Speeches

State House

State of the Nation Address by President James Alix Michel, 16th February, 2016

Tue, 16 February 2016

Mr Speaker

President Mancham

Vice-President

President of the Court of Appeal

Chief Justice

Designated Minister

Ministers

Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly

Members of the National Assembly

Excellencies

Invited Guests

People of Seychelles

Over the last 12 years, every year, almost always around the same time, I have come before this National Assembly, I have come before the people of Seychelles, to give you an account of the State of our Nation.  I shall also share with you my plan for the future, and share with you certain other reflections.

I represent a party that has struggled for more than 50 years for the liberation, freedom, dignity and emancipation of all Seychellois.  We fought for social justice, for equality, for fraternity, for unity. And we’ve taken the Seychellois nation far – very far – over the 38 years that we have been in power.

In December 2015 the Seychellois people once again chose me and Parti Lepep to lead our country. They elected me to continue working for them. Today I come before this Assembly with a renewed mandate.   A third and final mandate as President, which the people have entrusted me with. A responsibility, a challenge I have accepted.

In the context of this new mandate, the time has come for me to deliver an address on the state of the nation, as Article 65 of the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles requires me to do.

I do it with honesty, without exaggeration, without hiding facts, with a sense of responsibility and confidence in the future of Seychelles. This year is no exception, even if some had wished – and continue to wish – that it wasn’t me who is standing before you today.

I am sorry to disappoint these people. Maybe their chance, their turn, will come one day. But meanwhile they must accept the will of the Seychellois people. They must accept a government that the Seychellois people have elected. Not a government elected on Facebook or other social media. But a true government elected freely, democratically and constitutionally. A Parti Lepep government, for the people. I want to reassure you that notwithstanding all this, we will continue to work for you, for all Seychellois. Without demolishing what has taken us many years to build, together, by the sweat of our brows. We will continue working to build an even better Seychelles. Encompassing change, because it is we, Parti Lepep – and always we – who have brought about real change in this country. And we shall always do it when necessary. With respect to our fellow citizens. In peace and unity. In dignity. With fraternity and compassion. Without hatred and without the desire for revenge.  Without personal agendas. Without JCBs, without bulldozers. Without arson.  Without stamping on anyone.

Mr Speaker

People of Seychelles

It is not my intention this year to present a detailed account on everything that my government has accomplished in 2015.  The entire nation knows very well what we have achieved up to now. The results are there for all to see and appreciate. And understand, for those who wish to understand.

I will, first of all, talk about the things I said I would do in the first 100 days of my new mandate as well as what I intend doing this year.

But before I address these, I want to state certain facts and other figures which show clearly that our country, our nation, has continued to make progress - a lot of progress – in 2015. That the state of our nation is very stable.

In 2015:

•       We recorded a growth rate of 4.34%.

•       Our foreign exchange reserve in the Central Bank was US$536M. This represents almost five months worth of importation. You will recall that in 2008 our foreign exchange reserves represented only one week of imports.

•       We continued to service our external debt regularly, and reduce our debt stock to 62% of our Gross National Product (GNP). We remain well on track to achieving our public debt reduction objective of 50% of GNP in 2018.  A level which many European countries have not been able to reach.

•       We continued to maintain our fiscal discipline, which remains a key element of our strategy to improve our economy.

•       The rate of inflation was 3.2% at the end of 2015. This is a good indicator of economic stability.

•       The tourism industry experienced considerable growth, with a 19% increase in visitor arrivals, and a 17% increase in revenue.

•       Approximately 40,000 Seychellois travelled overseas last year, which represents 44% of Seychelles’ population.

•       Air Seychelles continued to perform very well, especially with the increase in the number of flights to certain destinations and  the opening of new routes, a strategy which it will maintain this year. The newly launched direct flight between Seychelles and China demonstrates the success of this strategy.

•       The overall contribution of the tuna industry to our economy is about 10%.

•       Seychellois seized the opportunities offered by the Blue Economy, and have started new fishing business ventures.

•       In support of this sector, government will offer photovoltaic panels to all entrepreneurs interested in investing in ice-making plants that use this technology.

•       Entrepreneurs in the fishing and agricultural sectors benefit from tax concessions on equipment they import for their businesses.

