SONA: It Is Time For Us To Take Greater Ownership
19 February 2013 |
"It is time for us to take greater ownership. It does not matter where we work, what rank or position we hold. We have to realize that we form part of government; we are part of this enterprise. We and the government are not two separate entities. Government assets are our assets. When we waste government resources, when we waste time in our offices, we are wasting our own resources, our own time. Let us develop this awareness of ownership. We are not just employees, but we are part of a team. We are part of government. We are part of the private enterprise. Working hard is worth it!"
President James Michel was speaking at the Seychelles National Assembly during his 9th State of the Nation Address.
The President called on all Seychellois to continue to work hard in 2013 and to continue to make the Seychelles star shine in the Indian Ocean and in the world.
Mr. Michel noted that the Seychelles economy is continuing to grow and that the macroeconomic perspective is more than encouraging. In 2012, the Government exceeded its targets and achieved an estimated 6.4% surplus in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The inflation rate stabilized to 5.8% in December 2012 and the foreign exchange reserves have reached 308 million USD today, which represents approximately 2.8 months of imports. The Fitch Ratings agency has also classed Seychelles as ‘positive,’ one step up from the previous rating of ‘stable.’
Furthermore the 2010 Populations Census results indicate 92.7% literacy, 97% homes have electricity, 93% have treated water, 70% of the population own their own house, 90% have a mobile telephone and 94.6% have a television set.
The President presented the Government’s priorities in terms of working to ensure a (1) solid economy, (2) jobs for all, (3) decent housing to Seychellois, (4) education, (5) health, (6) youth empowerment, (7) sustainable development (8) order, peace and security, (9) rule of law, (10) Seychelles shining on the international scene.
The President made the following major announcements:
Sale of Land
The Government will be amending the State Land and River Reserves Act in order to ensure that individuals who do not have Seychellois citizenship, cannot buy land on a ‘freehold’ basis. They will only be allowed to buy a long-term non-renewable lease of 70 years. The Government will offer amnesty to foreigners who have bought land through ‘nominee companies’ through transfer of shares, in order to regularize their situation within a year of the law coming into effect. If they do not do these, then the Government will repossess their land. The aim of the initiative is to eliminate the evasion of sanction procedures and unlawful acquisitions of land by foreign nationals. The only exemption to this land policy will be for development of villas in tourism resorts in order to be able to continue to attract foreign direct investment, and therefore maintain the investment and development policy for villa developments.
The President announced that new stricter laws would be put into place for the acquisition of Seychelles citizenship by foreign nationals. Applicants for citizenship will be expected to know, understand and appreciate Seychelles, its constitution, its people, its history, its culture, aspirations and heritage, and a period of residence and marriage will not suffice for citizenship. Persons applying for citizenship will need to be loyal and sincere towards Seychelles and show the contribution they have towards the development of their adoptive country. The new law will also outline the conditions for the revocation of citizenship when the national interest is threatened.
A new ‘permanent residency’ status will also be introduced which will allow foreign nationals to live in Seychelles on a permanent basis, who have the necessary financial means to do so, without enjoying the rights of full citizenship such as social security, pension, voting rights. They would however be able to work and invest in businesses in categories which are not reserved for Seychellois.
Government Housing Schemes
The President announced that housing applicants who are contributing to the “home saving schemes” would be given priority for housing, and he urged those who are waiting for a house to work hard and make their payments towards a house, which will be deducted from their loan once they have a house.
In 2012, the Government allocated 327 housing units on Ile Perseverance. A further 166 units have been completed and allocations will take place in the coming weeks once the infrastructure for the houses has been completed. This year a further 274 housing units will be constructed on Ile Perseverance. The Government has completed another 16 units in other districts, and a further 25 units are planned for construction in the districts later this year.
The President announced that a major housing project would start this year for the construction of 180 housing units in three districts, with the assistance of a generous donation from the Government of Abu Dhabi.
The Government is furthermore studying the feasibility of a new mechanism for housing insurance, as the recent flooding disaster had shown that many homes are vulnerable when without insurance, following natural disasters.
The President announced that the Government would be entering into discussions with its partners in the economic reform programme to introduce a progressive income tax system by January 2014. This would mean that those who earn a lower salary would pay a smaller percentage for income tax than those who earn higher salaries who would pay a higher percentage. This will be introduced with the aim of have a more equitable taxation system, rather than the current 15% income tax for all, regardless of the size of their income.
The Government had planned to increase salaries in the public sector in July 2013, however due to the unexpected budget surplus, the salary increase will come into effect in April 2013.
Small Business Loans
The President announced that the Small Business Finance Agency would receive double the funds of the last year, to reach 40 million Seychelles Rupees, which would enable it to give double the number of loans to small businesses. The SBFA will also increase its loan limit to SR300,000.
In 2013, the School of Advanced Level Studies will introduce a system where for the first time students who fail their A Level examinations will have a second chance to re-sit their exams. This option will be available to students from other post-secondary institutions.A new school curriculum would be also be implemented. Furthermore, students at S4 level of secondary education will be able to sit their “IGCSE English as a Second Language” examinations as well as the “SELF Scolaire Niveau B examinations.” The Ministry of Education will be reintroducing the “Special Needs Education Unit” for assistance to students with special needs.
The President announced that Seychelles will convene a regional conference on the blue economy, in order to encourage nations of the region to take concerted actions to ensure that the marine resources of the ocean produce equitable and sustainable benefits for region through protected marine reserves, sustainable fishing practices, and management of the ocean to mitigate the impact of climate change.