President Danny Faure’s fourth press conference for the year 2019 |06 December 2019
‘I will not sign the Public Service Salary Amendment bill’
By Elsie Pointe and Laura Pillay
President Danny Faure has unequivocally stated that he will not sign the Public Service Salary Amendment bill of 2019 into law.
He said this in his fourth and last press conference for the year, held yesterday evening at State House.
The opposition in the National Assembly had amended the bill so that all public servants would receive a R450 increase across board instead of the 5% increase on base salary suggested by the executive, a point which prompted President Faure to not assent to the bill.
“They have also amended the bill to remove the power vested in the minister to revise the salary table, which is another reason why I will not sign this bill into law,” President Faure said yesterday.
Therefore, he will return the bill to the Speaker of the National Assembly while the supplementation allowance of 5% will come into force as he had previously announced.
Public servants receiving this allowance will be backdated, the president continued, and no tax will be taken from the lump-sum supplementation allowance they expect to receive end of December 2019.
They will receive this allowance until the 5% salary amendment bill debacle is resolved.
President Faure also announced that, as from January 2020, all public servants who are gaining below R6,000 will see their basic salary boosted to R6,202.
Another notable announcement made by President Faure is that the government is working on removing all Constitutional appointees (president, vice-president, ministers, members of the National Assembly) off the public service salary grid.
The proposition is that their salary will be regulated separately through a law.
“The lesson that we have to take from this is to stop politicising the public salary structure,” President Faure underlined.
Seychelles Pension Fund, new regulation ahead
The cabinet of ministers has agreed on a new regulation which will require the Seychelles Pension Fund (SPF) to discuss with and receive the approval of the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning for any investment above R145 million.
President Faure revealed this yesterday in regards to the debate over SPF’s decision to acquire a 20% equity share ownership in local telecom company, Cable & Wireless.
The investment was set at R340 million, an amount which the SPF had been advised by the National Assembly to re-negotiate.
President Faure noted that through all of these discussions, the government realised that there should be an oversight framework in place to deal with major investments by the pension fund.
Henceforth, if it wants to invest R145 million or more, the SPF’s board of trustees will no longer enjoy the benefit of making decisions on behalf of its shareholders – as it presently does under its Act – without discussing with its oversight ministry.
The regulation has already been gazetted so as to be brought before the National Assembly.
President Faure explained that SPF’s purchase of shares in Cable & Wireless has been put on hold until this new regulation is passed so that the public can be reassured that their money is being well invested and taken care of.
DICT’s budget vote-down: an “extremely irresponsible” move
President Faure yesterday characterised the decision taken by the majority party in the National Assembly, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS), to vote down the budget for the Department of Information, Communication and Technology as “extremely irresponsible”.
The opposition voted against DICT’s R61,323,000 budget during a session on November 14 because it felt that the government is not committed enough to help bring down the high cost of internet access in the country.
“They did not just vote against a portion of DICT’s budget but its whole heading which means that the department’s employees could very well not be receiving their salary in January 2020,” President Faure highlighted.
He noted that he was stunned that the opposition did not take into account the important role DICT plays in the running of the government since it upkeeps all of its technological support; from customs to the planning authority to government emails.
President Faure stressed that this move could paralyse the government and that the opposition should acknowledge their mistake.
“The employees of the DICT deserve an apology,” President Faure expressed.
Nonetheless President Faure committed himself to resolving this problem.
Drugs, a problem for the whole society
In response to a question about the efforts being made to eradicate the drug epidemic, President Faure said that it is encouraging that all of the authorities, and both parties in the National Assembly, have conceded that drug abuse is a problem for the whole society.
He explained that the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (Apdar) was set up with the intention to deal with this menace.
He also noted that the government is in the process of increasing the resources within the police force and has integrated a new financial crime division which is dealing with a significant number of cases.
There are also new laws being put in place to deal with illegal drug-trafficking transactions such as a new law on proceeds of crimes which will deal with the seizure of assets related to crimes.
According to President Faure, Seychelles is seeking for more regional cooperation and support to better fight against drugs, most especially because Seychelles is a maritime country.
Land claim tribunal
President Faure also pronounced himself on a legal framework for the land claim tribunal, stating that the government is examining the need for a law to direct the tribunal.
The government will submit a bill regarding the tribunal if and when the assessment deems it necessary.
In his press conference, President Faure underlined that the electoral reforms, which have been worked on by the Attorney General’s office and Electoral Commission, have been finalised. He expressed that these reforms – that are much anticipated by the country and political parties – will be brought to the National Assembly at the appropriate time.
2020 presidential election
President Faure again refused to name his running mate for the 2020 presidential election, noting that he will do so when the time is right.
“Vincent Meriton is still my vice-president and the president should not rush to make such an announcement. I am not under any pressure to announce my running mate; I will do it at the appropriate time. In that same spirit, my programme will also be revealed in due time.”
When asked if the tension between the legislative and executive is not a sign that election should be held sooner, President Faure answered: “The executive does not fight with the legislative. Putting a case before the judiciary does not mean that we are fighting but, rather, shows the strength of our democracy. The executive is looking for what is best for the people; decisions that are based on sound policies not short-term objectives to gain political mileage.”