•       Government continued providing support to the agricultural sector, mainly through the National Agricultural Investment Plan; through an insurance scheme for farmers,  increased stock of supplies in requisite stores, easing of procedures for leasing agricultural land from government, diversification and commercialization of agricultural production, and other facilities.

•       We continued, and intensified, our policy and strategy of empowerment and ownership. As a result:

  • We have placed 1,612 people in employment;
  • Unemployment rate was at 4.2%;
  • Up to December 2015 a total of 538 loans valued at SR507.3M were approved under the small and medium enterprise (SME) scheme;
  • A total of 117 new small businesses were created, and this brings the number of small and medium enterprises in Seychelles to 2,290;
  • The micro-enterprise centre at Providence is already operational and 59 small entrepreneurs have been allocated workshop space there.

•       More than 270 Seychellois obtained university degrees either from the University of Seychelles, or from universities overseas.

•       In the context of our policy of promoting ownership, 77 families received the keys to their own homes in 2015. Another 85 were offered plots of land. This year we will make available another 277 houses to Seychellois families. Statistics show that today, approximately 75% of Seychellois families are owners of their homes.

•       Seychellois purchasing power has increased, mainly as a result of the reduction in the cost of fuel, electricity, water, LPG gas and certain goods. This year we will increase the purchasing power even more through measures I will talk about later.

•       The STC hypermarket has opened its doors and is offering all Seychellois more choice in goods and commodities, and at affordable prices. The days of “napa” (don’t have) are no more and will never return under my government.

•       Finally, Seychelles’ role on the international scene, our image and our visibility, was reinforced and recognised.

All this – and much more  that I have not mentioned – shows clearly that we are living in a Seychelles that is becoming increasingly prosperous.

And now, before I proceed to the second part of my address, I would like to share a small reflection with you.

During their electoral campaign and after, and till today, the opposition and their supporters and allies – local and abroad – have made all sorts of accusations, lies, allegations and calumny against me and the Parti Lepep government in their newspapers and on social media. There is nothing that they have not said. That we are corrupt. That we do not have direction. That government does not know how to do business. That people are becoming poorer. That we are condoning drug abuse and drug trafficking in the country.

Let me answer them.

Can a country with a corrupt government be ranked 40th on a list of 167 states surveyed annually by Transparency International?

If we were corrupt, as those in the opposition are claiming, would we continue to receive assistance from the European Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international agencies and certain countries?

Can a government which lacks direction and cannot promote the environment and facilities for doing business  be ranked 95th, among 189 countries, by the World Bank in its ease-of-doing-business report?   I have always said: Government is not in the business of doing business. We create the environment for doing business. We create the opportunities for the private sector to do business. And the private sector remains a privileged and necessary partner of government.

Can a country where the population is allegedly living in abject poverty occupy the 64th position on a list of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index?

Is it possible for such a country – where poverty reigns, where there is shortage of everything – to be considered a nation of high human development by the United Nations, and one of high income by the World Bank?

Is a country of abject poverty one where 75% of its population are owners of their own homes, are guaranteed a pension, have access to free education, free health care, and can even be sent overseas for medical treatment?

Judge for yourselves! I did not invent these rankings. The findings come from these international organizations. Is it because they like the Parti Lepep government that they have decided to bestow the good rankings on Seychelles?  Having said this, I believe that our results, our rankings, could have been better, higher, if our official statistics were up to date. There is an absolute necessity for all government departments to make a greater effort, and to do better at ensuring that we collect the required figures and statistics for submission to international organizations.

I will come back to the drug issue later in my speech.

Mr Speaker,

Dear compatriots,

In the last election Seychellois chose to rally under the banner of TOGETHER and rejected the call to trample others. Can a human being possess so much hatred in the heart so as to knock others to the floor, trample on them, and crush them? Can a politician who claims to be a responsible person and have the interest of Seychellois at heart support and tolerate such a thing?  How can you teach your child to sing songs of hatred and violence?

Seychellois have confirmed, through the choice they made, that the Parti Lepep manifesto represents the best chance, the best opportunity, for the future of Seychelles. This is the manifesto that will guide me and my government during the next five years.

I’ve talked a lot about it during my electoral campaign and also when I was sworn in on 20th December last year. I also mentioned the priorities I want to accomplish during the first 100 days of my new mandate. I’ve never made false promises to the people. I have always kept my commitments. And here is the status of implementation of these priorities.

