Updated: SONA: Let us remain determined. Let us take our responsibilities!
Wed, 26 February 2014
President James Michel delivered his 10th State of the Nation Address to the Seychelles National Assembly this afternoon, placing emphasis on the principles of determination, responsibility and national unity in advancing the country's socio-economic achievements.
Mr. Michel spoke of solid economic progress in 2013 when Seychelles recorded economic growth of 3.5%, as well as the highest foreign exchange reserves in the history of the country of USD 435 million, representing over 4 months of importation of goods. In 2013, 3,200 new jobs were created, and 602 persons are currently unemployed.
The country has also attained nearly all of the eight Millennium Development Goals, and is considered a country with high human development index, ranking 46th out of 186 countries of the UN Human Development Index. Seychelles is also first in Africa in the international ranking for telecommunications and access to information technology.
" Our accomplishments are a source of motivation and inspiration for us and many other countries. But does that mean that everything is going well in our country? No! No, there are still many deficiencies. There is even a voice that says that there is a deficit of moral and spiritual values in our society.. There are still problems that we must resolve in order to take the New Seychelles even further. Even further on the road to prosperity. Greater happiness for our people. Let us join our efforts. Let us remain determined. Let us take our responsibilities!"
The President called on all Seychellois to join him accepting responsibility for the future of the country and continuing to safeguard the wellbeing and happiness of its children.
"Seychelles is on the right path. We must keep our country on this right path. Our journey continues, with determination... Join me in continuing to create a solid economy where hard work will be rewarded. Join me in combating the scourges that afflict our society. Join me in strengthening our institutions of democracy. Join me in continuing, together, to create a better Seychelles, and make it shine in the world. A united and harmonious nation. A Seychelles that is the pride of all our children."
The President presented several Government work results and priorities for the next year. The following is a summary of the main points made:
The President said that Seychelles welcomed more than 230,000 visitors in 2013, an increase of 11% over 2012. At the same time, the country continued to attract investment, both local and foreign, in the tourism sector.
The number of guesthouses and hotels increased from 417 to 438, and room capacity increased from 4,200 to 4,500. Over 60% of these establishments are owned or managed entirely by Seychellois. Two large hotels are currently under construction at Beau Vallon and Bel Ombre. They will increase room capacity by 300 rooms, and create 600 new jobs. The number of restaurants has also grown; with 80% held entirely by Seychellois. The numbers of car hires, boat charters and diving centres have also increased.
The national airline, Air Seychelles, not only made a profit last year, but it also overtook many airlines to become the first 4-star airline in the region, and was counted amongst the best airlines in the word.
The President said the Government had observed considerable investment in the industrial fishing sector. A port and an industrial quay has been completed at Île du Port. It will allow tuna vessels to berth there, thus relieving congestion at Port Victoria. Among other activities, this will provide refrigeration facilities, and facilities for assembling and repairing fishing nets. Semi-industrial fishing will receive a new boost this year with a significant increase in the number of boats engaged in this sector.
"We are expecting 12 new vessels this year. We are also expecting the opening of a fish processing plant by May, with the entry of Seychellois entrepreneurs into this activity. I wish these businesses every success which they deserve. Our traditional fishermen are getting together as a group that can better represent their interests. Bel Ombre and Praslin are leading this initiative. We shall continue to make infrastructure available to fishermen. For example, we shall very shortly see the opening of the Roche Caiman market, and later the renovation of Victoria Market."
In the domain of maritime training, a vessel with all necessary equipment has been built in Sri Lanka, and will arrive within a few weeks. It will provide practical experience at sea for students of the Maritime Training Centre.
The President said the Government is putting in place more infrastructure to improve the environment for doing business. As a result, the country has registered over 1,200 businesses.
