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National Assembly

Continuation of Budget Address delivered by Naadir Hassan, Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade on Tuesday February 16, 2021 | 17 February 2021

6.1.            FA4JR

Mr Speaker, with regard to the FA4JR scheme, Government is paying a monthly sum of SCR125 million for this programme. If we maintain the same strategy, Government will have to spend SCR1.5 billion for this in 2021. This is an amount not sustainable for our budget.

As I have already mentioned, we had a total of 12,690 foreigners working in our country at the end of January 2021. During 2020, the Department of Employment received a total of 10,412 applications for GOP, and 8,930 applications out of this have been approved.

So, Mr Speaker, we can only conclude that there are enough jobs for every Seychellois in this country. As such, Government will have to review its proposal for FA4JR in 2021 as follows;

  1. For January 2021, all businesses have been assisted equally during December 2020 except in cases where an employee had been removed from the payroll.
  2. As from February 2021, Government has introduced an “affirmative list”.
  3. For February and March 2021:
    1. Those businesses on Form 1 on the affirmative list will receive 50% assistance. Businesses not on this list will not receive any assistance.
    2. Businesses on Form 2 on the affirmative list will receive SCR5,804 and those not on the list will not receive any assistance.

Government is ensuring that its vaccination programme is going smoothly, which will be necessary when we reopen our country to visitors towards mid-March 2021. Thus, March 2021 is the last month that Government will provide assistance to businesses under the FA4JR scheme. Businesses will have to reorganize themselves, taking into account new developments in our economy.

6.2.            Assistance for businesses with liquidity constraints

Mr Speaker, the Central Bank will continue to implement the ‘private sector relief scheme’ to assist those businesses that have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This scheme was introduced to support operation costs for businesses.

A sum of SCR500 million is available for small and medium enterprises. This was supposed to be repaid on a three-year basis, but we are now extending the repayment period to five years. The interest rate on this scheme is 1.5% with a 70% guarantee by Government.

The other facility will be a sum of SCR750 million for the larger businesses, with an interest rate of 4.5%, that will also continue. This facility has a guarantee of 50% by government, and it will be paid on a 3-year basis.

There are ongoing discussions between the Central Bank and the banks in the private sector, to see how the challenges of implementing this scheme can be addressed.

The ‘Small Business Support Fund’ under the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) will also continue in 2021. This Fund is available for small enterprises with annual revenues below SCR2 million, and there will be no interest payments on it.

 

  1. Public Service Restructuring

Mr Speaker, we are currently encumbered by a public administrative that is too large and full of duplications. This means that our public administration is currently unsustainable, and this situation is worsening with the current economic crisis we are facing.

We shall continue to review our Government structure and install a new administration that is more efficient.

As previously announced, as of January 2021, STC would no longer pay rent on the Hypermarket complex. Following a review of the mandate and function of the Société Seychelloise D’Investissement (SSI), Government has taken a decision to close down this company.

SSI is a company that was created in 2008 with the sole aim of holding ‘shares’ owned by government. Unfortunately, it has since expanded in its function and has even impinged on the mandates of other organizations.

With this reform, the dividends that were being paid to SSI by public enterprises will now be paid directly into the Government’s account at the Central Bank.

This will allow for better management of public finance. The activities that SSI was undertaking will be transferred to Government bodies that already have more or less the same responsibilities.

However, Government is giving its commitment to ensuring that SSI employees are offered other posts in the public service.

Government will also continue its work to reduce duplication in existing structures, and reduce the running costs of these entities. Along these lines, there will be a transformative reform in the role played by DPA.

To ensure better efficiency in the Public Sector, Government will accelerate its plan to put in place, a structure that is based on results and performance. In order to have good results and good performance, it is important to have good planning. This Government is an efficient one that allows the private sector to play its role in our economy.

 

We must be able to plan, as a country, and all ministries and departments have the responsibility to ensure that they implement this. We must adopt a strategy where we plan before spending, and where our expenditure is evaluated to see if it has really benefitted our people, and to ensure that each individual is rewarded for their performance.

 

This will ensure that all public sector employees and all Government offices become accountable.

7.1.            Flexible working hours

Mr Speaker, as a result of this pandemic and the economic situation, we must also review service delivery.

In this new normal, it is important that we become innovative and have a certain degree of flexibility. It is with this in head that Government steps up its efforts to adopt flexible working hours.