1.     Pension increases: In December 2015 the colonial pension for former employees of government prior to 1979 was increased by SR500. Also in December 2015 we increased by SR500 the special public sector pension payable to past government employees who had not qualified for a colonial pension system were not entitled to a pension under Seychelles Pension Fund law today.  In January 2016 we increased the social security pension, for citizens reaching the age of 63 years, by another SR500, to reach SR3,600 a month.

2.     Invalidity benefits: As from 1st January, we increased invalidity benefits from SR2,430 to SR3,450 per month. This is now equivalent to the present net minimum salary.

3.     Higher maximum salary level for housing improvement loan consideration: The maximum monthly salary level for qualification for housing improvement loan has increased from SR8,000 to SR15,000. This is already effective.

4.     Higher maximum salary level for a housing loan from Housing Finance Company (HFC): The maximum monthly salary to qualify for a housing loan has been increased from SR25,000 to SR30,000. This measure took effect as from 1st January.

5.     Increase in housing loan: The maximum amount of loan an applicant could receive under this scheme was SR750,000. As from 1st January the maximum housing loan was increased to SR850,000.

6.     Loans for renovation and repair of pensioners’ homes: A person who is 63 years and older, and is the owner of his/her home, can now apply for up to SR50,000 for renovation or repair works on the house. The home owner can also get a loan of up to SR100,000 for re-roofing. These special loans carry no interest. Furthermore, government will subsidise by 25% all loans to pensioners under this scheme. This means that when a pensioner decides, for example, to take a loan of SR100,000 to repair their house, they will have only SR75,000 to repay, and no interest.

7.     13th month salary:  Public sector employees who are not on contract were paid their 13th month salary by 14th January. We believe that it is absolutely fair that private sector workers also receive the 13th month salary. We will introduce legislation for the private sector to follow our example. The aim is to encourage productivity and improve services, and also distribute more of the wealth and welfare with the workers, acquired through policies put in place by the government.

8.     New gratuity scheme for public sector employees: Government has effected increases in the gratuities it pays its employees. This took effect from 1st January.

9.     Payment of gratuity and compensation to former defence forces members: We have provided for the payment of a gratuity of SR8,000 to 808 former members – and in certain cases their heirs – of the defence forces who left the SPDF before 2007, and to 150 who are actually in service. This is because they did not benefit from the change of scheme of service. Payment of gratuity is being made, to be followed thereafter by payment of compensation.

10.   Ex-gratia payment for former RFA servicemen: As from 10th February, more than 200 ex-servicemen of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA)  began the procedures to receive their ex-gratia compensation of SR20,000 each. One thousand rupees from each payment is going to their association. Negotiations with the British government to compensate the Seychellois ex-servicemen have taken several years, and have not yielded any result. Last year the Government of Seychelles took a decision to compensate them, because they deserve the payment for the services they rendered. We are implementing it will cost us more than SR4 million.

11.   "My First Job" Scheme: This programme was launched on 11th January. Of the 863 young people who completed their secondary education, 778 have registered under the programme. 77 of them have already found employment through this programme. 172 employers are already associated with the My First Job programme.   This high level of participation is already a good indicator of its success.

12.   Housing allowance for university graduates: The allowance has increased from SR3,000 to SR4,000 monthly. The duration of payment has also been extended by two years. This took effect on 1st January.

13.   Allowance for post-secondary students in private post-secondary institutions: As from 1st January,  Seychellois students in private post-secondary educational establishments are entitled to the same allowances as their colleagues in corresponding state institutions.  The allowances vary between SR850 a month for first post-secondary year to SR1,050 monthly for the final post-secondary year.

14.   Laptop scheme: Effective 1st January, S4 students are also covered by the programme, which previously targeted only S5 and post-secondary students. Potentially several hundred students can avail of the opportunity offered by this programme.

15.   Free specialised medical services for all Seychellois: Since the start of this year,  patients who are referred by private doctors to specialized services at the Seychelles Hospital have access to such facilities free of charge.

16.   Renewable energy: The renewable energy democratization scheme was launched early this year, and the tenders have been invited for the installation of photovoltaic panels on a priority basis. This will help reduce the cost of electricity to consumers. We hope that all houses will eventually be able to benefit from such a project. The installation of solar panels for water heating is also ongoing. The Seychelles Energy Commission is facilitating this project. The Commission will give training to technicians for the installation and maintenance of these solar panels. For both projects, Government will assist consumers to get access to credit for the purchase and installation of the panels, and offer loan guarantees.

