The Saint Ange Tourism Report Special Edition Issue 11 with Zilwa Publications

WELCOME TO THE 10TH SPECIAL EDITION OF THE SAINT ANGE TOURISM REPORT TOGETHER WITH ZILWA PUBLICATION

(Posted 09th September 2020)

Welcome to this Special Edition of our Saint Ange Tourism Report

Political persuasion shall no longer taint governmental appointments.

As our Government strives to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of our Nation, in the midst of COVID-19 related restrictions and a very tight budget, many Seychellois are discussing the notion of Nationality on social media. Such discussions follow in the wake of racial slurs being published to Facebook, typically by careless politicians or their devout followers. Unabashed displays of racism such as these, on a public forum, over and above the fairly recent instances of physical abuse and victimization of individuals of a particular ethnicity, indicate strongly that Seychelles is still deeply divided by nationality and skin colour.

Back when I was Minister for Tourism and for Culture, and was pioneering the largest annual Carnival of the region and hosting it on our shores, I would proudly describe to the gathered press that the Seychelles Nationality comprises a melting pot of cultures. To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt: “We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions – bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and quality. Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities.”

The concept of ‘Nationality’ has been steadily eroded and diluted over the years. It is no longer enough to simply have citizenship. One is seemingly rated on an obscure set of criteria to determine just how ‘Seychellois’ that individual truly is (are your grandparents Seychellois? Do you speak Creole? Were you born here? What is your skin colour? Hair colour? Your religion? Blood type?). There are so many excuses to divide the Nation, most of which are politically-based, but one main reason to unify us all (and it is enough to trump all reasons to the contrary): we are stronger together. Our strength lies in our diversity. Seychelles is only as strong as the collective strength of its people. We were all Seychellois until ethnicity and race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us. It must always be borne in mind that we are not orange first, green first, red first etc; we remain Seychellois first.

However, not only are Seychellois divided by nationality and skin colour, we are also divided by educational attainment and economic status. With more than 40% of our population living below the poverty line, and a staggering number of youths grappling with unemployment, the segregation between the haves and the have-nots is becoming more apparent. For far too long this Country has been governed in the interest of the few. Case in point, while thousands have been made redundant due to businesses not receiving any or adequate support from Government once COVID-19 crippled our tourism industry, MNAs are continuing to benefit from their very early pension (at 55 years, which they were quick to establish for themselves soon after being elected into office) – on top of that, the Country can afford to pay out SR27.849 million in total as gratuity to all members of the National Assembly.

Ordinary citizens have been forced to pay a heavy and unjust price for the fact that our Government has long deemed it fit to cater to the needs of the privileged and the powerful. Our Government has failed to establish comprehensive, coordinated approaches to improving support for the most vulnerable students (i.e. those living in poverty and/or abusive households and those who have special needs). It is incumbent upon every society to create constructive conditions for the youth so as to receive education. To ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and the workforce, we must address the needs of students in low-income communities and low-performing schools, and ensure that educational institutions are adequately funded and resourced.

In Seychelles, there appears to be some unfettered discretion regarding who is awarded a Government scholarship, where in the world they would be permitted to study, and even which field of study they would be permitted to pursue in order to qualify for the funding. This is particularly so if the field of interest is one that is not being offered by the University of Seychelles. This discretionary power leaves the decision-making by the relevant authorities vulnerable to acts of nepotism and preferential treatment (will the child of someone who is influential or privileged be preferred for a scholarship to study abroad over a student who has worked hard to achieve the best possible grades and has actually earned the scholarship?).

250 years later, Seychelles desperately needs real change. With both green and red camps making the election pitch for “national unity”, despite all their recent actions contradicting the notion, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that voters no longer trust politicians whose actions do not match their words.

One Seychelles did not enter the race for higher office to split the opposition vote. We came to change the culture of local politics, and to bring REAL CHANGE for Seychellois by taking the reins and saving our crumbling tourism industry, and our weak agriculture and fisheries sectors, by doing what no other political party can and that no other party has proposed: we shall be giving effect to a technocrat-led government, comprising qualified Seychellois at the helm of their respective departments and ministries who have been selected on the basis of MERIT, and not nepotism or favor-giving. These technocrats hail from both sides of the political divide. Political persuasion shall no longer taint governmental appointments.

An Avan, Seychelles.