This will help workers to have a better ‘work life balance’, which in return, will improve productivity as well as better management of family responsibilities. Flexible working hours will bring about certain benefits, especially with regard to child-care.

In addition to this, there will be a positive impact on traffic management since not everybody will be beginning or ending their working day at the same time.

However, we recognize the fact that there could be certain challenges, especially with regard to internet, equipment that is needed to work at home, and also individual performance.

Policies will be developed to address these challenges and ensure that there is a framework in place to evaluate employee performance in the new normal.

It will become very important for all of us as workers, to take our responsibilities with regard to our production level.

7.2.            Governance of Public Enterprises

Following government’s adoption of the Good Governance Code’ and policies that are linked to public enterprises, Government is going to place more emphasis on the governance of those enterprises.

The Public Enterprise Monitoring Commission (PEMC) will become the only authority to oversee these public enterprises.

Mr Speaker, this authority, in collaboration with the ministries concerned, and their boards, will establish targets for these enterprises to ensure that they generate revenue for the government and for the people of Seychelles.

This authority will also ensure that their targets are monitored and that they are accountable to Government. The decisions taken by these enterprises must be aligned with national plans. The objective is that these enterprises function in the interest of the people of Seychelles, and not in isolation.

The time for public enterprises to be disconnected from government policies and to create their own empires is past and will no longer be tolerated.

All public enterprises will have to work in the national interest, guided by government policies, and in return, their boards are responsible for implementing the government’s vision.

PEMC will be given every support and the necessary authority to ensure that the government’s mandate is implemented.

7.3.            Reform STC

We have observed that with our current economic situation, our Rupee has depreciated and this has caused a rise in the price of goods. Government’s priority for 2021 is to put in place fiscal policies to stabilize the exchange rate.

We are anticipating that when we reopen our economy and the tourism industry resumes its activities, more foreign exchange will enter our financial system. This will help our Rupee to appreciate and lower the price of goods.

As we have observed, there has been no change in the price of the 14 most essential commodities since 2012. This is in spite of foreign exchange rate depreciation, rising transportation costs, and changes in price on the international market.

STC is currently finding it very difficult to maintain the 2012 price for these products, as the cost of buying them has risen. The STC board has thus been given a mandate to analyse the issue and present a proposal to Government.  

Government will make it its priority to reform STC, to ensure that its operation costs are lowered. It will also look into STC’s buying procedures to ensure that it is indeed buying at a lower cost.

Government remains committed to searching for ways to lower the cost of living for its people, and to ensure food security.

In order to ensure that this keeps on being guaranteed, Government is revising the operational structure of this company and its procurement system, to ensure that wastage, inefficiency and unnecessary expense are eliminated.  

 

  1. The Sectors;

Economic Transformation

Mr Speaker, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we really are as an island state. Our country is one of the small island states that has been most affected. This is because the pandemic has impacted on our most important source of revenue, our tourism industry. At this point, it is important to note that tourism will always be the main pillar of our economy. We must thus ensure that our recovery strategy is one that will help us become more resilient in the face of external situations.

 

It is for this reason that we must together, explore the different options to transform our economy. In the tourism sector, we must intensify our efforts to put more on offer than just our natural beauty, we must also be able to offer a cultural experience that will give our visitors a uniquely Seychellois experience.

 

In agricultural and fisheries sectors, we must encourage the development of more products with added value that can also bring about more exportation opportunities for our local enterprises. It is just as important to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship in our population, to facilitate this economic transformation.

 

Mr Speaker, the job market continues to be affected by the Covid-19 impact, especially now that we have many students who have completed their studies, and who expect to join the world of work. At the end of December 2020, the department of employment approved only 2,763 cases. From the approved list, 36% or 1,004 were Seychellois workers. Up to January 4, 2021, there were 12,690 active work permits for foreign workers.

In addition, we are continuously receiving more requests for foreign workers in most sectors of our economy, including agriculture and fisheries. There are jobs in these sectors that Seychellois workers can easily fill with proper training. On top of this, there are 1,732 applications with regard to foreign workers who are stuck abroad and who want to come back. This makes it clear that there are enough jobs for Seychellois workers in this country.

Mr Speaker, I want to send a strong message to workers and those who are seeking employment. Government is committed to putting Seychellois first in the matter of employment. At the same time, workers must take their jobs seriously. It is also your responsibility to be on time for work, to be productive and to contribute to your work place. Respect the rules and regulations of your organizations so that you don’t lose your jobs for senseless reasons, which could have been avoided.

