Posted by: africanpressorganization | 26 February 2010

Seychelles / State of the Nation Address for the Year 2010 by President James A. Michel

 


 

 

 

Seychelles / State of the Nation Address for the Year 2010 by President James A. Michel

 

 

VICTORIA, Mahé, February 26, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — State of the Nation Address for the Year 2010 by President James A. Michel

The Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,

President Mancham

The Chief Justice

The President of the Court of Appeal

The Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly

The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly

Honourable Members of the National Assembly

Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters,

When I addressed you on the State of the Nation on 26 February, 2009, the value of our currency was SR16.77 to the US$. Our reserves in the Central Bank stood at US$47M. Our debt stock represented 170%of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Growth was expected to be reduced by between 7% to 8%. And interest rates had escalated to 29.27 %.

We had embarked on a very difficult economic reform programme.

Today, exactly a year later, foreign currency is readily available in the banks. The value of the rupee has stabilized at around R11.48 to the US$. Our reserves total US$190 million. Our debt has been reduced to a sustainable level of 84% of GDP. Economic growth is expected to be in the region of 4%. Interest rates continue to fall. They are even lower than before the reform programme.

Seychelles has survived the global economic storm. We have not just survived the downturn, we have emerged from it stronger and more determined. We have held firm against the biggest storm. We have shown the world our resilience.

The people of Seychelles have come together. The future hold the promise of a better quality of life for the Seychellois people.

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters

We have to make adjustments where necessary, to bring about this better quality of life for each one of us. This work can never be done alone. We say that we are ready because each one of us, individually, and as a nation, we have to be ready to overcome the challenges ahead.

In October 2008, we started to climb a mountain which many said we would never be able to conquer. The world was watching us. Our pride as Seychellois could not have been stronger. We were determined. But, as all things which are worth fighting for, it is not easy, and we have to continue to strive to reach the summit. Looking back now, we can be proud of the distance we have covered.

We are closer to our goal. We are closer to our dream. We have built a foundation which is strong, which is ready for the future.

Our journey does not end here. If we have succeeded in overcoming and surviving the global economic crisis, it is due to the fact that we came together. Today, we are ready to face any eventuality. It is only together that we can bring about real and positive change.

Together, we are ready for the future.

In implementing any change, the easy path is not always the best option. We should, above all, consider the welfare of our people. We have to work, consult, listen, build on our achievements, make adjustments where necessary, work, and work harder, for that better quality of life that we aspire to. We should not work only for short-term benefits. We have to think of the future.

The work of our government is based on the principle that our people should always be at the centre of development. It is enshrined in the principles of equality of opportunity and social justice for all.

Where we find deficiencies, we fix the problem, and where things are running well, we strive to do even better.

The New Economic Environment

We have undertaken a fundamental reform of our tax system. This has brought about some confusion to certain businesses. I have always adopted the approach that we should always be ready to adapt and to adjust where necessary. I firmly believe in a government which is open to consultation. It is my duty to listen and to determine the right balance.

We must be clear about one basic principle: every Seychellois should contribute to the running of the country. Our new tax system ensures that everyone contributes to this process.

I take this opportunity to commend all those small businesses that have established themselves during the past year. There are about 400 of them. Many of them are led by women. It is the entrepreneurial spirit which more often than not makes that positive difference in an economy. There are many resourceful mothers and fathers who have decided to take up the challenge of bringing about a better quality of life for their families. I am proud to see seamstresses, cleaning companies, small contractors, people running cottage industries, and others who have taken their destiny in their own hands and are contributing to the progress of our country. Congratulations

In the reform process of creating a modern and solid economy, it is important that we liberate the energy and entrepreneurial spirit in our people. We must empower Seychellois to enable them to create wealth. To do this, we must identify and eliminate the obstacles in their way. We must free the hands of small entrepreneurs, and encourage them.

To implement our new tax system, it has been necessary to review the entire system. Now that the new system is being introduced, it is important that we give a breath of fresh air to new businesses. I have heard many of their concerns at the district consultative meetings, and I have also received suggestions from District Authorities. The Ministry of Finance will now implement the following measures:

Increase the threshold for business tax from SR100K to SR150K for sole traders and partnerships. The system of tax invoices will not be applicable for these groups.

