State of the Nation Address by President James Alix Michel, 26th February 2015
Thu, 26 February 2015
Acting Chief Justice
President of the Court of Appeal
Hon Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly
Hon Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly
Members of the National Assembly
Dear Fellow Seychellois
What is the reality of Seychelles today?
What is the state of Seychelles today?
We see a Seychelles that is increasingly prosperous. A nation that is moving. At an unprecedented pace. A nation which – despite the diversity of views of its people – is united and at peace with itself. A nation which works hard to earn its living. A proud people. A people that love Seychelles.
That is the reality of Seychelles. We have come a long way. We had reached the brink of bankruptcy. A shortage of almost everything. At one time we were being called the country of Nothing Available. We cannot forget that. But we have transformed our country. Thanks to our resilience as a people. Thanks also to courageous decisions – devoid of political considerations – which we had to take. And today we have a Seychelles that is under full transformation. However the rapid pace of development has also brought about challenges. We deplore the increase in crime and the emergence of certain new vices which are eating away at our social fabric.
When I address you, in this Assembly, every year, I renew my engagement to a principle which has always guided me. That is the principle of putting people at the centre of development, and remaining connected with the people. It is a contract with the people of Seychelles. A contract of trust with the people. A contract of hard work.
My State of the Nation address today is not only a reaffirmation of this contract. It allows me to give an account of what we have done in 2014 and to share with the people my plans and vision.
Dear Seychellois people
One of the fundamental indicators of the state of a nation is its economic performance. We are a small and open economy. We remain vulnerable to external shocks. The world economy in 2014 remained fragile, with a particularly poor performance in the Euro zone which has impacted negatively on us.
Our gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.8%– smaller than we had predicted – mainly because of a reduction in activities relation to tourism and industrial production.
2014 was a year of challenges for the tourism sector. Although there was a 1% increase in the number of tourists, there was a reduction of 3% in the number of visitors from Europe. We estimate that tourism revenues were 5% lower in 2014 than in the preceding year.
On a more positive note, our national airline continued to perform well, especially with flights to new destinations, with the aim of reinforcing our presence and connectivity.
In terms of expansion in the tourism sector, we recorded an increase in the number of hotel establishments from 426 in 2013 to 467 in 2014. Over 60% of those establishments are owned or managed entirely by Seychellois.
The objective of my Government is to continue to encourage the development of this industry, especially with the diversification and improvement of the product that we offer, and even more participation by Seychellois in this key industry. The Development Bank of Seychelles will make more credit available to small Seychelles entrepreneurs who wish to enter the tourism industry.
With regard to our second industry – fishing – in 2014 we saw the inauguration of a new 120-metre fishing port at Île du Port. This port has already began to show its benefits in terms of port transactions and a reduction in the amount of container traffic on the roads. In 2014 we also signed an agreement for the construction of another larger 425-metre industrial fishing port on Île du Port as part of a public-private sector partnership venture. We also built facilities for fish processing on the Providence fishing port. We anticipate that these new investments in the fisheries sector will contribute to more value-added benefits and a new thrust for the Blue Economy.
With regard to the balance of payments, our deficit is 23% of the Gross National Product. However our foreign exchange reserves rose from US425M in 2013 to US464M in 2014. This represents the equivalent of 4 months importation. In 2008, our foreign exchange reserved represented the equivalent of only 3 weeks' importation.
With regard to our external debt payments, our foreign exchange reserves represent about 94% of the external debt. This is a strong indication that Seychelles does not anticipate any difficulties in meeting its external debt repayments over the years to come.
Fiscal discipline remains a key element in our strategy to strengthen our economy. The positive fiscal performance of 2014, and the successes we have had in our debt restructuring, have helped to considerably bolster the sustainability of Seychelles' external debt. We must maintain this strategy for us to achieve our aim of reducing public debt to 50% of our Gross National Product by 2018.