“President Danny Faure will complete his mandate; the captain has to bring the ship to the port, not abandon it half-way, and only after this can the Seychellois people be able to choose the person it wants to lead the country,” he added.
He also stressed that he will not be resigning and asked that everyone waits for the election date announcement by the electoral commission.
President Faure also reiterated his confidence to stand in the elections noting that it is up to the population to judge his leadership so far over recent years and make an informed decision.
“The people will decide. It is not the party who decides. In an electoral process like in Seychelles, the population is the king and has the final decision. I feel like I worked for Seychelles, for my country, I gave all to Seychelles. I am 57 years old and I believe I have the intelligence, courage to be of use to my people. I also have confidence in knowing that with me as a head, the population is in my hands. Despite all the criticism, I have withstood it all and I think the people, the Seychellois will take the decision.”
The election should be scheduled on a date between August 20 and November 20, 2020.
As for his name change, from Dany (as was written on his birth certificate) to Danny (which he commonly uses), President Faure said that this was done so that everything would be transparent and clear when his documents are presented to the electoral commission for his candidacy certification.
In response to a statement undermining his leadership, President Faure noted the numerous significant developments in the country and the current state of the economy, counting these as notable achievements.
“Today, December, inflation, an indicator for price, last year was 3.43 percent, today is at 1.21 percent, inflation. Tourism increased by 6 percent, revenue in tourism increased by 6 percent to US $453 million, inflows in the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) also increased, and unemployment rate is less than 5 percent, in fact it stands at 3.5 percent. That is the economic situation of Seychelles that President Faure is leading today and those are not indicative of a deteriorating country,” he stated confidently.
Referendum allowing Seychellois diaspora to vote
Asked about the proposed referendum allowing the Seychellois diaspora to take part in elections, President Faure noted that the government will table another Bill on the matter at the appropriate time.
Housing and land; points system
Defending the point system yet again, President Faure explained the necessity to introduce the system in a bid to make the allocation process more equitable and transparent, for the benefit of all Seychellois.
He noted that when he entered office three years ago, he saw the need to implement regulations to address the existing shortcomings in the allocation system and to make the process more meritorious.
“Land, a lot of people have benefitted from houses and land in the past years. But it is essential that people who are allocated land and houses are given so based on merit. We will continue to construct houses, but when it comes to land, we have limitations. If we had more land, more people would be given land. The hope we offer, is that the point system works. As we get more land, either through buying land or when we do the project to reclaim, then both individuals and businesses can benefit, there needs to be a clear system where people are given things based on merit,” he said.
Budgetary provisions for compensation
While he acknowledged that aggrieved and affected groups of citizens need to be compensated for their inconveniences and grievances, President Faure noted that compensation payments have to be spread out over more than one year, so as not to put pressure on the local economy and cause a financial crisis.
In relation to residents of La Misère who were affected by contaminated water, he noted that payments will have to be spread out over at least two budgetary years, on account of the large sums in compensation.
As for residents of Petit Paris, President Faure noted that compensation payments will be issued next year. He further urged citizens affected by the fungus issue at the National Library and archives to come forward, noting that the majority of cases have already been resolved.
France tax-haven blacklist
Pronouncing himself on the decision taken by the French authorities to add Seychelles to its blacklist of tax havens for non-compliance to provide information to the French authorities within the stated timeframe, President Faure expressed his dissatisfaction at the decision, terming it as unfair since the legal framework does not allow for the requested information about offshore sector to be divulged.
“The specific questions asked by France, Seychelles cannot divulge such information as the law does not permit Seychelles to give such information. If Seychelles is to provide the information, the law needs to be changed and we agreed to do so. It is not that we were withholding information and we are very angry with the press release issued about the matter. The government has officially communicated with the government of France informing them that this is not how things should be done between two friendly countries,” he said.
He continued on to state that the French ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles, Dominique Mas, is scheduled to leave Seychelles soon where he will put forth to his government the dossier, a clear indication that the Seychelles government had no intention of withholding information, President Faure said.
In regards to the downgrade Seychelles received in the World Bank’s recent rating for ease of doing business, President Faure said: “Minister Maurice Loustau-Lalanne and his team will do the necessary to address the issues raised in this report. The government is striving towards improving this ranking but this requires a concerted effort from the government, civil society and the private sector.”
In relation to tax revenues and the issues at the Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC), President Faure made reference to the tax regime review which is currently being undertaken, expressing confidence in the leadership of newly appointed SRC commissioner Veronique Herminie to draw up a comprehensive tax regime in which everyone that should be paying taxes are indeed paying taxes.
National Assembly’s approved motion to impose moratorium on citizenships
With regards to the National Assembly’s decision to impose a moratorium on citizenships, President Faure asserted the power dynamics between the two arms of the government, noting that “the Assembly can’t give the executive orders”.
“They need to understand the limitations of their powers under the constitution. All members of the assembly approved the motion but the moratorium does not apply as the government did not change its policy. We follow existing laws until changes and amendments are made. Therefore, the law remains as it was and should be applied as such,” President Faure stated.
Following the Constitutional Court’s decision in June this year, ordering the government to make regulations enabling Seychellois patients to access medical cannabis, President Faure yesterday revealed that the regulations should be enforced towards the end of October 2020.
He noted however that the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General’s office are working together closely to draw up the necessary regulations, in line with the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 2016 and other relevant laws.