All businesses can claim as a tax-deductible expense the cost of equipment and tools costing less than SR100K in the year of purchase, instead of calculating depreciation, as was the case in 2009.

We shall not implement the system of automatic tax deduction in the absence of receipts. However, Government will encourage all businesses to continue keeping receipts and accounts in an appropriate form, so that their book-keeping is in order and in accordance with regulations.

Other than GST, there will be no business tax on residential rental income;

Abolish tax on dividends for all residents;

Abolish tax on interest on personal savings.

All the above measures will have retrospective effect from 1st January 2010, with the exception of the abolition of tax on interests on savings, which will become effective from 1st April 2010.

Cost of living

Our economy is linked to the world economy, and we must be prepared to adapt to economic trends which are sometimes difficult.

We have seen recently that the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) increased its tariffs for water, electricity and sewerage. These increases were based on the costs of operations and investments necessary to provide all Seychellois with a better service.

It is not possible to return to a situation of giving a subvention to the Company.

I am aware that this 27% increase is a heavy burden for many households. It is for this reason that as a part of my diplomatic interventions, I have done everything possible to find solutions to reduce the burden on consumers.

I can confirm today that the Government of Abu Dhabi is donating to the people of Seychelles two electricity generators worth around US$15M. Because this is a grant, the cost of the generators will not be passed on to consumers. PUC will therefore be able to reduce the level of tariff increase from 27% to 5% for domestic consumers and small businesses in respect of the first 1000 units. This reduction will become effective from 1st March 2010.

However we must bear in mind that tariff adjustments will also take the price of fuel into account.

Government will continue to promote and facilitate investment in technology for generation of renewable energy, through the introduction of appropriate incentives. A significant boost to this initiative will be the commissioning of eight wind-driven turbines which forms part of a project being undertaken with financing amounting to US$25M from the Government of Abu Dhabi.

In the public meetings we held last year, we shared our aspirations for the future of our country. Our vision is clear. Our mission is simple: we are working together to improve the quality of life of every Seychellois. We are working to reduce the cost of living for every family. When our economic situation permits, Seychellois will enjoy a better service at an affordable cost.

Bearing in mind the economic reforms being undertaken, as well as Government’s aim of continuing to reduce the cost of living, I have asked the Minister responsible for Agriculture, to look into the unacceptable rise in the price of meat and eggs, to immediately take the necessary steps to ensure the continued availability of these products on the market at an affordable price.

In the same context, we should encourage agricultural production and husbandry, and intensify our efforts at guaranteeing food security.

As for the fisheries sector, we shall continue to promote its development so that this industry remains a key pillar of the economy.

Welfare

One of the most important forms of support during the reform period has been the assistance provided by the Social Welfare Agency. There have been instances of people in need of assistance who did not receive it, or who received it late. There have been instances of abuse of the system. Nevertheless it is a well-founded and transparent system. We recognise that there are staff members who give of their best despite having to operate in a difficult environment. A positive element of the welfare assistance programme is that it encourages employment. Many single working mothers, for example, can get assistance to supplement their income and make ends meet. This is exactly what the welfare system should be doing – helping those who are already employed, but whose income is insufficient for their needs.

We cannot tolerate laziness. For as long as I lead this country, I will not accept that an able citizen lives off the sweat of Seychellois workers when job vacancies are being advertised everyday.

As I have said, where things needs fixing, we fix them.

 

Employment

One indicator that our economy is on the right track is that we are not faced with a problem of a lack of employment opportunities. It is estimated that 3,000 new jobs will become available between 2010 and 2014, mainly in the tourism sector.

We are continuously creating conditions for generating employment for Seychellois, employment which will allow them to enjoy a better standard of living.

I am happy to note that some employers in the private sector have adjusted salaries to offer better packages for their Seychellois workers. However this is still not the case in many private sector workplaces. I would therefore appeal once again to all private sector employers to look into the well-being of Seychellois workers.

Expatriate Workers

I would also like to take a moment to talk about expatriate workers in our country. It is regrettable that certain people want to use cheap politics to create animosity towards expatriate working here. I would be the first to wish that every job in Seychelles was taken up by a Seychellois. But we have to be realistic.

We are all proud when we hear that there is a Seychellois working in the World Bank, or in the United Nations. There are Seychellois working as pilots, engineers or cabin crew on foreign airlines, and there are Seychellois doctors in Singapore, Réunion, France, the UK and other countries. There are Seychellois running their own businesses in foreign countries.