For those who are seeking employment, this is a time when we have to accept what is on offer, as it might get even harder later. When you are offered a job, do take it. When you are referred for an interview, go for your interview. Stop choosing jobs!

Prove yourself and accept jobs that are available and not necessarily in line with your preferences. When the economy is back on its feet, you will have the opportunity to choose a job that is to your liking. To the employers, I would like to ask you to employ our Seychellois, before considering a foreign worker.

Prove yourself and accept jobs that are available and not necessarily in line with your preferences. When the economy is back on its feet, you will have the opportunity to choose a job that is to your liking. To the employers, I would like to ask you to employ our Seychellois, before considering a foreign worker.

Government has announced a series of reforms with regard to work permit procedures for foreign workers. I am asking employers to cooperate and ensure that employment opportunities are advertised with the necessary information so that Seychellois are better able to apply for these positions. You must furthermore, make it your duty to offer more attractive packages to Seychellois, in comparison to what you offer foreign workers.

Private companies have a responsibility to create a clear career pathway for young workers who are just starting their careers. The hotel or bank where he/she works, must show him/her that if he/she performs and build his/her skills, he/she can also become the general manager of a hotel or the chief executive of a bank. These posts should not be reserved for foreigners only. This will have to change, and we will have to value our own people. The Seychellois is a talented people, and if they are given the opportunity, they will deliver. Our GOP reforms will reflect these principles.

We will work towards modernizing our employment laws, and we will target certain key sectors in our economy, with the aim of improving working conditions for businesses as well as workers. The department of employment is working closely with the private sector so that workers seeking employment can access the necessary information. This includes employment opportunities on our outer islands.  

Mr Speaker, we are also working on reforming the benefits and programmes offered by the Agency for Social Protection.

As a government, we must ensure that benefits and programmes are given to the more vulnerable members of our society.

We also have to work with the beneficiaries of these programmes so that they do not become dependent on these only.

The budget for Benefits and Programmes is the biggest budget in the 2021 national budget. This represents 13% of the national budget.

We are aware that 17% of our population are 60 and above. We thus have to review our expenditure with regard to this segment of the population, to make it more appropriate for their needs and more sustainable.

As announced, we will have a series of reforms with the help of the World Bank, as follows:

  • We have to ensure better coordination among key sectors in the country. We will establish a ‘social registry’ for this. This will help to ensure that people who are really vulnerable get the necessary assistance and thus cut down on bureaucracy. It will also ensure that the children in these families are not neglected, and that they are able to take all opportunities available to them.
  • We are going to modernize the Home Care system to ensure that it becomes more accessible to people who are more in need of it.
  • We will also review the sustainability of the retirement benefits.
  • We shall review the invalidity and disability benefits, to ensure that they target people with physical disabilities in accordance with international standards.
  • We will also review our social welfare assistance according to socio-economic needs.

8.1.            The Tourism Sector

Mr Speaker, as I have already pointed out, the tourism sector will remain the number one industry in our economy. It is for this reason that we have to review our strategies to relaunch this industry, and make it more sustainable and resilient. I am proud to say that we have already begun the first steps, through our vaccination programme.

 

For many years, we have depended on our natural beauty to attract our visitors. Even if this will remain our main attraction, we must diversify the products that we have to offer our visitors.

 

Certain new products such as ‘cultural tourism’ will be developed, so that our visitors may experience our heritage, our culture, and our cuisine. This will also help to bring about more development in our communities, which will enrich the experience of our visitors, and they will in return, spend more in our country.

 

We also have to review our tourism attractions and make them more interesting for visitors. As an island state, we have to make better use of our ocean, and create more water sport activities and other leisure activities.

 

We have heard time and time again that we have to encourage more local participation in this sector. For this to materialize, we must ensure that the supply chain is well established. This will create the opportunity for the other two key sectors, fisheries and agriculture, to also contribute to the recovery of our tourism industry and this new way of doing things.

 

Human capacity development in the tourism industry is also primordial to the transformation of this sector. We shall have to train the workers already in this sector and those who want to join it, so that we have a qualified working force. This will help reduce our dependence on foreign workers and also ensure that our Seychellois make progress in this domain.

 

Our traditional markets in Europe are among those that have been the most affected by this pandemic. So, it is also important to diversify our markets, and during the last few months of 2020, Israel has shown us that this possible.