Despite a generally satisfactory fiscal performance, there are certain things that we must improve. There are weaknesses in the tax administration system which make it possible for certain individuals or businesses – especially large businesses – to evade tax payments, to the detriment of state revenues. We must overcome these weaknesses to ensure that all businesses – without exception – pay their proper dues in a just manner without anyone, especially small businesses, feeling that they are constantly being harassed. Another concern is the system of transfer pricing. The manipulation and abuse of this practice – especially by certain large companies – results in considerable loss in State revenues. We must encourage the business environment so as to encourage all businesses to keep their revenues, especially in foreign exchange, in the Seychelles banking system. But for this to happen, we have to see an improvement and enhancement of the banking system in Seychelles. It is high time for the commercial banks to change their ways and to become more proactive to the realities of the dynamics of Seychelles. Seychelles in 2015 is not at all like Seychelles was in 2008!
Dear Seychellois compatriots
Despite the challenges that we have had to face, we haven't done too badly in 2014. Statistics show that inflation was at just 0.5% at the end of December 2014, which is a good indicator of economic stability. The Seychelles Trading Company has its role to play here. It anchors prices, especially through the 14 essential commodities that it stocks. The opening of its supermarkets at Bois-de-Rose Avenue, and another one at Grand'Anse Mahé later this year will give Seychellois even greater choice, a greater variety of goods – at affordable and competitive prices. It will also offer opportunities for the private sector to engage in business with it.
In a free-market economy, like in Seychelles, Government plays a regulatory and facilitating role. But when cartels are created, and the price of goods rises artificially, we – as leaders – cannot just sit and watch. As a responsible Government, we must intervene to offer people a "fair deal". We do this through the STC. The STC is an important and indispensable social partner which has had a positive impact on our people. It will continue with its task. STC has no intention of take over the role and place of the private sector which remains the motor of our economy.
My message to the private sector is clear: consult, discuss and find solutions with Government. We are a receptive Government. We can have our differences with the private sector, but it is always possible to find solutions and reasonable compromises. All is possible when we put Seychelles first. If we don’t do it for ourselves who else will?
The purchasing power of Seychellois continues to increase. For example, according to immigration statistics, over 20,000 Seychellois travelled overseas in 2014. Over 95% of households have access to modern means of communication, making Seychelles the top country in Africa in terms of development, penetration and access to information communication technology. The number of vehicles on our roads today, according to the Seychelles Licensing Authority, is 20,291 which includes 12,878 private vehicles.
In 2014, we have seen a 25% increase in credit or loans which the private sector have borrowed from commercial banks. This is one of the principal factors which has contributed to a considerable increase in consumption. This has resulted in an increase in demands for imports, and has created pressure on our balance of payments. At the same time, our balance of payments has been impacted by a reduction in revenues.
In view of this pressure, and since the value of our Rupee depends on the demand in the economy, the value of the Rupee has adjusted. During 2014, our Rupee depreciated by about 70 cents, or 5.8% in comparison with 2013, before it stabilised at a higher level. The Central Bank tightened its monetary policy, and Government also maintained its fiscal policies. These factors helped to stabilise the value of the Rupee. The lowering of the price of energy, and better economic performance are expected to reinforce this position. This adjustment in the exchange rate, combined with tighter monetary policy, has resulted in a lowering of demand for foreign exchange since the start of 2015. The reduction in demand is also contributing to the strengthening of the value of the rupee. It will help to lower the cost of living.
As my Government has done over many years, in 2014 we continued to empower our people. We have done this principally, but not exclusively, through getting more people into employment, and the creation of more opportunities for business.
According to the Ministry of Employment, 1,878 people were placed in employment in 2014. During the same year, 1,205 persons were unemployed, and 1,910 persons received assistance from the Agency for Social Protection. Most of them were in employment, but for various reasons related to their social conditions, needed financial supplementation. I repeat, there is work for all Seychellois in all sectors. Young people, seize the opportunities that the new dynamism of the country is offering you! Don't depend on others. Live your dreams! If not you, who else will? We must be proactive in our approach. We cannot just expect that work will come to us. We must make a real effort to find work, accept a job, or else create work for ourselves. Where people are truly in need, this Government will always do its utmost to assist, through the Agency for Social Protection. In the same manner, we shall never abandon our old parents.
Where it concerns opportunities for business, statistics show that up to December 2014, a total of 241 loans amounting to SR233M had been approved under the scheme for small and medium enterprises (SME). Seychellois must become a nation of entrepreneurs. Do business and create wealth. In this respect, we shall continue to actively encourage the development of small and medium enterprises. We have already completed the construction of micro-enterprise centre at Providence, which will be opened soon. We shall be building a second one at Île du Port. We have plans to build other centres in various regions of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. We shall continue to encourage all Seychellois to be enterprising. Encourage everyone to work hard. We must create a better environment for doing business in our country. Create more employment. Increase productivity. Let us work together to remove obstacles that hinder our people. Many people complain that their principal sources of frustration are the Licensing Authority, the Planning Authority, or the Customs. We really must get ourselves in order!