Seychelles may be small, but Seychellois have never been afraid to seize an opportunity, no matter in what field, or in what corner of the world.

We realise that we need expatriates to work in certain sectors. Who has constructed the majority of houses for Government and the private sector? Who has built all those hotels which give our citizens a better life through employment, commerce and small businesses? Our policy is clear and transparent. Expatriates in management positions must have a Seychellois understudy. Every organisation must look for ways to localise posts wherever possible.

At the end of 2009, there were about 10,000 expatriates in Seychelles. Of these, some 9,700 were in the private sector, mainly in tourism and construction.

We are a country renowned for its harmony and its welcome. Our way of life is one of our strong points which makes visitors return to our country. Seychellois have no time for xenophobia. Every fast developing country with a dynamic economy needs expatriate workers. I want to emphasise once again that all these developments and all these projects are being undertaken above all for the benefit of Seychellois. There is no reason for us to say that we cannot get a job.

Tourism

Our tourism industry has been highly successful. This success is the outcome of the work of all the partners in this industry. I congratulate all workers in the tourism industry, as well as all the partners who have contributed to this success. These workers are our ambassadors. They are there on our Air Seychelles planes, in that large hotel, in that guesthouse by the sea. It is their good service, their smiles and their welcome that make our visitors return. The success of the tourism industry is the success of the people of Seychelles. The industry is doing well because we have come together, and there is teamwork. We shall continue this good work together. Here is an example where real change has come about when we work together. We will continue to build on this success.

 

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters

Proactive Diplomacy

Our national well-being depends also on our ability to defend and to promote ourselves on the international scene. Our policy of proactive diplomacy has borne fruit in many ways. If we have benefited from debt restructuring, or from bilateral or multilateral grants that support our economy and allow us to build houses, or to buy generators, it is because Seychelles has made the world understand that it is a serious country which is ready for tomorrow.

Under this policy, we explain our national priorities to our partners, and we also take our responsibilities as a nation seriously. We have to make our voices heard on subjects that will affect our future. If we don’t talk, no one will talk for us.

It is important to let the world know that we, too, are here. It is important that we continue to pass the message that despite our smallness, we too have a right to exist and to be heard.

Today Seychelles champions the voice of small island states on the international arena with regard to climate change, sustainable development and environment matters.

An Innovative Spirit

Our innovative drive has been recognised. The awards which I received, on behalf of the Seychellois people, at UNESCO and in Beirut last year, symbolise the innovative spirit of a people that have enjoyed equal opportunities in education. We had proved our ability to innovate and to make possible what had appeared impossible. Our fleet of tankers and our University are two examples. And when we look at our place in this globalised world, it is clear that innovation is the key to our success. It is for this reason that I am establishing a Council for Technology and Innovation, to promote creativity, research and development. We are preparing our country for tomorrow.

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters

Housing – We Shall Deliver

We have always put our people at the centre of development, which is why Government has always placed great emphasis on investment in housing, health and education. I had promised that by 2011, Government would deliver 5,000 houses.

The world economic crisis, reforms that we had to undertake, and the hike in the price of construction materials, forced us to readjust our plans in certain cases. But our commitment remains firm.

We have built 1,200 houses since 2006. There are 313 housing units which will be completed by the end of 2010. We expect to finish between 300 and 350 houses per year from 2011. The grant of US$30M from the Government of Abu Dhabi will ensure that the Perseverance Housing project will be completed.

We shall deliver.

Health is also the State of our Nation

Health is also a service which is always close to our hearts. It is a highly delicate service. We have to continuously improve it. We must expect a better health service, and also more specialised health care. There are weaknesses. There are human errors. We have to fix what needs to be fixed.

Many challenges in our hospital have to do with standards of service that do not always meet our expectations, inadequate compassion and human touch. Citizens have to wait too long for a service. Even the biggest capital investment will not solve such problems.

We have dedicated professionals in our health system. They give of their best for the health of the people of Seychelles. But there remains much room for improvement if the people are to get the good service they deserve.

The noble health care profession should never be compromised by personal differences amongst ourselves. Let us remember this well.

We must raise the standard of our hospitals. It is in this context that an audit of our health system has started, to identify the best options for the future.

We shall fix what needs to be fixed. Where we are doing well, we must find ways of doing even better.

