President Ramkalawan delivered the best Sona so far, say members of Seychelles Civil Society | 01 February 2021
On Friday January 22, 2021 our new President Wavel Ramkalawan delivered the best State-of-the-nation address (Sona) so far, say members of Seychelles Civil Society.
We have heard the views of the opposition, the MNAs in the National Assembly had 3 TV days to air their views, the media have written, people in the know had their say, SBC has interviewed people on the street and now our members wish to express their views. Who are we? Seychelles Civil Society (SCS) is a registered non-governmental organisation (NGO), not funded by the government or any business or any individual; we have no paid members to cower to and the views we express are the views of people who call us to express their opinion because they do not have access to the media. We hold back no punches as we share with the readers of this newspaper the views of our members.
Previous presidents have stood up in our National Assembly year after year and have delivered their own brand of State-of-the-nation address, with the intention of telling the people the truth but they have not been as frank with us as President Wavel Ramkalawan. They created a false sense of security and painted a rosy picture when in fact we have been heading down a precipice. All this talk about Seychelles being a high income country is poppycock and bulldadash. We accumulated a small surplus/reserve because most Seychellois have been underpaid for the work they do compared to those high up in the echelon of our society and necessary services have not been delivered hence the accumulation of a small reserve. In 2018 Seychelles ran a large structural account deficit of 16.7% of our GDP and now the IMF is telling us we must close down Air Seychelles because it is losing too much money, etc. No past presidents told us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Since the change of government in Seychelles, it is not difficult to notice that the people generally feel liberated; they feel they can speak out without being victimised or have tonton macoute patrolling their homes at night or their children being deprived of a scholarship, boy oh boy you name it and the people of Seychelles have suffered it and now the end of an era has truly dawned upon us as we have seen the back of the corrupt and oppressive government that ruled Seychelles for 43 years. True democracy has arrived in Seychelles and it is up to us now not to abuse it as we have seen has happened in America under Donald Trump.
President Wavel Ramkalawan has confirmed what we suspected for a long time which is that our beautiful country is being abused, it is broken and declining very fast, especially now with Covid-19,because several important matters have been swept under the carpet and civil servants feared to voice the truth because they would lose their job. The bureaucracy created by the last government during its 53 years in power has grown out of all proportions, all of which are being paid for by the tax payers and one president after another have kept the real truth away from us. The last government created parastatals and boards of highly paid supporters to duplicate work; some parastatals have no real functions in the day to day running of our country yet they suck the blood of the tax payers. NGOs, which by nature are non-governmental organisations, have been funded by the last government to keep them quiet and to win votes. NGOs are supposed to provide a check and balance on behalf of civil society and this cannot be achieved when your paymaster is the one you are supposed to watch and challenge. So many NGOs receive grants which they put in the bank and accrue no interests and year after year they get their allowances renewed.
Hired cars are given to workers who do not need them or who live opposite their work place and can walk to work. Their wife uses the car for shopping and ferrying the kids to and from school which is not far anyway while the employee walks a few steps to work. This has got completely out of hand. What about the senior civil servants who once a year, if not more often, justify a trip overseas a week before the wife’s birthday or Christmas to bring back nice duty free presents. What about using ministerial cars free of charge at weekends and evenings for private journeys? Have you heard about this very common practice? Of course you have and no one has done anything about it.
Continuous abuse of our hard earned tax money
Contracts are awarded to companies owned by people who work for the government at senior levels. There is hardly any supervision of most contracts once awarded and if one complains, as I did, someone with a bad attitude turns up to try and resolve your complaint as if who the hell are you to complain, but excuse me we, the tax payers, pay your damn salaries to boot. Guess what? The same contractors get their contracts renewed year after year. This corruption has existed for years and not one damn thing has ever been done about it. Who would dare to speak up?