Seychelles actually ranks 85th out of 189 countries where it concerns ease of doing business. We can do better than that – much better. Our strategy is to improve ourselves and improve our rank and place ourselves among the 30 best countries for doing business in the next 5 years. To achieve this, we shall focus on the following ten indicators:
• Ease of access to credit;
• Ease of access to electricity;
• Ease of setting up a business;
• Formal application and respect of contract;
• Protection of the investor;
• Registration of property;
• Settlement of bankruptcy cases;
• Simplification of procedures for obtaining a permit;
• Cross-border trade;
• Simplification of tax payment procedures.
We need a fundamental change. Together we can do it. And we shall do it because we have the will to do it!
In order for the Seychellois to really take ownership of their economy, they need mainly certain financial, fiscal, legal and other incentives. Our small entrepreneurs need a framework which will encourage them to invest in the productive sectors. My government is aware of this. It is for this reason that we are working on a Small and Medium Enterprises Incentive Act. We will introduce this legislation this year. It will enable small entrepreneurs to benefit from certain concessions and incentives when either starting up business ventures or for expansion of existing businesses, provided they meet the necessary conditions. The Development Bank of Seychelles will be a principal pillar in this empowerment strategy for small and medium enterprises. We will strengthen and increase the Bank’s resources.
People of Seychelles,
Our policy of empowerment is also being applied in the housing sector. In 2014, 304 Seychellois families were given the keys to their own homes. 82 were offered plots of land. During this year we shall again make available some 200 houses to Seychellois families. In addition, construction work is starting this year on 267 residential units in different regions of Mahé and Praslin. We also have plans to start work on several units on Île Perseverance. The construction of a bridge connecting Île Aurore and Île Perseverance later this year will open up many more opportunities in the residential and commercial sectors on both islands.
It is now that we see the importance of Île Perseverance, and soon also Île Aurore, in our housing programme. If we had not undertaken the land reclamation -- which was greatly criticized at the time when dredging work started -- where would we have housed all these Seychellois families today? Where would we have located all these businesses today? Now there is a visionary government!
52 plots of land on Mahé and Praslin are ready for allocation. Some 50 additional plots will be ready this year for distribution on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Statistics indicate that presently about 85% of Seychellois families own their houses. This is a true accomplishment for Seychelles! We now have to take our responsibilities and commitments seriously. We have to repay our loans regularly, so that other Seychellois, too, can realize their dreams of owning their homes. We have to save for our future homes. We should also abide by a code of conduct that promotes good neighbourliness in a community that stands together. My government will, through various housing programmes, continue to help each Seychellois family to become home owners. 66 families on the housing application list have already been selected for the first self financing scheme on Île Perseverance. This programme will be implemented in other housing projects across the country. The objective is to speed up applicants’ access to housing.
We will actively encourage the private sector to enter into partnership with Government to build and sell affordable houses. Our Land Use Plan for Île Perseverance includes a site for residential and commercial development by the private sector. According to the plan, up to 240 residential units and 4,800 m2 of commercial space will be built. This project will be put on tender in a few months. Wherever there is potential and interest, we will put more land at the disposal of Seychellois entrepreneurs, in order to encourage such public-private sector partnerships. In this context, Government is considering making available land at Anse Royale to Seychellois entrepreneurs for the construction of residential facilities for local and foreign students attending the University of Seychelles. Yet more business opportunities for Seychellois!
Another concrete expression of our empowerment policy is in the education sector. The National Consultative Forum’s meetings last year dedicated much attention to Education, particularly the Medium-Term Strategy of the Ministry of Education. This strategy has been formulated in collaboration with the European Union and UNESCO. Its aim is to undertake further transformation of our education and training system over the next five years and beyond. The restructuring of the Ministry of Education will help it provide the leadership and direction necessary for the implementation of this pivotal Medium-Term Strategy.