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters

Closer to the People

We shall have to intensify our efforts to bring Government closer to the people. In our consultative meetings we have heard much about service in Government. I shall continue to insist that Government find innovative ways to engage with the public. Sometimes mistakes are made. And when mistakes are made, we go to the people, we explain, we learn and we put things right.

In this context, our Government will shortly be announcing measures concerning the incident of water pollution at La Misère. I give my support to the communities affected by this incident.

It is also encouraging to see that the Ministry responsible for Community Development is continuing to hold a series of meetings in districts. The contribution of Seychellois people is always important. That is democracy.

We are a democracy which is continuously evolving, especially through strengthening our institutions of state and good governance. It is our Constitution which inspires us in this process. You will recall that some time ago, a Committee was formed to review all aspects of the Constitution, and to propose amendments where necessary. The Committee has completed its work and presented to me its report which includes many interesting proposals. We are working on the implementation of a good number of these proposals.

As is always the case, my programme of going towards the people remains. This year I intend to visit educational institutions to exchange views with students.

My visits will also focus on places of work. It is work that will always prepare us for the future. I cannot miss this opportunity to salute once again the enormous contribution that Seychellois workers make. We thank our labour force!

Education – Equality of Opportunity

It is the principle of justice and equal opportunity which is the basis of our Government. And despite the challenges of 2008 and 2009, we have increased our investment in education to ensure that equality of opportunity is always there. Our University is a great step forward. We are proud of our 54 students who started their studies last year. There are also 229 young people benefiting from Government scholarships overseas. There are many others on various other training programmes.

Raising the level of teaching is one of the priorities of our education system. The reforms we are undertaking will place more resources at the disposal of teachers. The Ministry of Education has introduced new Scheme of Service since January, and this will encourage more young people to take up this profession. The University of Seychelles is offering opportunities for more young teachers to obtain a degree.

Reform alone in Education is not enough. What is important, and where we should concentrate our efforts on, is the experience of each child and each worker in school. To improve this experience, a new school model will be put in place to facilitate collaboration between the Ministry, the School, the School Council and the community.

We have achieved a lot. And there remains much to be done. Today we have our own University. A Young Leaders programme for the Military and the Police will be launched shortly. We have just celebrated the success of the first cohort of Young Leaders. A second group has already started its programme. Opportunities for young people abound.

Law and Order

Training is for the police and military forces, too. Training will enable them to better protect our sovereignty and economic development. Our men and women in uniform require our support just like our people and country need them.

Last year we also became victims of attacks by Somali pirates who were a new threat to our sovereignty and to the tourism and fishing industries. With the assistance of our foreign partners and our soldiers and coastguard, we are ready to face the threat. Government will continue to give its full support to our military forces. It will ensure the availability of equipment and training for the safeguard of our economy at all cost. I take this occasion to once again thank our soldiers, the coastguard and all the people who worked day and night to ensure our security. Presently we are in the period of calm sea when pirates are able to come into our waters. We have to remain vigilant.

The police force often gets a lot of criticisms. Sometimes these are justified, and there are also perceptions. When it is necessary to criticise in order to bring about improvements, we have to do it. But we cannot pretend that all is bad in the police. The majority of police officers police are devoted to their work. There are many honest officers and we have to acknowledge that and support them.

Where there has been a loss of confidence we have to put things right. Where there is good work we have to build on it.

We will make available more resources for the police. We need to have more foot patrols. Police officers have to be more familiar with the communities where they work.

Training brings long-term benefit. We have made a start. We are preparing for the future, and there is no place for those who lack discipline or do not have the wellbeing of the force close to their hearts.

We ask that there is order and peace in our country. This request was made loudly in the consultative meetings. In a letter sent to me recently a woman recalled that in the past we could sleep with the doors of our house open.

Seychelles will not become a hostage to criminality. We need a new approach to ensure order, peace and stability. I am proposing a series of legislative measures which will render our penal code more effective and give better protection to our citizens. Among these, I am calling for a doubling of the sentence when a criminal repeats an offence.

I am also expressing the wish of the people when we say that the concurrent serving of sentences needs to be changed. The justice system has to heed the calls of our citizens. Our people are after a justice system that is fast, more efficient and harsher in sentencing. It is time for criminals to pay for the wrong they cause their victims.