17.   Non-governmental organizations: During the first 100 days of my new mandate,  Government will introduce a Civil Society Small Grant programme. The objective is to help civil society bodies implement small projects beneficial to the public.

18.   Audit of Ministries and Departments: As part of the commitment to improved service delivery, including increased efficiency and government performance, I demanded an audit of all government ministries and departments. This exercise is underway presently and is being led by the ministers themselves. I will come back to this question of service delivery later in my address.

19.   Communication and the need to remain connected with the people: I have always insisted on the need for leaders – at all levels – to remain connected with the people. Where communication is concerned, government remains, unfortunately, its own worst enemy. We do not communicate enough with the public. We allow the opposition to spread all sorts of propaganda, allegations, lies, and so on, without reaction on our part. This will stop. All ministers will open an official account on social media. This will allow members of the public to contact them and make known their concern and suggestions. This is linked to service delivery and is among my priorities for the first 100 days of my mandate.

Mr Speaker,

Dear Seychellois people,

We said we would do it. We have done almost all that we said we would do in the first 100 days of my new mandate. We have 41 more days left; and only one or two things remain to be finished. I will do it. I am delivering on my promises.

But that is not all. There are many other issues, many priorities, for me and my government to tackle. These call for firm decisions and urgent attention. I will mention some.

Firstly, there is the question of drug abuse and drug trafficking.

Certain factions in the opposition accuse me and Parti Lepep Government of tolerating the importation, trafficking and consumption of drugs in the country. They make cheap politics by taking advantage of the suffering of parents whose children are into drugs.

They forget – conveniently – the quantity of drugs that has been seized during the past five years. They forget – deliberately – how many drug traffickers have been convicted. I will remind them of the figures. The amount of drugs the NDEA and the police have seized during the past five years is valued at SR339.45M. During the same period 71 individuals were convicted for drug trafficking. 65 of them are serving their sentences on Marie-Louise. 72 others linked to drug offences are awaiting the completion of their trials. During the five years we have seized SR20M worth of assets which belonged to traffickers. Presently there are several cases in court concerning assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime. The assets are worth millions of rupees. This year we are putting more emphasis on the application of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) – legislation under which suspected drug traffickers are required to justify the source of their assets, failing which the State will confiscate the assets. Actually, the FIU in collaboration with NDEA and the police are taking action against eight individuals under this law. All illegally acquired assets will be seized under this law.

I will intensify the fight against drug abuse and trafficking during my new mandate. It is a fight which requires much effort, vigilance, resources and education. I am, during the short term, taking the following actions:

•       Intensification of medical treatment and detoxification programme for addicts;

•       A programme of clean needles for addicts, used under medical supervision;

•       Intensification of our programme of rehabilitation for young people caught in possession of drugs. This will be done mainly through community services, the strengthening of services and facilities offered at the Praslin and Coëtivy centres, and the creation of a Drop-in Centre on Mahé, a facility which will allow addicts to make a new start in life in an appropriate environment and with the necessary professional support;

•       Amendment of the laws on drugs to cater for these new considerations, and among others,

  • To allow judges and magistrates complete discretion when passing sentence after drug related conviction;
  • The setting up of a special court to hear all drug offences;
  • The Introduction of a different regime/programme for those caught with certain amounts and types of drug, for personal consumption;
  • A proposal, to be presented to Indian Ocean Commission Ministers when they meet later this month, to establish a high-level regional structure for intelligence gathering, coordination and operations in the fight against drug trafficking.

It is time to stop politicizing this problem and find solutions and assistance for the victims of this scourge. The drug problem is not mine or the government’s alone. It is a problem of society. We have to be honest with ourselves. Let us give a helping hand to give a decisive blow to this social ill once and for all.

Fighting drugs also involves more activities in the districts and at community level, mainly through sports, the arts and culture. Our youth will invest their energy and talents in safe, productive and innovative ways.