Our country has already achieved universal primary education, which was one of the millennium development goals. We have progressed beyond this goal. Our children have access to free education and compulsory schooling up to S4. We now have to focus on improving quality, especially in secondary and post-secondary education. During the past ten years about 1,250 young Seychellois have obtained university degrees, including some 50 from the University of Seychelles.. The University of Seychelles is playing an increasingly crucial role in the creation of the knowledge and skills based society. It started with 53 students five years ago. The University of Seychelles today has cooperation programmes with several universities and institutions of learning overseas. It has almost 1,000 students. This year some 100 Seychellois students are expected to obtain their degrees from our University. Many others will receive their diplomas or certificates from the University. The University of Seychelles, which was ridiculed when still a project, is readying itself to welcome its first foreign students. The motto of the University sums up well its mission: The future is in your hands! It is bringing us closer to the transformation of our vision into reality – a graduate in every family! The realization of yet another promise I made to the Seychellois people!
The development of a nation in all its aspects, be it empowerment, wellbeing, happiness … depends on the state of its health. Our health system is not perfect. There remain many weaknesses we have to eliminate. A big challenge for us was the infant mortality rate. It had reached 18.52 per thousand births in 2013. We succeeded in reducing it to 10.92 per thousand in 2014. We will aggressively pursue our efforts to improve prenatal and postnatal care. We will continue to place emphasis on prevention and improved detection.
We continue to modernize our health system and introduce more specialist care. An international team has audited our laboratory service. It will be modernized, and we envisage its international accreditation and subcontracting of its services. The operating block in the Seychelles Hospital has been upgraded and fitted with new equipment. We are now able to perform certain complex surgeries here in Seychelles instead of sending patients overseas.
We have also received a new decompression chamber which has made a huge difference to divers and others needing the service of such a chamber. We are recruiting more specialists. In this context the government of Abu Dhabi is providing us with assistance for four years to recruit the specialists we need to improve the quality of our health services. We are conducting negotiations with an international company for the management of our dialysis centre and its international accreditation.
Our vision for our health system is to have it managed and operated by our own Seychellois within 10 years. It is for this reason that we are giving priority to the training of our young Seychellois cadres in different medical specialist areas. In this context, the Ministry of Health is planning to send some 20 young Seychellois doctors on specialization studies overseas. Our health system belongs to all Seychellois. Let us not just criticize. Let us not abuse it. Let us help to improve it. Let us – each and every one of us – improve our lifestyles and take responsibility for our own health. Together we can become a healthier nation in the future.
The forecast for 2015 suggests that the world economy will remain fragile. This represents a challenging external environment for our country. In these circumstances, we must remain vigilant. We have to maintain our fiscal and budgetary discipline, while also increasing our economic activity and productivity. We cannot spend more than we earn. We cannot increase salaries in all sectors at the same time, without taking into consideration the financial consequences. Can our country sustain such an exercise?
However, it would be good to see what we have done concerning salary increases since the introduction of the economic reforms in 2008. We adopted a gradual approach. A responsible approach. A sustainable approach. The minimum wage has increased. By 2014 we have introduced over sixty different schemes of service for the majority of cadres and categories of employees in the public sector. Since 2014 the entry salary points have been adjusted in line with the new law on public sector salaries. The policy of my government is: as and when the performance of the economy permits, the salaries of all Seychellois workers will increase.
The same principle applies for social security. We have to be realistic and responsible. We cannot play populist politics, cheap politics, with retirement pensions, which we call social security, by saying that it should be increased to match the national minimum salary. Such declarations are irresponsible and dangerous. Let us take a look at the current situation. The budget approved by the National Assembly for social security this year is SR356,854,000. If we increase social security, which is presently SR3,100 a month, to the national minimum salary level, we would need to find an additional SR101 million. This applies only to those who are only receiving their retirement pension. If we add other categories of benefits, such as invalidity, and people who have retired at age 55 years, we will have to find, on top of the SR101 million, another SR100 million.
Based on the present situation, our budget would not be able to sustain such expenses. No responsible government will ever undertake such a thing. However, our plan is, depending on economic growth, to gradually increase the retirement pension at a minimum rate of 10% per year over the next five years. After that retirement pension will be linked to a cost of living index as is presently the case for the Seychelles Pension Fund.