We ask that those who spend their time causing public nuisance are sentenced to do community work. They will learn to do something useful and keep them productively occupied.

We have to continue our fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse. This fight remains a personal commitment which I made to the Seychellois people. NDEA started a job 18 months ago. We have already seen results. It has made 324 arrests in connection with trafficking, importation and possession of illegal drugs. It is a massive fight!

NDEA has established contacts with foreign partners. We have intercepted big traffickers, even in places away from Seychelles. Only this month, for example, one man who had 651 grams of heroin in his possession was arrested in Dubai. Intelligence operations showed that the drug was coming to Seychelles. It is frightening to imagine the damage that would have been caused had we not intercepted the parcel. What would have been the state of our youth?

I take this opportunity to thank all the agencies concerned, the civil societies and churches, for their support in the fight against drug abuse. I feel relieved when we have the majority of the Seychellois sharing our determination to save our youth from this scourge. Drug abuse is the major cause of prostitution and burglary. Poverty is not an excuse because there are mechanisms in place to help those who are vulnerable. Employment opportunities abound.

All the forces in our country have to demand that adults find work to do and children attend school. It is normal to fend for oneself in one’s own way but this has to be done in a legal, honest and productive manner.

We have to double our effort to protect our children. Society is asking for harsher sentences for crimes against children.

Seychelles is too small, too beautiful and to special, for us to allow it to be spoilt by a small group of people who have no respect for their fellow citizens.

Dear People of Seychelles,

Sport

Before I end my address I am proud to remind you all that next year Seychelles will be hosting the Indian Ocean games for the second time. Our athletes have started preparations for the event and already the sense of patriotism makes us aware us that we are one nation, one people and one Seychelles. I wish all our athletes good preparation and I am sure that they will raise our flag high. My government will give them all the support possible. I also wish good work to the committee in charge of the organization of the event.

Sacrifices, hard work and devotion have produced a Seychellois referee for the World Cup. This is an achievement to inspire us all!

Conclusion

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters,

We continue on our journey. We will build on the foundation we have laid.

This is our moment. Let us seize it. There are positive changes taking place in our country. There are those who are picking themselves up, and striving. We speak highly of our innovative spirit. We are seeing the fruits of our active economic diplomacy. Overseas we are saying “This is Seychelles!” Our small Seychelles is also talking about its university. All of these are our achievements. The pride of the Seychellois is bigger than all. This is what drives us to hold on to what we have and not to let go.

Seychelles is a precious place. It is special.

We have a way of life which is the envy of many countries. We are a nation that is blessed in many ways.

I have no doubt today that the Seychellois people, in their great majority, understand what is happening in their country, and in the world. We have all experienced difficulty. It has affected the child in the arms of its mother, the young person going to school, the worker who has been asking several times what has he bought with his salary, the parent who could not buy a gift for the child, and others. But we walk with a dignified smile on our faces. We have preserved our “joie de vivre” which is unique in the world.

The worst of the storm is behind us but life remains difficult for many. It is the mission of my government to always work for the good of our people. But we are also a government that is working not only for today but for the future, too. A future with a better life.

Where we have done well we will continue to build on it. Where there are deficiencies we will put things right.

Let us continue to promote the spirit of unity in diversity. The national themes have enabled us to focus on the wellbeing of our children, our treasure, our future. We have celebrated Seychelles. We have worked together for the love of Seychelles. We have listened to the voice of our people in our constitution. We have come together, and today, together, we are ready for the future. These themes have reinforced our sense of patriotism and unity. These are themes we live everyday and not only during the year of dedication. Real change happens only when we are united, when we are together. This is the change the Seychellois people believe in. This is what has brought us success and enable us to survive.

We may have varying beliefs and opinions but there is only one Seychelles.

Let us take some time and look around us, everything that we are, all that we accomplish, all our dreams, all that we believe in, that’s what make us Seychellois. And anybody will tell you that the Seychellois are a blessed nation, a warm people. Let us preserve these.

We will fix those things that need to be fixed. We will continue to build on our successes.

Together, let us continue to work for a better life, for all Seychellois.

Together, we are ready for the future! During this time of Lent, let us pray to God that He continues to watch over us and bless and protect our Seychelles always.

Thank you.

 

SOURCE 

Republic of Seychelles – Office of the President


Categories

%d bloggers like this: