles has the capacity and capability to fly international routes. Air Seychelles remains for us and for our tourism industry the insurance policy that is necessary to protect this pillar of our economy.

 

However, this insurance comes with a price – it costs.

 

In an international aviation industry where even huge airlines are struggling to remain competitive, it is important that we continue to support Air Seychelles through this moment of transformation.

 

So, we have decided to subvent Air Seychelles 6 million Dollars every year for the next 5 years, starting this year. Etihad, the partner of Air Seychelles, has already put forward the entirety of its contribution.

 

Infrastructural development

 

Mr Speaker, Government is investing in infrastructure to allow the private sector to benefit from the associated advantages and opportunities. I would like to reiterate that investment in infrastructure is an investment in the efficiency of business operation, which is in turn an investment in the reduction of the cost of living in the long term.

 

At the moment, there are some major infrastructure projects underway.

 

One of these projects is the rehabilitation and upgrade of the La Gogue Dam, which will cost 185 million Rupees. I visited the dam and saw this project firsthand. We are increasing the capacity of the dam so that it can hold more water. Following the completion of the project, the capacity of the dam will increase to 1.6 million tons of water – 1.6 billion litres. This translates to an increase of 600,000 tons of water – 600 million litres.

 

There will be a phase of this project where work is required to increase the depth of the dam. In order to do this, the dam will need to be drained. This phase will take close to 2 months to complete, and according to PUC’s work plan, this will start in July this year.

 

During these 2 months, the water service will not be at the level we are used to expect. Residents in the north of Mahé in particular will be affected. Today, I ask for your understanding and cooperation during this period.

 

There are certain measures that I encourage families to take, such as the installation of a water tank. PUC offers schemes to help families finance their water tanks.

 

A second major project will allow PUC to upgrade their existing transmission structure to 33KV, and improve the distribution through their electricity network. As we may have encountered, the project entails the installation of underground cables and substations, sometimes disrupting the road network. This critical project improves the reliability and quality of electricity supply to the South of Mahé and the East Coast of Mahé in particular.

 

High voltage transmission improves efficiency, which means PUC will burn less fuel to produce electricity in the future. It also allows PUC to connect more renewable energy into its power system. This is better for our environment and also reduces the amount of foreign exchange we spend on the importation of fuel.

 

With increased socio-economic development in the West, East and South of Mahé, this project will allow PUC to meet new demands for electricity in the medium and long term.

 

The benefits are clear but while this project costing 450 million Rupees is being implemented, I know that it is creating inconveniences. I thank everyone for their cooperation while this work is being carried out.

 

On La Digue, the installation of the sewage treatment system has already begun, costing more than 200 million Rupees. This project is important for the sustainability of La Digue. PUC will also install an electric cable between Praslin and La Digue to improve the electricity service on La Digue. This is at a cost of 140 million Rupees.

 

These 4 projects that I have mentioned cost 975 million Rupees. Government is doing its best in terms of investment. However it is also clear that the tariff structure in place today has its limitations. The Energy Commission will undertake a study and submit recommendations on a new electricity tariff structure for PUC.

 

Expansion of Port Victoria

 

Mr Speaker, another major project that I would like to touch on is the rehabilitation and expansion of Port Victoria. The equivalent of more than 65,000 20-foot containers are handled at Port Victoria every year.

 

Today we have congestion at the port as a result of its limitations. When I visited the port recently, I saw for myself the work that the Seychelles Ports Authority needs to do, including increase the length of the Port by 600 metres, remove the sections that are in poor condition, and expand the area of the Port.

 

Construction will start in February 2020, and while this work is being done, there will be constraints in the operations of the Port. Certain adjustments will need to be made by everyone using the port, including importers, agencies, and employees at the port.

 

In order for the necessary reclamation to take place, the existing Port will have to be demolished, certain buildings will be taken down, space will need to be shared with construction workers, the area to anchor boats will decrease and there will be other associated constraints. There will be approximately 500 construction workers working on this project.

 

Government is taking measures to reduce the inconvenience caused. We have ensured that Seypec will anchor on Romainville Island so that fuel tankers do not block the port.

 

After the port is extended, ships will be able to be cleared much faster than they are today, and the Port will be able to host more boats at one time. All of this will make it easier to import which will help reduce the cost of living. It will also support the exportation of any locally produced goods.

 

Again, I thank everyone in advance for their cooperation while this work is being carried out.

 

The port on Praslin will also be improved. The work, which is estimated to cost more than 120 million Rupees, is being done in phases over a 5-year period. This work has already begun and work on the port itself will be completed by the end of the year. Work on the area and buildings surrounding the Port will facilitate commerce on Praslin and also help reduce the cost of living for Praslinois. This will include warehouse facilities and more space for containers.

 

On La Digue, work will be done on the La Passe jetty. This project which will cost 25 million Rupees in total, will start this year. Work will start by making the area around the port deeper, and the construction of a sea wall to increase the space that is available for boats to dock. These efforts will make it possible to separate cargo and passenger activity, so that the jetty at La Passe is safer.

 

Law and order

 

Mr Speaker, our progress and prosperity also depends on the mainenance of peace and security. The constitutional mandate of the Police is to protect the citizens of our country, uphold and enforce the law, and maintain public order.