8.2.            The Agricultural Sector

Government’s commitment to the agricultural sector in 2021, is to give support to farmers, ensure that we reach our target of increasing our livestock and vegetable production, and to help farmers in the development of their businesses. In this regard, Government will continue to support meat production so that it becomes more competitive alongside importations, and contribute towards the country’s food security. The medium term target is to increase production to at least more than half of what we consume.

Government will still support the following;

  1. The cost of slaughtering pigs and chicken at the abattoir;
  2. The production costs for pork and chicken for each farmer;
  3. Additional costs on baby chicks;
  4. Increases in the price of animal feed;
  5. And transportation costs for animal feed between Mahé and other islands.

Mr Speaker, the abattoir on Praslin will be completed this year, with the support of the European Union, which is supplying technical assistance and equipment. Government has already identified a new site for the abattoir on Mahé, and we expect that construction will begin this year.

Government will continue to allocate funds to the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) to facilitate those who are engaging in production. The ‘Agriculture Development Fund’ scheme will be revised and will now on provide a loan of up to SCR5 million, compared to the SCR1 million loan that is currently available. The interest rate on this scheme will be 2.5% for loans of up to SCR3 million, and for applications above SCR3 million, the interest rate will be 5%. This is being done in order to encourage farmers to expand their activities.

Mr Speaker, it is important at this point in time, to make it clear that there has been abuse in this scheme. A close look at the scheme has revealed that many of those who have benefitted have not made the effort to repay their loans, and some have even completely stopped paying. I am thus making an appeal to those who have benefitted from this loan to honour their agreements so that others may benefit as well.

We shall accelerate the repossession of agricultural land that have been allocated to farmers, and who are not using them, and we will redistribute them to farmers who are prepared to engage in serious production. Support for youths in the agricultural sector will continue, and will be adjusted as we progress. Government will also find a way of assisting young people who were promised assistance, but have not yet received this assistance under the ‘la semence’ programme, especially those of Au Cap district. Government will also consider a faster integration of youths on agricultural land wherever available, so that they don’t lose interest in that sector.

Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture, the School of Agriculture and the agency, is a logical way to help young Seychellois develop their abilities and move into this sector. I am thus asking the ministries responsible for education and agriculture to organize things so that the school facilities and activities are integrated with agricultural centres, like research centres. I also propose that this centre offers courses for adults who are already in the agricultural sector, to develop their knowledge and abilities.

Government will continue to make provisions for the necessary materials needed by farmers, such as fertilizer and pesticides. We need this guarantee for the producers. At the same time, Government will also explore possibilities for the private sector to play a bigger role in this service, which will facilitate access to the materials that farmers need.

Along the same lines, we need to bring the private sector into activities traditionally led by government in agriculture. The Genetic Centre for pig farming is one of the activities that will be reviewed, and transferred to those farmers who show interest and have the capacity. Government will remain a facilitator in these arrangements, by making use of its international liaisons, and by giving technical support to those farmers who need it.

This pandemic has made us realise the necessity of being more self-reliant, and of the need to find ways of making our people become more resilient, by making use of what we have. In the immediate term, government will revise the way it gives permission to farmers to raise chickens. The Ministry of Agriculture will thus make the necessary revisions and see with farmers who want to increase their production, how they can improve on their site planning and other means of improving production.

During this year, Government will also create opportunities for individuals or private groups to create at least two farms as “parent stock”, so that we can produce eggs for hatching locally. This will help us to cut down on our importations of eggs for hatchery, and thus lower the cost of baby chicks that currently is more than SCR18.

At the same time, we must continue to encourage each household to do what they can to economize and thus cut down on our consumer imports. It is in this way that we will be able to put our country back on its feet, and the government is here to support every citizen in this endeavour.

8.3.            The Fisheries Sector

Mr Speaker, if there is a sector in our economy that is performing short of its full potential, it is the fisheries sector. During this period when we have been impacted by Covid-19, especially in our economic performance, many of those who had not appreciated the true importance of the fisheries industry have now understood that had we not had a second economic pillar, we would have been unable to make any progress in our development. And this pillar is fisheries!

President Ramkalawan and his team in government has declared a long time ago that we must pay more attention to this sector. Even before the last fisheries agreement with the European Union was renewed last year, we were asking that Seychelles should get a better deal.