Let us take a moment to consider the real situation of the elderly citizens who are on retirement pension. They are getting SR3,100 per month. But this is not all. They enjoy free bus transport. Many pensioners are also getting the assistance of a carer. The state pays for the carer. There are presently 2,608 carers in the country. Carers earn the minimum salary. The budget approved by the National Assembly for carers amounts to SR109 million. When we take all these elements into consideration, the real level of assistance by the state to a pensioner who is also benefiting from the carer service far exceeds the retirement pension. Once again, it is time to stop playing cheap politics with such an important matter that touches the lives of our elderly citizens. It is also time we take greater care of, and assume our responsibilities, towards our elderly parents. It is our duty as their children.
The performance of the tourism industry is a key element in our socio-economic development strategy. According to our forecast we will do better this year than in 2014. The opening of air links to new destinations and the diversification of our markets allow us to expect a better performance. Already this year the number of visitors has gone up by 3% compared to same period of 2014. The tourism sector is an industry that concerns all Seychellois. We cannot care only for our personal interests. We have to stop fighting among ourselves. We have to harmonize our positions in the interest of Seychelles. We have to pull together in the same direction. We need to, all of us together, redouble our efforts to bring more visitors to Seychelles. If we don’t who else will do it for us?
Seychelles is a country where tourism is a vocation. It is therefore quite normal for Seychellois to take ownership of this industry. The big foreign-owned hotels have brought much investment into our country. They have contributed tremendously – and continue to do so – to spread the Seychelles image as an exclusive tourism destination. We need them, and we shall always need them. But we also need our own Seychellois establishments. They can offer the authentic and original Creole charm the visitors look for. I want to encourage the development of more of these establishments which will be complementary to the big international hotels. Government, for its part, will do everything possible and necessary to improve the business climate for the development of this industry by Seychellois. I want to see more Seychellois – many more Seychellois – taking ownership of this industry. I am convinced that the Bill we are drafting – the Small and Medium Enterprises Incentive Act – will allow this to happen.
Dear people of Seychelles,
Let us now talk about the Cap Ternay hotel project. It is unfortunate that certain people have decided to play politics with the Cap Ternay hotel development. I have even been accused of destroying the environment. That I am destroying the reputation of Seychelles. You all know, especially those who accuse me, that if there is anyone who has always defended our natural heritage, our environment – and continues to do so – it is me! On the international scene, I have defended the cause of the environment, of the Small Island States, with vigour, with passion, and the same conviction.
Let us not forget that all major tourism projects, including hotels, are subjected to an environmental impact assessment. It is only after the assessment that a decision is taken as to whether the project should go ahead or not. Cap Ternay is no exception. We always follow the same principle. I have listened, consulted and studied the reports, the scientific reports that were submitted to me. All the scientific arguments suggest that such a project will affect the environment of the area. Naturally, as the President of this country, it is my duty and responsibility to take the best decision in the interest of the Seychellois people, and for the protection of our heritage. I have decided that there will be no such project at Cap Ternay. The promoters of the project have understood, accepted and respected my decision unreservedly. They have assured me that it was never their intention to do anything to spoil the reputation of Seychelles as a champion of environmental protection and management.
This is a responsible government in action. A government that listens. A government that takes its responsibility seriously.
Two other sectors of great importance to us are fishing and agriculture. The investments we have made are stimulating activities in the two sectors. We have begun to see the results. In 2014, for example, statistics show increases in production in the fishing and agricultural sectors.
2014 was also the year when we introduced an insurance scheme for fishermen and farmers. There were also measures to strengthen capacity and boost training. We expanded collaboration with international institutions, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the African Development Bank (ADB). With the intensification of the multilateral cooperation programme, farmers and fishermen will not only benefit from the strengthening of capacity and training, but also from financial assistance and development of infrastructures. The new Small and Medium Enterprises Incentive Act will contribute to helping them realize their ambitions.
Seychellois have always accorded great importance to the ocean. We’ve always considered it a key element in our identity as a nation. Our national anthem reminds us that we need to protect the wealth of our oceans, which are precious heritage for future generations. This heritage also represents a big opportunity. New research and new technology can create a new sector of prosperity for our people, while we consolidate our assets. Several Seychellois entrepreneurs are already seizing this opportunity.
