First presidential debate in the run-up to the general elections ‒ October 22-24, 2020 |10 October 2020
Candidates come face
to face in live debate
By Laura Pillay/Roland Duval/Christophe Zialor
Three presidential candidates who are contending the hottest seat of the land last night took part in the first-of-its-kind televised presidential debate, in which they had the opportunity to come face to face with their rivals and debate on themes and issues close to the Seychellois public’s heart.
The three candidates, namely Danny Faure who is standing for United Seychelles (US) backed by vice-presidential candidate Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, Wavel Ramkalawan standing for Linyon Demoktratik Seselwa (LDS) with Ahmed Afif as his running mate, and Alain St Ange of newly formed party One Seychelles who is standing with Peter Sinon as his running mate, took to the platform to address questions posed by members of the public and convince the voting population to support their respective parties in the upcoming general elections on October 22, 23 and 24.
Each candidate had the opportunity to individually respond to questions categorised under eight themes, before they were invited to openly debate on the subject matter, under the guidance of moderators Patsy Athanase and Bernardin Renaud. This was live on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) TV.
To start off, each candidate outlined the guiding values and principles held by their parties and to which they work.
Danny Faure (US):
- Love for the nation and Seychellois citizens and
- Faith in the Creator
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles):
- Seychellois at the centre of development.
- Eliminate poverty as a country
- To bring about the respect that the country so much needs, respect for diversity and democracy.
Wavel Ramkalawan (LDS):
1. Social Justice
2. Moving forward from the past
3. Making informed decisions toward the progression of the country and its people.
Seychelles has a profitable informal sector which is not contributing towards the country’s tax regime. What strategy will you use to address this?
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles) is of the view that it is imperative to find out why actors from the informal sector fail to contribute towards the tax regime, although he asserted that tax rates are too expensive.
“If our tax rate is too high, we need to rectify it, so instead of only 22 percent contributions from the business sector, more actors will contribute, and the system will be more equal and more equitable for all our citizens.”
Wavel Ramkalawan (LDS) expressed his admiration for citizens who contribute as expected, although he proposed that it is imperative that the tax regime be reformed, as well as the Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC).
“We have to be more serious, by reforming SRC, and secondly, to ensure that people have more opportunities for wealth creation and thirdly, by establishing healthy competition towards a level playing field.”
Danny Faure (US) acknowledged the important role of informal sectors towards the local economy and the devastating implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on such sectors.
“I think it is important to have a law to govern taxation in the country,” Mr Faure stated, encouraging a positive outlook of the tax contributions of the informal sector and categorically denying that under his administration, favouritism is tolerated or practiced.”
The unemployment rate has worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic, and we already have a high proportion of expatriate workers in the country. What will your government do to ensure that Seychellois are prioritised and they can actively contribute towards the local economy?
Alain St Ange is of the view that the government has a duty to implement policies which protect Seychellois workers, especially in crisis situations such as that brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. He strongly expressed equal pay and benefits for Seychellois employees, so as to encourage more citizens to join the local labour force, and as a means to encourage the private sector, the frontline of the local economy.
Mr St Ange was in agreement with the audit proposed by candidate Ramkalawan, especially in relation to the tourism industry which employs a significant proportion of expatriate employees.
Wavel Ramkalawan proposed an audit to determine the number of graduates and the skill set for which there is demand on the local labour force.
“I think it is just as important to limit the number of foreign-owned businesses. We will need to re-analyse this to encourage and propel Seychellois in agriculture and fisheries, so Seychellois can feed their families.”
Danny Faure highlighted that under his administration at least 8,000 additional jobs were created.
“Covid-19 came about and hit us, and my policy is to save employment and my manifesto is to save lives and employment,” Mr Faure stated, referring to the newly created entity, the Seychelles Employment Transition Scheme (Sets), mandated to train and re-skill the local workforce who have found themselves displaced by the pandemic and economic downturn brought about by it.
What policies and programmes will you put in place for the youths who feel that salaries and opportunities at their disposition are not necessarily commensurate with qualifications?
Danny Faure referred to the existing housing allowance scheme, from which graduates benefit from R5,000 monthly, although he acknowledged that more needs to be done to encourage Seychelles’ young professionals.