Yes, this government sincerely believes that we can earn more from our fisheries industry. It is for this reason that we shall soon make the announcement that Seychelles is open for investment in the following sectors:

  • Construction of the new jetty to receive more long liners that are already fishing in our waters, but that do their transhipments either at sea or in another port in the Indian Ocean.
  • Construction of a new jetty and the improvement of existing ones to facilitate seiner transactions.
  • Construction of a dry dock for heavy work on industrial fishing vessels.
  • Construction of the necessary facilities for electronic and electro-mechanic repairs on fishing vessels.
  • Construction of a factory for making fish products, especially tuna, so that our country obtains better value from this important resource.
  • The development of better net repair facilities.
  • Developing and improving the facilities in the districts for artisanal fishermen.
  • Construction of a facility at the airport handle fish for exportation.
  • Build and develop a quality image for our fish exports and other ocean products at an international standard.

 

Mr Speaker, we are launching an appeal to Seychellois investors to invest in the fisheries sector, to expand it and create more wealth for our country and our people. Our government will give priority to Seychellois over foreigners. Where we have insufficient funding or expertise, we will encourage joint ventures where Seychellois will have their part of the profit.

These investors will create more wealth without our having to fish more. Our Government’s intention is to add value to our fish, without having to over-exploit our fish. We expect that in the next 5 years, we shall be able to create more than 1500 jobs in this sector and double the number.

The Government is also increasing its efforts to develop the Blue Economy sector. In fact, this year, a new project for industrial development in the marine biotechnology sector has materialized. Through a donation from the African Development Bank (ADB), we have begun establishing the necessary frameworks which will allow us to have concrete information on our potential for developing this industry, and to identify businesses and revenues that can be gained for our country in this respect. This project is also putting emphasis on learning, through the training of some 100 entrepreneurs who are interested to participate in it, and this includes women and youths.

When this industry takes off, its impact will be quite vast, and it will allow us to use marine resources to develop businesses in cosmetics, jewelry, medicine and other domains where our research shows us that there is a potential. This is aimed at developing our local industries, so that more high level employment opportunities are created, which will in the end, facilitate the development of our society as a whole.

With regard to the financial facilities at our disposal to support the development of value added products in the Blue Economy Sector, especially in the fisheries sector, Government is pleased to announce that we have just concluded renegotiations with the World Bank for more favourable terms and conditions for investors who want to access these funds. The businesses that can benefit from these funds are;

  • those offering scientific services for the fisheries sector, which include research in food products such as seafood;
  • those that offer logistical services such as packaging, distribution, marketing and sales;
  • those that do fish processing, giving added value to fish;
  • and those in the fish processing business who want to develop technologies for new facilities or repair old ones to reinforce their business.

We are thus making an appeal to investors who qualify for this fund, to use the facility at their disposal.

8.4.            The ‘Digital Economy’ Sector

Mr Speaker, the world is already in a digital age and Seychelles should not be left behind. This revolution that the world has gone through the development of technology, it could bring a number of benefits for our country. Therefore, we need to put in place the policies and structure that will enable us to develop the digital economy.

In the coming months, the Cabinet of Ministers will consider the different policies that we need to put in place to develop that sector. This initiative will bring great benefits for the other sectors of the economy.

An ‘e-government’ system which have been promised for a number of years will have the possibility to bring along a number of benefits to improve the way the Government delivers its service. We need to stop on manual procedures and introduce electronic processes. This will ensure that Government will be more efficient and effective. This will also ensure more transparency and reduce the possibility of corrupt practices.

Development in this sector will also create opportunities for businesses and employment for our people. Our education system will also need to include in their curriculum more technological content to ensure that the next working generation have the proper tools to continue developing that sector.

8.5.            The Education Sector

Education remains a priority for our new Government, and in spite of the economic difficulties we are facing, it is necessary to continue to raise the aspirations of our students, so that they may give their best in order to succeed in their studies and at all levels.

The Ministry of Education will work on a plan towards the new education system that this Government wishes to see in Seychelles.

The Ministry of Education recognizes the fact that in order to have a sustainable economy, it is necessary for everyone in the system, including students, to reduce wastage at all costs. Furthermore, there is a need for new approaches and new practices that will allow for more emphasis and resources being put in teaching and learning.

Another aspect of our efforts to economize, especially during this Covid-19 period, is that the Ministry of Education is encouraging students to choose the different options available for their study including online learning, especially now, since the option for travelling is not possible. In addition, for those who qualify, to choose a scholarship that we have received as a donation from different organizations and other foreign states. We are also calling on businesses to offer scholarships at a national level which will help in the development of our human capacity in the different sectors.