The Parti Lepep government gives a lot of importance to community development. I have always placed much emphasis on a local governance approach, whereby residents are able to participate proactively in addressing issues and challenges in the districts. Local governance will be strengthened soon with the introduction of district councils. This will bolster our system of democracy. The councils will serve as a platform to enable residents to come forward, participate and be part of decision-making. This will also boost relations between the central government and the districts. As a result the service delivery system at district level will be more effective, and we hope it will meet the levels of expectation and satisfaction of residents. In the meantime, government this year has earmarked SR30M for the implementation of small projects in districts. With the increasing focus on early childhood, much work is being undertaken to build day care centres in several districts in order to help families, especially mothers.  We shall also create a fund to encourage even greater development of talent in arts, sports and culture.

Another priority which my government is continually addressing is the disparity in the standard of living which exists in our society. Once again, the opposition has politicized this issue, without making any realistic proposal to address it. This is their habit. They talk and write about poverty which, according to them, exists everywhere in Seychelles. They describe Seychelles as a country of abject poverty. But they never talk about the big houses they live in on their large properties, the big cars they drive, their luxury boats. They never talk about the social programmes in place to help the most vulnerable people.

We have to be realistic and face the  problem, without demagoguery. And bring realistic solutions which our budget and revenue will support. I do not wish to compare us with other countries of the world, because the notion of poverty is relative. But I do recognize that poverty exists in certain sectors of our society. My task during the next five years is to continue narrowing the gap and raise the standard and quality of life of the Seychellois, especially the most in need. We are already doing this, through, for example:

•       Increase in pension and social security;

•       Minimum wage revision;

•       Revision of benefits and assistance from the Agency for Social Protection;

•       Subvention for day-care;

•       Special interest-free loans for pensioners to repair their houses;

•       Carer assistance;

•       Stabilisation, and where possible, reduction of prices of basic commodities and other essential goods through STC;

•       Stabilisation and – depending on the situation on the international market – reduction of the costs of consumption of electricity and water, LPG gas, and so on.

My government will continue to do even more. Because we’ve always had the interest of all Seychellois at heart. And it is never our intention to leave anyone behind. This year I will introduce a series of measures which will contribute to even greater improvement in the standard of living of a significant number of Seychellois families. These include:

•       Increase in minimum salary for a 35-hour week, from SR4050 to SR5050 monthly. There will be no personal income tax deduction on the minimum salary.  This measure will take effect in April.

•       Also in April, we will increase the retirement/social security pension, to SR5050, which is equivalent to the minimum salary.

•       Revision of the conditions and criteria for welfare assistance, in order to give the Agency for Social Protection more flexibility when deciding the amount of help to give to people in difficulties;

•       Creation of a special fund to continue supporting our people who have physical or mental disabilities, to empower them to also live a life of dignity in spite of their disabilities;

•       Recognising the need to support the most vulnerable families who do not have the means to take a loan on their own, government is foreseeing the creation of a special fund for the renovation of homes which are in poor conditions and which represent a risk to families residing in the houses;

•       Free transport for patients from Praslin and La Digue who have to follow specialized medical treatment at  Seychelles Hospital;

•       Two boat tickets per month for all post-secondary students from Praslin and La Digue who are attending school on Mahé;

•       Subsidised boat and place tickets for all pensioners travelling between Mahé, Praslin and La Digue;

•       Revision of VAT on certain products and commodities;

  • Introduction of a more equitable and fairer tax system. We will introduce a progressive tax system whereby low income earners will either not pay any tax at all or pay less than they do now. The progressive tax system will take effect in January 2017.
    • As part of the tax system reform, which will also allow Seychellois to have more money in their pockets, as from July this year all those earning less than SR8,555.50 a month will not pay any tax at all. This is the first stage in our comprehensive reform of the tax system, which will come fully into effect in January 2017, whereby all Seychellois will no longer pay tax on the first SR8,555.50 of their salary.
    • At the same, an audit which the Ministry responsible for Finance is undertaking will determine if there have been any tax evasion in certain sectors, and how Government can maximise its revenues. Any tax revenue we can recover after this exercise will be re-invested in the social sector.

The measures which government continues to introduce in order to reduce poverty in the society must be accompanied by a real determination on the part of those concerned to strive and earn a living. They have to reduce their dependence on the state. We all have to, as individuals, as responsible citizens, take our responsibilities.