“On average we have around 275 returning graduates who graduate from overseas institutions or locally, and the majority find employment,” Mr Faure stated.
Alain St Ange emphasised the necessity for equal opportunities for all graduates across the board. Young returning graduate, in whom the country has invested, can we really say they have equal opportunities?
“Can we really say that when our young graduates return, they are treated equally? There is a disparity which should not exist,” Mr St Ange asserted.
Wavel Ramkalawan announced an LDS programme somewhat similar to an audit in which student’s progress will be followed over the years, assuring reasonable salaries for young graduates.
“We will ensure that the youths can take up their scholarships, and when they return, they will be treated as professionals and there will be no favouritism, but rather our professionals will have employment opportunities.”
Theme: social assistance and welfare
At present, too many people are relying on welfare and there is abuse, while the authority is allowing unemployment. What is your plan to regulate benefit and encourage more people to go to work, instead of relying on welfare?
Mr Faure mentioned Covid-19 as the main reason for the high dependent on welfare.
He explained that 16,000 workers are now on welfare through various policies via the Agency for Social Protection (ASP).
This, he said, include newly graduates, as well as workers made redundant. The situation will be resolved gradually as the situation improves, he explained.
Speaking on welfare, Mr Faure said the welfare safety net covers R71 million of the R1.5 billion approved in the budget.
Mr St Ange said those on welfare have no choice as regardless of their occupations, their salary, which is below the poverty threshold, prevents them from paying their bills.
He explained through community visits, he discovered and it is obvious that a huge percentage of the population is struggling, or unable to make ends meet, including basic necessities and utility bills.
This, he said, is based on bad government policies which do not take into account the equal needs of every single citizen.
He also added that Seychellois should be paid equally as foreigners.
Mr Ramkalawan on his part explained that the biggest part of the government budget in front of the National Assembly for approval covers social welfare.
This, he said, indicates that we have a government that takes pride in having a large majority of the population in poverty.
He said a Linyon Demokratik Seselwa government will switch people from welfare to employment.
Mr Ramkalawan explained that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has failed to conduct any survey to assess whether local workers can replace foreigners.
He said it is not a good sight to see foreigners working, while Seychellois are on welfare.
The dissolution of the National Assembly has prevented proper oversight on the spending of public funds.
Drug abuse is presently a huge problem impacting on the society, affecting families and the economy. What is your plan to deal with the situation, in terms of importation, distribution and consumption?
Mr St Ange explained that drugs must be looked at in every aspect since there is some sort of hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of drugs.
He noted that heroin and cocaine are now common threats and that the methadone programme is only a stop-gap and not a solution to the drug consumption problem.
He explained that One Seychelles is advocating the legalisation of marijuana which is a softer drug and this, he said, will minimise the effect hard drugs are having on the youths and more importantly our workforce.
Mr St Ange further added that the drug issue is directly linked to social issues which must be immediately targeted.
Mr Ramkalawan said the drug issue only produces victims, including the addicts, families, as well as dealers who are at risk of being arrested and prosecuted.
He said the LDS programme is straightforward as it will provide support to those who succumb to the problem so that they can come out of it and be part of the country’s workforce once more.
As for traffickers, Mr Ramkalawan said “we need to come up with a more solid structure to stop, or discourage importation”.
He added that a commission which will fall directly under the president will be put in place to oversee all aspects of drugs trafficking and consumption.
As for the issue of legalising marijuana, Mr Ramkalawan said it is not the duty of politicians to decide, but should rather be the decision of the public.
Mr Faure said during his four years in office he worked with several presidents on the African continent regarding the subject, especially on the origin of the drugs that are entering Seychelles.
He said according to sources, the drugs originate from Afghanistan, via Iran, before being distributed by boats into the Indian Ocean.
Mr Faure said his target is to increase the capacity of the various law enforcement agencies through more resources to deal with the situation.
He promised restructuring and better bodies to deal with the situation and also more severe legislations.
The Covid pandemic has shown us that we cannot depend on the tourism industry as our primary source of revenue for our economy. The fishing industry also has its challenges as its resources are diminishing. If elected what will you do to put the country’s economy back on its feet?