At the same time, we will work hard to equip and modernize other existing schools, so that they become in themselves, small centres of excellence at all levels and in all aspects. The Ministry of Education has a very ambitious plan aiming towards that objective.

8.6.            The Financial Sector

The Financial Sector is one that has the potential for development. We have to ensure that Seychelles is in conformity with international laws.

The Ministry responsible for Finance will thus establish a committee, comprising all the key people in this sector, to work on a national plan, to ensure that this sector is developed and is able to generate more foreign exchange.

Mr Speaker, 2021 is the third and last year that we have to ensure that we improve our laws and bring them up to date with best practices within the Anti-Money Laundering framework, and to fight against terrorists financing (AML/CFT). This is in line with the ‘Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards.

We are bringing the following amendments in the following laws before the National Assembly;

  1. Prevention of Terrorism act
  2. Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters act
  3. Extradition act
  4. Registration of Association act
  5. Beneficial Ownership Act
  6. Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act (AML/CFT)
  7. The law that governs the licensing framework.

Government will also propose a new law to create a new framework for the governance of Virtual Assets Service Providers.

Mr Speaker, we expect to complete the work on this, and pass these amendments before July 2021.

Mr Speaker, in December 2020, the National Assembly approved the amendment of the Business Tax Law, as per our obligations towards the European Union with regard to taxation.

As you are aware, the European Union had put Seychelles on its list of jurisdictions that were not in cooperating with its tax system.

Mr Speaker, as I mentioned when I was presenting this bill to the National Assembly, we introduced a ‘en De-Minimis” rule threshold’ that would exclude entities that are not risky.

The European Union is presenting this case to their committee so that they can let us know if we can adopt this practice. We are waiting for their answer before we make any other amendments in our Schedule 11.

Mr Speaker, the second component that will get Seychelles off the European Union list is that we have to introduce other amendments to address the concerns of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, especially with regard to the exchange of information among different tax authorities, whereby Seychelles was downgraded from “Largely compliant” in 2015 to “partially compliant” in April 2020.

Seychelles will have to ask for a ‘supplementary review’ to address these issues in information exchange. Mr Speaker, we will put these laws in place so that we are in line with the OECD framework;

  1. International Business Companies act
  2. Foundations act
  3. Limited Partnership act

We are also proposing a new ‘Trust Act’ to replace the existing law for International Trusts.

8.7.            The Transport Sector

Our ports and international airport are the economic lungs of our country, and the Government is placing a lot of emphasis on improving the services and efficiency of these departments. This effort is being manifested through a big redevelopment project for the commercial port, for which we will invite local and foreign partners to give their ideas on the best ways of doing this redevelopment.

The same principle will be applied to the air transportation sector. While we are reflecting on a durable and long term solution for our national airline, Air Seychelles, we are also studying ways of becoming more efficient and earning more revenue in our domestic and ground handling segment of the business. The subject of Air Seychelles is one that has generated a lot of debate. Government’s decision will have to be based on this company’s financial sustainability, and not one based on emotion.

Mr Speaker, government has welcomed the debate that the National Assembly has had with the different partners on the long term structure of Air Seychelles. During the debate the discussion has been mainly on how Air Seychelles’ international flights can become profitable. However, it seems that many have forgotten that Air Seychelles still has a debt of more than US$152.8 million, which comes to about SCR3.361 billion. The question that we need to ask ourselves, who will be paying this huge debt?

It is clear that our government does not have the financial resources to absorb that kind of debt, even with the possibility of restructuring these debts. And don’t forget that these debts are in foreign currency and it is the reserve at the Central Bank that will have to be used to pay for this.

Will we use the limited reserve to continue subsidising Air Seychelles operation, instead of giving the assurance to our population that our reserve is meant to assure our essential commodities only, and this means the procurement of fuel, food and medicine only? This is a question I would like to ask all members this morning!

It is important to note that the Air Seychelles situation is not a new one, and it is also one that this Government has inherited. To have allowed this small airline to accumulate a debt of US$152.8 million is really irresponsible. This is a level of debt that can have very severe repercussions for our small country.

8.8.            The Energy and Climate Change Sector

Mr Speaker, Seychelles is constantly recognized, and receives the support of other countries and international organizations for its programme of adaptation and to climate change and management of the challenges associated with it.