Sometimes there are certain attitudes and behaviours that hinder us from setting correct priorities.  We should ask ourselves what is more essential in our lives and the lives of our families?  The manner in which we spend our money can also contribute to creating poverty.

Where there is real poverty, where people are vulnerable, the government and Parti Lepep are there to help. It is easy to criticise government. This government which is helping many. It is easy for some to shout that they want change, without realising what type of change they need to improve their own lives. Do they realize that changing the Parti Lepep government will not bring any solution to their lives if they do not change their own mentalities? Let us stop looking for excuses for our own personal weaknesses and the situation we have put ourselves in.  Once again, let us stop the demagoguery with poverty, and let each one of us take our responsibilities. Those who talk loudest about the issue of poverty in Seychelles – they are the ones with the biggest businesses, the biggest properties. They are a lot more fortunate. My honest advice to them is to not only talk about poverty, but to also do something concrete to improve the lives for their compatriots who, according to them, are living in poverty.

Another of my priorities is improvement in the service which the public sector delivers. In spite of several reforms, in spite of certain progress, public disappointment and lack of satisfaction with service delivery remain a big concern. Most civil servants are doing their work properly, with devotion and a heart for Seychellois. But there are others who spend their time only to cause frustration among the public through various manoeuvres  and bureaucratic procedures. There are even some among them – the so-called technocrats – who are hostile towards the system. They are doing everything to boycott the government that employs them.  One would think they are opposition agents disguised as technocrats. They send you round in circles when you make an application, when you seek an appointment, when you want to make a complaint, when you want to put forward a suggestion.  And when they are disciplined they cry “political victimization”!

As for me, it does not interest me which political party you belong to, it does not matter which religion you belong to. What interests me is that you do your work, you do the work you have been appointed to do well. What interests me is your output, your productivity, the way you treat members of the public. What interests me is that all Seychellois, without distinction, receive the same good quality of service and treatment. What interests me is your loyalty towards this government which has been elected by the people.  If you cannot respect these criteria, you have no place in the public service.

In the past we talked a lot about our health system, and the service that Seychellois receive.

We are facing enormous challenges – like most countries in the world – such as cases of hepatitis, HIV-SIDA, and diseases, both communicable and non-communicable.  It is a continuous struggle, a battle that we must win.  We have to persevere, together, to eliminate these diseases, and negative lifestyles that cause them, and allocate more resources for their prevention and treatment.

Seychelles Hospital possesses equipment that is among the most modern and most sophisticated in the region. Equipment we either received as donations or purchased by Government.  But equipment alone means little, if there is a lack of will, a lack of competence and expertise to use the equipment well.  The best equipment is practically worthless if the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals do not have the passion, the compassion, the will, to offer the best service to their patients. And patients, on their part, lose confidence in the health system. Everyday there are one or two who write to State House asking to be sent overseas for a second medical opinion.

Don't get me wrong.  Most doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are delivering a good service, often in situations and conditions that are difficult.  But there are serious weaknesses in our health system. Particularly where attitude is concerned.  Attitude that is not professional at all. Arrogance. Lack of compassion. Lack of responsibility. Lack of planning. Wastage of resources.

Many have forgotten that their roles and responsibilities are to save lives. Their priority preoccupation seems to be to advance their political and  personal agendas.  Frustrate people, and then blame Government!

•       Is it acceptable for a person to wait for several weeks or even months to get an appointment with a specialist? And when finally they receive the appointment, they have to wait for many more hours to see the specialist? How many times have we heard the complaints and murmurs of our people who have been sitting at the Yellow Roof since morning to see a specialist? Yet, when it concerns our families, when it concerns certain people, they get the fastest and most efficient service possible.

•       Is it acceptable for laboratory results to continuously get lost and mixed up?

•       Is it acceptable for stocks of dialysis equipment and medicines, which have cost millions of rupees,  to go to waste without ever being used?  And nobody asks questions?  Where is the planning?  Is there something underhand going on?  And when there is a shortage of medicines because of poor management and bad planning, we have to bring in new supplies by air, costing us even more. Who has to pay for this? It is the people. We have to pay. Can we tolerate this?

•       Is it acceptable for those young Seychellois doctors who have been selected for specialization to wait for so long before proceeding on overseas training?  Especially when the funding and scholarships are there.

•       Is it acceptable for an ambulance that has been in an accident to be waiting endlessly for repairs? Where is the supervision? Where is the discipline?