Wavel Ramkalawan said “firstly we will have to recognise that the tourism industry is our primary source of income and it already has all the infrastructure in place, so we will have to relaunch the industry to attract more tourists in the country which will bring more income.
“Secondly, the fishing industry is our gold mine that we need to exploit. Under my administration we will have a minister that will be responsible for fisheries.
“Thirdly, agriculture will be used as a way to keep the foreign exchange in the country so we will have a minister that will be responsible for agriculture, making sure that by the two years our livestock production will be more stable and will reduce importation when it comes to produce.”
Mr Ramkalawan also said that a government under his control will ban the exportation of by-catch to make sure that our local businessmen can benefit from this industry.
Danny Faure said our economy is in crisis and we have the Covid-19 pandemic to blame, adding that his call to Seychellois is we need to join forces in order to fix it.
“Once elected I will create a national unity government and I will continue with some of the things that I am already doing.
“Firstly, I will continue to support businesses in sectors that are being affected right now.
“Secondly, we will have discussions with key sectors which include the fishing and agricultural sectors. What we have to note is that it took 50 years for our tourism sector to reach the level it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.”
He continued by emphasising the importance of focusing on the economy as it is in crisis, pointing out that before the pandemic affected Seychelles, the economy was performing at an all-time high.
Mr Faure noted that we need to focus on the tourism industry which is why he took the decision to open the airport and manage all sectors to make sure that gradually as the airport opens businesses can start running and Seychelles can continue to make money.
“We do not have any cash entering the country. Before we had US $3 million but now we are only collecting US $500,000 and this is why there is inflation,” said Mr Faure.
Alain St Ange agreed with Mr Ramkalawan on his statement that tourism remains the pillar of our economy which is why under his administration the tourism portfolio will remain in the President’s portfolio.
“Secondly it is clear that the fishing industry is the second source of revenue for our country but it is a shame that under the convention signed with the European Union, we have taken our gold mine and given it to other countries.
“Thirdly, agriculture will not be used as foreign exchange earner but rather as a sustainable source which will benefit the country.”
Elaborating on his points Mr Ramkalawan noted that we need to negotiate with international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Paris Club and others to reschedule the country’s debt as it is putting more pressure on our reserves.
He also added that we need to talk to other friendly countries to see how they can help us as well as find ways to recover the money that has been taken out of the economy such as the US $50 million that the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles is investigating.
Mr St Ange also stressed the importance of having our islands under the control of the government of Seychelles.
International examination results have shown that students from private schools are performing better than those of public schools. If elected what will you do to elevate the performance of students in public schools?
Wavel Ramkalawan said “we need to ask ourselves why private schools are performing better”.
He added that we need to look at the school environment to see if there is discipline, if parents are showing an interest and if teachers and head teachers have control over the school and create an atmosphere where students want to learn.
Mr Ramkalawan also said that the salary of teachers in private schools are practically the same as those of public schools, but we need to create a better atmosphere for teachers and give them their incentives.
Danny Faure explained that one factor that is associated with the low test scores of students in public schools is social ills in their communities. He added that good partnership is needed between students, parents, teachers and school.
Mr Faure also said that politics need to be taken out of schools and all schools should work together with one goal in mind and that is to improve the education system.
Alain St Ange said teachers need to be paid their dues. He also agreed with Mr Faure’s point, adding that poverty plays a great role in the education sector.
He also noted that students in schools in all districts need to be performing at a higher level.
Corruption is a topic on many people’s mind. If elected what actions will you take to address the situation?
Alain St Ange said“we will appoint a legal team with a commission that will look into matters of corruption regarding the missing US $50 million and prosecute the people responsible as this case has been dragging for too long”.
He also stressed about the importance of government leaders declaring their assets.
Wavel Ramkalawan said we need to enforce the role of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles and give it the full support it needs. He noted that there needs to be collaboration between the police, the Attorney General’s office and the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles.
Danny Faure said that as president he will not interfere in any legal institution set up by the National Assembly and government.
“I have given all the support to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles as we have a bilateral agreement with the European Union that has provided us with experts. Unfortunately they are unable to return to Seychelles because of the Covid-19 situation.”