Severe erosion, waves crashing on the coastal roads and inundation during both annual seasons has shown us that our environment, our economic resources and even our social life, remain vulnerable, and that we need to seriously address these problems.

The World Bank, through the ministry responsible for climate change is actually conducting a study to assess how Seychelles can address the problems of erosion, inundation and climate associated risks along the coasts of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

This 11-month study will give a better perspective of the most appropriate methods that can be applied in areas most affected by erosion such as Beau Vallon, Au Cap, Côte d’Or and Anse Kerlan.

Government will work with this organization to find funding sources so that the results of the study can be ready by the third quarter of this year, after which we can quickly begin work to control these erosion problems.

In the meantime, in 2021, we have budgeted for several projects for coastal protection, for example the second phase of the Amitié project, and there are also funds under the ‘Global Funds for Adaptation’ and from the European Union to address the drainage and erosion projects which have already started on ‘La Digue.  

 

Government has also given its commitment to continue the work in 2021, to improve drainage systems in several communities like Anse Aux Pins, Quatre Bornes, Takamaka, La Misère and La Digue, to stop the inundations that affect these communities.

 

Seychelles is working on a series of national targets for energy and climate that is very ambitious, which will include ocean protection. This will be presented at the World Conference on Climate Change that will be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

As presented in our manifesto, we want Seychelles to go further in the production of renewable energy, and to reach this target before 2030, or even surpass it by 15%.

During this year, we will continue with our programme to install photovoltaic installations on public buildings through the support programme that Seychelles is receiving from India and Italy.

With the big programmes that we are launching this year, such as the installation of 1 megawatt on Romainville Island, 5 floating megawatts in the lagoon and a battery project, Seychelles will come close to a 5% utilization of renewable energy.

In January, Government also signed a new agreement for 30 million Yuan with the Chinese Government, which will allow Curieuse Island to become 100% dependent on solar energy, and thus allow 41 schools to benefit from photovoltaic panels, as well as 800 street lights.

To make real progress and surpass the target of 15% by 2030, we shall have to work closely with PUC, who will need to play its role as facilitator by continuously investing in the distribution network, and to have more energy storage through the use of batteries.

PUC will also have to review the tariffs it pays for electricity from renewable sources, and also the tariffs paid by consumers.

These reviews will also apply to water and waste disposal as we also need to consider these services and other large projects being undertaken by PUC in this domain, especially the La Gogue Dam and the La Digue Sewage System.

At the same time, PUC will have to become more efficient by reducing its operation costs and eliminating wastage.

8.9.            The Environmental Sector

A clean Seychelles is also primordial to our health and social and economic well-being, thus, in spite of the fact that it is costly, we must continue to ensure that our country remains clean. Government will improve waste collection facilities by increasing standards and putting more bins at people’s disposal. During the coming year, we will create the necessary facilities for separating rubbish, and this will include sorting bins on Praslin and La Digue.

Cabinet will soon consider the implementation of a new ‘Waste Master Plan’ for Seychelles. This plan’s main aim is to keep on investing in this domain, increase public participation in recycling projects, and also to establish strategies and regulations to ensure that the private sector plays a more active role in this domain.

We believe that Seychelles should be very ambitious in this area. We must have in place, a system that creates the right conditions for people in the private sector who are interested in waste sorting and recycling, to function and make a profit. Currently, hotels and other businesses should be sorting and reducing the amount of waste they produce. We must reduce or even stop depositing certain kinds of waste on the landfills. We have to seriously address the issue of environment contamination caused by waste. We must be very clear on where we want to be in future – that is a very ambitious target.

Through the Ministry of Environment, Government will work to ensure that we make a difference in the matter of cleanliness and waste disposal in the next 5 years.

 

  1. Promote Opportunities

The Government of the day, Mr Speaker, believes in creating opportunities for everyone. It will take seriously, its role as facilitator in the economy and not enter into competition with the private sector.

This Government believes in giving the Seychellois people a chance. What I am saying, Mr Speaker, is that we will work with any of our citizen who brings forward a viable business initiative, to ensure that we give him/her a hand in the realization of his/her project.

For too long, we have heard of cases where a Seychellois has presented a project which has been rejected, but then you see a foreigner doing the same project. This kind of practice will stop, under this government. Every Seychellois will get the same opportunity to create their business, especially those businesses that will bring foreign exchange into the country.