The situation is critical, and dealing with such a situation requires serious measures. An audit in the different health departments has revealed serious deficiencies which must be addressed quickly. Let me begin with outsourcing of the diagnostic and laboratory services. We have done this for the dialysis centre, and with great success in spite of considerable resistance. I am persuaded that this approach and strategy of gradually outsourcing certain essential services will bring a huge improvement in our health service delivery, and benefit all Seychellois.

I have spoken about Health.  But there is another Ministry where there are serious problems.  That is the Ministry of Education.  It has problems at the level of planning, supervision, discipline, human resources, equipment, maintenance, disappointing school results and student performance, and so on.  But the main challenge is to ensure that children and students perform at their highest level, and obtain the best results that correspond to the needs and expectations of the New Seychelles.  Schools form part of the community, and parents remain the first educators of their children – first and foremost.  Another challenge is teacher retention, and to maintain and improve the infrastructure of our schools.  I shall deal with the deficiencies of our education system whilst also addressing the problems in the health sector. This is also a priority in my new mandate.

Mr Speaker,

Dear Seychellois people,

Housing will continue to remain a priority for me and my government in the years ahead. Our effort in the housing sector will not only continue but will also intensify. Our long-term objective is to enable each Seychellois family to own its house.

This year 277 Seychellois families will be given the keys to their new homes. In addition, work will start this year on 68 residential units in different areas of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.  We also have plans to begin construction of 72 new units at Perseverance and allocate plots of land on Île Aurore for more housing units.

We will make available 131 plots of land on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue to Seychellois families.

In 2005 government introduced the Home Ownership Scheme which enabled many Seychellois families to become owners of their homes faster.  The success of the scheme is evident in the number of Seychellois families who are today owners of their own homes.

Over the past 10 years government has continued to invest in the housing programme, and my government now believes that the time has come to enable other families that are not benefiting to also become owners of their homes as fast as possible. My government has decided to offer a reduction of 25% on the price of the house to those  who are on a house purchase agreement with the Property Management Company (PMC).

Other people who are renting houses from PMC and who wish to join the house purchase agreement, will also enjoy this 25% reduction.

Other PMC tenants who do not wish to join the House Purchase Agreement scheme, and who are on the minimum wage, will receive a contribution from the Agency for Social Protection to meet 50% of their rent.

My government remains sincere and committed towards its policy of encouraging all Seychellois families to become owners of their houses.

We are also intensifying repair works in housing estates, and the reconstruction of estates where necessary, such as at Pointe Larue and Baie Lazare.

This year 14 graduate families and young professionals will take ownership of their apartments in a condominium block at Anse Déjeuner.

The condominium project at Île Perseverance will offer more opportunities this year and in the years ahead. In addition, we are putting at the disposal of our professionals 70 plots of land at Perseverance under the self-build scheme.

Finally, people who are buying a house or a plot of land for the first time, will not have to pay stamp duty on the first SR2M.

We will continue to actively encourage the private sector to enter into partnership with Government to build houses for sale or rent at reasonable prices.

Once again I call on everyone to take their responsibilities and obligations seriously concerning their loan repayments, and also to put money aside for their own houses in the future.

Mr Speaker,

Allow me now to touch a question which concerns the National Assembly members directly, and also ministers in my government.

During my election campaigning, during the visits I made, during the meetings I had with members of the public, one of the issues that came up often was that of the pension of the National Assembly members.  Seychellois are asking why a former member of the Assembly who has not reached the age of retirement, should be receiving a pension after, let’s say, only one or two terms.

We, the Parti Lepep government, follow the principles that have always inspired and sustained us. We lead by example. It is for this reason that at the Cabinet meeting at the start of this year, we took the decision that neither the President, nor the Vice-President, nor the Ministers will take their end-of-term gratuities this year.

Our principles are guided by the voice and the will of the people. I have listened to the people. As a result I am proposing that no member of the National Assembly, past or present, who has not reached the national retirement age will receive the pension.

Their pensions and all their benefits will be paid when they reach the retirement age.

The same principle applies to the ministers. No minister, past and present, will be paid the pension until upon reaching the retirement age defined by law.

Government will table an amendment proposal to the National Assembly soon to establish the new conditions and procedures for the pensions of National Assembly members and Ministers.   I count on your support for this initiative. Thank you in advance.