The new Blue Economy Department which I have established responds to the need to ensure a better coordination of our efforts, and also to ensure that we create the necessary framework to facilitate innovation and wealth creation, while also strengthening our means of protecting our resources. This will allow Seychellois to take ownership of their Blue Economy.
Our Blue Economy message today is being realised through innovation and concrete action to reduce our vulnerability. Last night, Seychelles has once again created history. Our proposal for a partial exchange of our debt in return for financing action to mitigate against climate change has been accepted by the Paris Club. This means that about USM of our debt will be transferred in terms of a fund for the protection and development of our marine space – our Blue Economy. In addition, our partners are giving us a further 5% reduction in that debt.
Through this debt exchange, we shall be better able to protect our oceans, create opportunities for artisanal fishing, reduce our foreign exchange payments, and keep more money within our economy.
I thank all our partners and creditors who have made this agreement possible, and who have shown their confidence in us. I thank, in particular, France and President Hollande, who expressed his support for the cause of Seychelles when we met in December last year.
Once again Seychelles has made history. Seychelles has opened a door that other Small Island States can enter and follow.
And today, I renew my commitment to seize every opportunity to ensure that the voice of Seychelles is heard. That the voice of Seychelles resonates. Although we are small, we can make a real difference. A difference that brings the best outcomes for Seychelles. And a difference that offers examples in terms of sustainable development, in terms of innovation, and in terms of options for all small island states.
A very positive development for Seychelles has been the drop in the price of certain commodities on the international market, mainly the reduction in the costs of petroleum products. The lower prices of fuel have caused a reduction in freight and insurance charges. Prices of certain other commodities on the international market have also decreased. This is very good for Seychelles because it will not only have an impact on the prices of certain commodities and services locally, but will also help to improve our balance of payments. As a result of this situation our country will be in a better position to cover its imports and boost our foreign exchange reserves.
It will also contribute to the lowering of the cost of living. We have already taken measures to ensure importation of fuel over a certain period at favourable and guaranteed prices. An immediate outcome from this will be lower electricity charges. The cost of cooking gas will go down. PUC and SEYPEC will announce the relevant details during the coming days.
It is good that we are able to capitalize on an international situation which is to our advantage. But we cannot just rely on favourable external circumstances to create and boost our prosperity. We have to rely on ourselves. On our know-how. Our productivity. Our hard work. For us to progress. If not us who else will?
In view of this more positive perspective, the financial agency Fitch Ratings has maintained Seychelles’ position at B+, with a favourable economic environment. This rating shows that in spite of the major challenges in 2014, our fiscal and monetary policies have helped to bring stability and build resilience, and to lay of the foundations for a more solid economy in the future.
People of Seychelles,
From time to time, all countries, including the most developed, encounter certain difficulties. We, too, have gone through certain difficulties. But with resilience, realism and responsibility we’ve succeeded in overcoming the challenges. There will always be challenges. But the experience of 2008 has prepared us well. It has strengthened our hope and our capacity for the future.
We have to continue smartening up. Sort out our problems and those of the system in order to empower even more of our people. There are many things we can do and should be doing. I will cite some:
• Encourage and develop the entrepreneurial spirit;
• Facilitate the environment for doing business;
• Facilitate access to credit;
• Put the idle liquidity in the banks to more productive use;
• Ensure that our people who are venturing for the first time into business are aware of all the facilities available. SIB has an important role to play, particularly through orientation and market studies, and helping people to innovate and take advantage of all the opportunities available;
• Develop qualified manpower;
• Eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy;
• Creation of more partnerships between public and private sectors (e.g. in housing construction);
• Facilitate access to daycare services;
• Reinforce discipline and a sense of responsibility;
• Maintain law and order, peace and stability;
• Motivate the youth to take greater initiatives;
• Improve on service delivery.
These points come up often in my meetings with members of the public. They are issues of concern we have to address seriously. We have to sort ourselves out to address these issues of concern. And everyone has a role to play. Not just the government.
My government remains committed to the creation of new opportunities for the people. But people have to seize these opportunities.
We have the conviction and hope that this year and the years to follow will be even better for us. To accomplish more success on our journey towards progress, wellbeing and prosperity.
But as we march towards progress and development, let us not forget our values. Our moral, spiritual and cultural values which distinguish us as a people. Let us not forget our dream. Our dream for our family. Our dream for Seychelles.