In this era where we are talking about the transformation of our economy, we will consider every business opportunity that comes before us. We also desire that the Seychellois people will invest not only in small businesses where the chances of expanding are minimal, but also in those that will expand so that they may export their products abroad.

Mr Speaker, there are all sorts of opportunities out there, and this Government will put the wind in the sails of our entrepreneurs.

As a matter of fact, the Government wants to establish some very ambitious targets so that Seychelles becomes a country that is less dependent on imports. It is for this reason that we are encouraging Seychellois to ‘Think Big” when they want to go into business.

We have always had some traditional products that today, are in demand on the world markets, especially in the pharmaceutic sector, such as vanilla and cinnamon. But we can also develop new products. We want Seychellois to do business further than our frontiers.

We now have a ministry that will deal only with this – the Ministry of Investment, Entrepreneurship and Industry. It is this ministry that has the mandate to make our Seychellois businessmen ‘Think outside the Box’.

We have taken a decision that in the process of fixing our economy, we will also take the opportunity to promote an innovative way of working that is family friendly. The Ministry of Family Affairs, in collaboration with other ministries, will make available to our families, different economic and social programmes. Various programmes and modern services that take into consideration the needs of families will be offered, so that their quality of life is improved, without their becoming dependent on the system.

9.1.            Ease of Doing Business

The Ministry of Investment, Entrepreneurship and Industry will place emphasis on facilitating businesses in this country, and also work towards improving our placement at the World Bank. Priority will be given to the online registration of businesses.

Secondly, we will put a lot of effort into helping small and medium enterprises to expand. We shall encourage local production so as to reduce dependence on imports where possible.

This ministry will create a framework to support research and development, and the proper observance of intellectual property, with the aim of increasing our capacity for exporting in the region and internationally. This is important for expanding our economic and social development base.

The Industrial Estate Authority (IEA) will work more closely with the ministry to ensure that Government policies on the allocation of industrial land are implemented – that there is transparency, and that allocation are in accordance with those sectors that must be prioritized according to the needs of our economy.

IEA also has an outstanding debt of SCR10 million that has not yet been collected. Emphasis will be placed, this year, on ensuring that the register of tenants is established and those tenants who have outstanding debts with IEA make immediate payments.

9.2.            Protect Certain Investments Just for Seychellois

Government has plans to review certain business categories in which only Seychellois are allowed to invest. Our plan is to protect Seychellois businessmen. At the same time, we will ensure that its implementation is well managed. We do not want to have this situation of ‘de pwa de mezir’ anymore, Mr Speaker, whereby the rules change for each person. Business categories that have been classified as Seychellois only must remain for Seychellois only.

 

  1. Conclusion

Mr Speaker, to conclude, I want to say that this budget is one that will lay down the foundations for the construction of the transformation that our country needs. Before we reconstruct this country, we must ensure that its foundations are strong. This is the reason why Government is putting a lot of effort into ensuring that our budget returns to a sustainable path, and that our debts become sustainable as well. But to transform this country, there must also be a change in the way that we do things, and a change of mindset!

Mr Speaker, we can only succeed together! This is the conclusion that I want to make today, and I will make an appeal to all Seychellois who have their country at heart, to join with us to implement the programme which I have presented today. Of course I don’t expect that everybody will be in agreement with what I have proposed, but I ask for one thing only – let us push in the same direction! Let us, in this difficult moment, put our country first. Let us put our economy first, because it is only if we reconstruct a solid economy that we will be able to offer all the services and support that we want to give to our people.

Let us aim for a country where we need no longer speak about vulnerable people and poor people who need social assistance. Let us create a country that produces enough wealth so that its people can live in dignity and in comfort. A people that does not rely entirely on the state, but who has its economic freedom, and can stand on its own feet.

Mr Speaker, to conclude, I wish to thank President Ramkalawan for his vision for this country, for his guidance during this budget project.

I wish to also thank my fellow ministers for their contributions and support, and the ministries, departments and agencies, in the preparation of this budget. My special thanks goes to the staff of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Trade for your competence and dedication to your jobs and for producing this budget, as well as the staff members from the Treasury and Accounts, who have remained in operation during this restriction period to ensure that this budget is executed.

I thank also, the staff of the National Assembly for their cooperation in this most important process, and the members of the National Assembly for their continued support.

 

With this, Mr Speaker, I will thus recommend the approval of the National Assembly, a budget of SCR11,013,648,296.00 for the year 2021.

 

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