Mr Speaker,

Dear people of Seychelles,

There are many other laws which the National Assembly has to consider, including certain regulations in our criminal code which are of no relevance today.

One of them is the law introduced by the British in 1955 to criminalise homosexuality.  Although this law is not enforced these days, it remains part of our legal system.  This is an aberration. Seychelles is a society that has always been tolerant, where we respect divergent views and where we live in peace with everyone. We are not a homophobic society.  Moreover, the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles guarantees the protection of all citizens, without discrimination. We also have a United Nations human rights obligation, since 2011, to abolish all provisions in our laws that criminalise homosexuality between consenting adults. As a secular and democratic nation, Seychelles has to fulfill its national, international and constitutional obligations.  I have listened and I have consulted. My government has decided to repeal the law. We are submitting a bill to the National Assembly for your consideration.

There are other articles in the Constitution we are going to amend, based on certain recommendations which the Constitutional Review Committee made in 2009.  Some recommendations have already been implemented. There are also certain other laws which need to be amended and new ones to be introduced. Whilst we are committed to these reforms, it may take some time to accomplish them all because of our human resource limitations.

However, there is one bill of law we wish to bring before the National Assembly immediately.

This is legislation for the establishment of a commission against corruption. The commission will have powers to investigate, detect and prevent practices linked to corruption.   It will also receive complaints against corruption and record investigations into allegations of practices linked to corruption in all government departments and all institutions which get funding and donations from government.  We have no lessons to learn from anyone on anti-corruption.  We have taken harsh measures where corruption existed. The commission which we are setting up will help us strengthen our actions against corruption.

Mr Speaker,

Dear Seychellois People,

The last elections have made many Seychellois question the way the President of the Republic is elected. There is actually an interesting debate on this issue. A question Seychellois are asking themselves: Is it normal and acceptable for an insignificant party, which pulled only 400 votes, to decide the future of the country for promises and the trading of ministerial posts? This to me is real auction – and this is probably what the leader of SNP was referring to the night he lost the election.

Another issue we have to consider in our evolving democracy, is the number of consecutive mandates that a President of the Republic can serve. After a lot of reflection and consultation, my government and I have decided to propose to the National Assembly that the President will serve only two consecutive five-year terms, and not three as it is now.

I want to make it clear that neither I, nor the Vice President, nor the ministers we have appointed, wish to cling on to power.  The things we care about most are the welfare, freedom, prosperity and unity of the Seychellois people. It is the people – and only the people – who will decide their future.

Mr Speaker,

Dear Seychellois People,

38 years in power. A record that many envy.  A record of accomplishments that continues to inspire all Seychellois.  Parti Lepep has taken us far. We have undertaken economic, social and cultural reforms. Parti Lepep has given the Seychellois people a true national identity. We have given the Seychellois the true sense of pride. Patriotism. We have undertaken many reforms to take us  where we are today. Unfortunately, some of the reforms have inflated ambitions for power. For many their memories are short.  Certain mentalities which we fought to eliminate are resurfacing. Many who are today living in opulence have forgotten their roots. The true force of the people remains within the Seychellois who recognize where they come from and appreciate where they are going.

It cost me dearly to bring order, to fight greed and corruption. To bring peace and stability in our country. But I did it because I stuck to my principles. I believe in the principles of Parti Lepep.

In the last elections we faced five political opponents and different forces, local and exterior. Alone, we, Parti Lepep stood against all of them and emerged victorious. It was a fierce battle, against several forces. But we stood our ground. And yes, the elected government of this country is a Parti Lepep government.

But I recognize there is a lot of work to do to go back to the people who were misled by false promises.

This year we shall be celebrating the 40th anniversary of our Independence.  If we have reached where we are today, it is thanks to our determination and our conviction that, within us Seychellois, we have the courage to stand up and do what is right for our Seychelles.  We have done it TOGETHER.  Now my call as the President of Seychelles is for us all to rally together to consolidate our unity, to preserve our stability and to continue to make the Seychelles that we love remain that country of peace and unity in the world.

Today I give you the assurance that this Parti Lepep government will continue to work for all Seychellois.  For our wellbeing, our prosperity and the progress of our country.

Thank you.  And may God continue to protect our Seychelles.

 

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