What about GOPs for foreign workers? We have experienced abuse like you have never seen before. To make matters worse, the Ministry of Employment started to issue Group GOPs and now young men from the Indian Continent who come over here intended to work on construction sites end up working as shop assistants in the shops round the corner and in Victoria and customers have to communicate with them by sign language. This means the new migrant workers have displaced Seychellois women, mostly with 2 or more kids to feed and made them redundant. They have taken food from our children’s mouth. How the hell did we or are we still sustaining this level of abuse? I wrote about this once before and someone high up in the Indian echelon got very upset, so what, the truth always hurts as indeed we are experiencing right now. As if this is not bad enough these young migrant workers do extra work in the evenings and at weekends privately, again depriving Seychellois workers of their livelihood at a time when our inflation is running at 3% from 2.6% in 2019. The last government allowed this practice to go on without control. Clearly there are too many foreign workers in Seychelles sending money back home which depletes our forex cash flow.
President Wavel Ramkalawan also told Seychellois straight to get off our rear and work and not to expect to be subsidised by the state which most previous presidents have been scared to tell Seychellois straight for fear of losing votes. Most people who called us appreciate this straight talking because our social services have been abused by lazy Seychellois who do not want to work. Of course we need foreign workers and we welcome them because we have more jobs than working Seychellois but at the same time we also need to manage the situation in a fair, firm and economical way.
Is Seychelles a corrupt country?
Corruption, especially political corruption, in Seychelles is everywhere even in our Judiciary and this was made known to the last Chief Justice by this NGO before she left and sweet nothing has been done about it. There is no structure in our Judiciary to take crooked lawyers and biased judges to task so they do as they please, who is going to sue them? Our Anti-corruption Commission (ACCS) made up of 30 working staff and management has been in existence for 4 years come this month of March and all they have achieved thus far is to prosecute one of their own employees. Every year they cry for more resources but no results. ACCS spends more time lecturing to school children instead of prosecuting the baddies, consequently Seychelles rank 27th in the league of corrupt countries.
Similarly SIB (Seychelles Invetment Bureau) spends more time working with local businesses when they are supposed to be attracting inward investments from overseas. We have lost our way in the world and we have to learn how to do things properly.
At what cost do we fly our flag?
The big uproar right now is Air Seychelles. When times were good and money was in abundance Air Seychelles never made any profit whether under a Seychellois/Mauritian management or Etihad management. Today all airlines, big and small, across the world are losing big money on international passenger flights, there are more planes parked at airports than in the air, the volume of which has declined by 60% which equals to USD 370 billion since 2020; on the other hand international freight cost has increased from US $2.00 to 4.00 per kilogramme due to the pandemic. Five minutes aircraft-on-the ground (AOG) can cost an airline US $35 million annually. Now tell me honestly and frankly which business should Air Seychelles be engaged in? Clearly the answer is to become a regional and local operator and no amount of sentiment about flying the flag will change it. It is a bitter pill we have to swallow instead of throwing money we do not have to keep Air Seychelles on the international circuit.
Congratulations to our health workers
SCS takes pride in congratulating our health workers for doing a superb job and we take our hats off to Dr Danny Louange, Dr Jude Gedeon and the team responsible for managing our Covid-19 dilemma, working all hours that they are called upon to do and yet health workers are paid peanuts compared to other trades. How can this continue? Teachers and health workers are at the centre of any developed society, yet politicians and senior civil servants earn a fortune for the kind of work they do. Take a look at a recent published salary range of our politicians then compare what health workers, teachers, essential workers and pensioners are being paid and it makes you want to puke.
Where do we wash our hands?
We are told to wash our hands regularly but have you seen any new toilets being built since Covid-19 landed in Seychelles or have you seen soap put out in some of the existing toilets? Of course not, men continue to urinate along the roadside, against the wall like it has been for many years past then they come and shake hands with you. I will refrain from saying anything about the ladies’ urgent sanitary needs but for goodness sake let us build some decent public toilets in every district and in and around Victoria and then put hand sanitisers in them, now we are addressing our health the right way.
Remember as the world, our nation included, gets poorer, Covid-19 has so far created more millionaires than ever before. There are now more Seychellois with offshore bank accounts than you have had hot dinners. Some rats escaped the sinking ship with their loot, you know what I mean. Time for change has definitely arrived.
Barry Laine FCIM, FInst SMM, MCMI, MBSCH
Seychelles Civil Society
The Wishing Well, Anse Des Genets,
The views and claims made in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Seychelles NATION newspaper.