" I believe firmly in the spirit of entrepreneurship which we must constantly encourage and develop. In this context, the construction of workshops in the Microenterprise Centre in the Providence Industrial Zone is at an advanced stage. In June this year, 59 small entrepreneurs will be allocated their workshops. At the same time, we are finalizing procedures for the allocation of 12 plots of land at Providence, and a further 23 plots at Île Perseverance, for small industries."
Small Business Loans
The President announced that the Small Business Finance Agency (SBFA) will increase the ceiling for the loans it provides to SR300,000.
The President said that since the Government's initiative to improve access to financing for small to medium businesses, within the first 6 months of launching this initiative, a total of SR50 million had been approved by commercial banks. Small businesses taking loans under this scheme can have a 6 month moratorium before commencement of loan repayment.
The Government is in discussion with the two State commercial banks – the Seychelles Commercial Bank and Nouvobanq – to study the modalities for an extended moratorium.
Government Housing Schemes
The President said that housing will remain a priority for his Government. In 2013, more than 200 housing units – mainly on Île Perseverance, were allocated, and over 80 applicants were assisted with plots of land. In 2014, we expect to complete a little over 360 housing units, mainly on Mahé, but some also on Praslin and La Digue.
"Housing construction comes at a cost, which is progressively on the rise. This again is a shared responsibility between Government and citizens. Government can build as many houses as it can, but the demand for housing will always be there, and will continuously increase. Housing applicants must therefore take their responsibility. They must decide clearly on their responsibilities and priorities. Some cannot just enjoy themselves to their hearts’ content, have children without thinking of the consequences, and then expect – if not demand – that Government gives them a house straight away, as if it were an unqualified right. Owning one’s own house is a right that is earned through work, through savings and through contributions towards one’s housing. I repeat: you have to work to get your house."
He said the Government has established rigorous criteria for applicants to get house which includes principally the financial contribution that the applicant makes towards housing, the applicant’s social circumstances, how long the applicant has been on the waiting list, and so on.
Laptop subsidy for S5 students
The President said that the Government will bring an additional support for the education of children through a subsidy for a laptop which is currently only available to students in post-secondary education.
The new scheme will cover all S5 students from January 2015. This will cost approximately SR3.6M and benefit about 1,200 students.
Laws of the Republic
President announced that this year the government will make certain amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles.
" Amongst others, consideration will be given to recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee following its deliberations. In the same context, we shall shortly be amending the Elections Act so that it better reflects the realities of Seychelles, allows elections to be held under the best possible conditions, and give all the necessary tools to the Electoral Commission, within a reinforced legal framework, to enable it to discharge its responsibilities under optimal conditions."
He said the law will take into consideration certain recommendations of the Electoral Commission.
Other laws would also be amended such as the Town & Country Planning Act.
Drug abuse and trafficking
There are 70 drug traffickers who are serving their sentence at Marie-Louise prison, out of a total of 92 prisoners.
The President said that it had been noticed that drug traffickers are using a legal loophole to avoid the maximum sentence by ensuring that the impurities they get arrested with, contain less than 2 grams of a Schedule 1 drug.
"Their game is over! With new legislation that will reach the National Assembly soon, no matter what quantity of pure drug is present in their dirty powder, they will go straight to Marie-Louise. "
He said that the new law will also provide for the Police or the NDEA – in consultation with the Attorney General – to arrest a person who is a drug addict, bring the person to a psychiatrist, and upon whose professional recommendation, require the addict to undergo a programme of rehabilitation for his own good, and for the good of society.
"We must encourage and support the services that ensure order, peace and security. They are doing a good job, especially in the fight against drugs. I repeat once again: those who corrupt our youth, and ruin the lives of our children, will be shown no pity."
A New Symbol
The President announced that in June this year the country would "witness a new symbol" to promote national unity.
" A powerful symbol with the aim of removing certain rancour, which may still linger in our nation, and of consolidating national unity. You all know the importance that I attach to national unity and to harmony within our people."
He did not specify what kind of symbol would be introduced.
For the full texts of the President's address in Creole, French and English, please click here