 

In line with their mandate, the Police have stepped up their efforts. There was an 8% reduction in crime last year compared to 2017. There was also an improvement in the average solving rate of cases by the CID in this same period. We are on the right track.

 

The Commissioner of Police is implementing a new plan called ‘Back to Basics’. The aim of this plan is to ensure that we have a professional police force that is engaged and efficient; a police force that has qualified personnel. The police are continuing to strengthen their internal capacity and continue to send police officers abroad to complete training.

 

Next month the Seychelles Intelligence Service will be established, now that we have a new law. This will help the Police with illegal asset seizure and their battle against drugs and organised crime.

I encourage all agencies and citizens to work closely with the Police to address the common nuisances affecting our communities every day. It is only by working together through a more solid partnership that we will see results. We need to work together to maintain order in our country so that all citizens feel safe.

 

I thank all police officers for their hard work. Remain professional, engaged, and committed to protecting our citizens.

 

Maritime security

 

Mr Speaker, we have a vast exclusive economic zone that is 1.37 million square kilometres. This area is more than 8,500 times the size of Mahé. Seychelles continues to receive a great deal of technical and financial support from partners to help us better implement our maritime security strategy.

 

In terms of defence, the Coast Guard will have a permanent presence on certain outer islands this year. This is in order to reinforce protection of our big EEZ where today there is illegal fishing, drug trafficking and theft of our maritime resources.

 

I would like to thank all members of the Seychelles Defence Forces for their discpline, professionalism and devotion.

 

Results Based Management

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, in order for us to better serve our citizens, Government is today upholding the principles of transparency, good governance and accountability. The Government is placing greater focus on results, a practice commonly known as ‘Results Based Management’. This pactice will help improve existing practices that we have in place.

 

Government has made a lot of progress on the Budget process as a result of the work with Results Based Management. Today our citizens get more value for the money that Government spends. We are also making progress on our ability to measure and evaluate our performance in a more structured manner. But this is not enough.

 

We have taken measures to reinforce planning, a process that includes the preparation of our National Strategy. We will reinforce the management of our human resources to improve the efficiency and performance of Government. The Guy Morel Institute will have a critical role in the training of public servants. We are heading toward a ‘Digital Government’ which will allow our citizens to have access to services faster and more effectively through the Internet. We are working in partnership with the World Bank in order for us to access international expertise that will help us get better results for citizens in Seychelles. I would like to thank all public servants for their hard work and devotion.

 

Let us continue consolidating these values of good governance, transparence and accountability. Although the process may include obstacles where personal interests come into play, it is important that we continue forging ahead together for the benefit of Seychelles.

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, it is the Seychellois people that make up the state of the nation. Our country has entered a new stage of development.

 

In this stage, it is very important to maintain a balance between the amount of wealth possessed and the amount of wealth distributed, between individual consumption and considering others that are in need, between excessively high expectations and the realistic capability to meet these expectations.

 

In order for us to move forward in this stage, we need to work toward a shared vision as a nation. This vision is the result of consultations with all partners in our society. Our vision is going toward a sustainable and inclusive future. This is ‘Vision 2033’.

 

Today I say thank you to all of our citizens that have actively participated in this important exercise.

In this new stage, we are doing a lot to build institutions, to make sure that these institutions protect the liberties, dignities and human rights of all citizens. A stage where we compare ourselves with the developed countries of the world. A stage where all of us, we need to higher our standards so that we may go even higher, do even better, but retain our compassion, our welcoming spirit, our humility and our discpline.

Media and freedom of expression

This stage that we have arrived, we see an opening in terms of free press, free expression, and the space for – peacefully and in an orderly fashion – to manifest what we like, and what we may not like. We are also witnessing the power of our Constitution where there are checks and balances on all 3 branches that make up the Government – the Legislative, Judiciary, and Executive. But in order for us to keep moving forward, it is essential that our citizens are better informed on the functions and mandates of our Constitution, and the laws that establish the role of certain institutions.

 

The media has a role to play in maintaining this balance, in giving information to the citizens.

 

In this stage we have arrived we are also seeing another phenomenon – and that is social media. A platform created by modern technology that allows free expression and the changing of points of view between country and country, between frontiers and frontiers, between friends and friends, between family and family. But here, there are also negativities and dangers. Collectively, we need to be vigilant and monitor what our children are consuming on social media.

 

This also means that citizens cannot, in the name of democracy, use their freedom of expression to post whatever they like on social media.

 

A negative post can hurt the feelings of others, affect familial relationships, affect the foundations of community, damage the image of Seychelles, and affect our harmony and tranquility – one of our greatest achievements as a nation.

 

We should not put up posts that go against the Preamble of our Constitution, against the words of our National Anthem, against the good values we believe in, against the identity we have forged together.

 

Seychellois brothers and sisters, we continue our journey together.

 

Together we are progressing. On the Global Corruption Index, we are first in Africa and 28th in the world. On the Human Capital Index, we are first in Africa and 43rd in the world. On the Ocean Health Index, we are first in Africa and 33rd in the world.

 

Our progress, Seychellois brothers and sisters, is not by accident. Our progress is thanks to our hard work together. Together, we need to continue valuing a culture of hard work. Today, I say thank you to the Seychellois people for your positive contribution toward the state of our nation. I renew my commitment to continue working for Seychelles and all Seychellois.

 

Seychelles remains bigger than us all and I pray that God continues to bless our country.

 

Thank you.

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