Let us not forget that the progress of a nation is not measured only by economic indicators. The wealth of our people is not only material. It is not material possessions which define quality of life. Which define our prosperity. Of course they are important but there many other important things. Our state of mind. Our children. Our family … The family is the nucleus of society. Together we should promote good family values. Respect. Love. Compassion. Cohesion. Unity. Harmony. These are the values which will take our country into the future. Seychellois youth, you have my full support for your “Values for One, Values for All” programme. I shall always do everything I can to help you to realise your dreams and ambitions.
Our Social Renaissance campaign has made a lot of progress since its launching. It has, for example, raised awareness in society on parental responsibility. Unfortunately, there are still children who are being neglected. Some are even abused in different ways. Some parents are not taking their responsibilities seriously. People are asking Government to introduce harsher punishments against those who destroy the innocence of our children. There have been calls for the Police, Social Services and the Judiciary to become more effective when dealing with child abuse and neglect cases. I have listened to them. I am setting up a Police Child Protection Team which will work closer with the Social Services Division on all child abuse cases. The team will also conduct investigations and bring cases to court against parents who persistently neglect their children and put them at risk for abuse. Such measures are in place in many countries. It does not only expedite court cases, but it also brings the different services under one roof. We owe this to our children.
The raising of children is a shared task, a shared responsibility. The birth of a child is an exceptional event. It is an event that brings much joy and responsibility. To enable fathers to participate fully in the first days of the life of a baby – with all the responsibilities involved – Government has decided to give five days of paternity leave, on condition that the father acknowledges the newborn. This benefit will take effect very soon.
A society that is in good health is a society that is at peace with itself. A society that respects law and order, peace and security. A society with compassion and a sense of solidarity. This is what we need to realize the new dream for Seychelles. In spite of the vigilance and actions of the law enforcement service, our society continues to be threatened by a wave of crime, abuse and trafficking of drugs, violence, social delinquency …. Some of our citizens have no respect for the law. But let me tell you that the law is the law, and no one in this country is beyond the law. The law will continue to be applied in the firmest way possible against all criminals, all delinquents. They will receive the punishment they deserve.
Dear people of Seychelles,
A key aspect in the discharge of my responsibilities as President is dialogue and consultation. I have always believed in this. It is one of the reasons which motivated me to create the National Consultative Forum last year. We have met several times and we continue to meet. Our dialogue is frank, honest and open. There is no subject that cannot be discussed. What matters for us is the interests of our country.
The interests of our country are promoted and defended by our active diplomacy. Our firm position and the defence of the cause of small island states, the promotion of the Blue Economy concept, our stance on climate change and support for the environment in general confirm the leadership role that Seychelles has assumed. We are a country that has earned the respect and recognition of the international community.
The interests of our country are also promoted and protected by our defence forces. They are professional, well-trained and patriotic … They make our nation proud. They are always ready to defend Seychelles’ sovereignty. They have proven themselves – with bravery – in our fight against piracy. They are forces which are invited to participate in regional military manoeuvres. Because they are one of the best defence forces in the region. We thank them for the excellent work they are doing.
Dear people of Seychelles,
National unity, stability, social harmony, solidarity, continuity … these are the pillars of our future. Today is an occasion for me to renew my commitment to continue leading this proud nation towards a better future. To remain connected with the people. I reaffirm my commitment to realize, together with you, the new dream for Seychelles. We have achieved much success. We still have to face challenges, but never before has our confidence in the future been stronger. Never before has our vision been clearer. And so well-defined. The trust you continue to place in me is a source of inspiration for me. I reflect on it whenever I encounter difficulties in the discharge of my functions. The journey we embarked on together has taken us far. It is continually offering new opportunities for our country. Together we are building a modern, dynamic, visionary small nation in our corner of the world. A model of peace, unity and tolerance for the world. How can we not be proud of our accomplishments? How can we not be proud of our country? How can we not be proud of this new dream? Together – wherever we may be – let us rededicate ourselves to the progress of our country and the wellbeing of our people. Our new dream begins with this. Our new dream is founded on our national unity. It is founded on our harmony as a people. A people who stand together. A patriotic people. Our new dream is inspired by love for our motherland. Together, let us proudly proclaim: I LOVE SEYCHELLES!
May God continue to bless us and our homeland!