Alain St.Ange
Editor

DO VOTERS HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR THEIR POLITICIANS?
Though they are the exception and not the rule, many people tend to choose their political party affiliation because it was their parents’ affiliation. Beyond that, it often seems the case that people’s affiliation represents little more than the sort of loyalty that sports fans give to their favourite teams.

Policies, in such cases, mean less than winning elections. Sometimes we hear a handful of die-hard voters making the assertion: “I will vote LDS – but I will give Ramkalawan 3 months to deliver or else we will remove him.” For a candidate who has decades worth of promises to deliver upon, a 3-month deadline is unrealistic – but the steely glint in the eyes of the voters who make the statement indicates that they truly believe the deadline is fair under the circumstances.

How they intend to remove any president from power, however, is unclear. It is not easy to remove a president from office. If it were easy, former presidents would not have ruled for as long as they did, and the main opposition would not have lost election after election for decades. Once the president is elected, you are stuck with that person for another 5 years, unless he resigns, dies, or is removed from office under our Constitution on account of incapacity, violation of the Constitution, or gross misconduct.

With more than one opposition party tossing their hats into the ring for the upcoming elections, political parties are far less polarized. We no longer have half the population vying to maintain the status quo and less than half of the remainder fighting for change. Lines have been irreparably blurred. Many voters have indicated that they would vote for one party for the National Assembly elections, but another entirely for the Presidential.

This splitting of votes indicates that people are not voting for the political party, they are voting for the name and face on the ballot paper. They are voting for candidates who have the right temperament, skill set, level of competence and experience to lead the Nation, and for Parliamentary candidates who have demonstrated their compassion, dedication and commitment to the districts they are seeking to represent and serve.

Politicians also need to be realistic about the upcoming elections; they should not take the voters that they have been neglecting for the past 4 years for granted, nor should they over-estimate their support before the ballots have been cast and counted in October. More importantly, they must never lose sight of the fact that the goal in the end is not to win the elections – the goal is to serve the people and to bring positive change to the lives of Seychellois and to the Nation.

Those who believe the goal is just to win the elections have already lost.

ONE SEYCHELLES & THE PRIVATE SECTOR
By Peter Sinon
There is indeed consensus today that the private sector is our economy’s ‘engine of growth’. What does that really mean?
Well, it means that it is the private sector that is the principal generator of most of our wealth – our Gross National Income (GNI). When we divide the GNI by our population, we in theory, get a GNI per Capita (income per person) of US$ 12,376 or SCR221,478.

In theory, this is what we would all get annually if the wealth or income generated nationally is divided equally. This figure is the highest when compared to all other African countries. As a result, from the 16th July 2019 this has propelled Seychelles to be categorized as the first high-income country in Africa by the Bretton Wood institutions (World Bank & International Monetary Funds).

Against this backdrop, the above achievement begs one fundamental question which is “who are the stakeholders who are really benefiting from this created wealth?” Is it fairly distributed amongst the population or is it very much skewed to a privileged few multi-millionaires who, like our young heroine addicts, are addicted to amassing more and more wealth on the backs of the lucrative Seychelles economy?

Well, whilst the former would drag the economy down and undesirable path, the latter actually are the engines that pull the economy forward. The problem we have is that the handful of privileged entrepreneurs that have made it and are established spend much time, energy and resources to protect their respective empires and monopolistic arenas.

Parallel with this, we are witnessing the income inequality and relative poverty in Seychelles rise fairly high with a 2013 World Bank estimate GINI coefficient index of 46.8, ranking 25th amongst 159 countries. It is in this context that One Seychelles is looking at the local private sector and its critical role in reviving the post Covid-19 battered economy.

The private sector is made up of mainly two distinct categories of entities, especially in the tourism and fisheries sectors – the two main pillars of our economy. We have the Seychellois owned and managed entities and the foreign owned and controlled operators. We have the large, medium and small enterprises. We have those that employ mainly Seychellois and train them as the overwhelming majority of their staff contingent, and others that employ Seychellois as a token of their commitment or requirement for operating in Seychelles.

Private sector operators pay taxes that fund the government machinery, the social and disability welfare payments, road infrastructure and maintenance, and the educational and health systems to name just a few. Our Government, particularly the executive, has the responsibility of regulating and facilitating the private sector operations. In doing so, they are almost wholly responsible for the ease of doing business ranking of our Nation, which since 2012 have been steadily deteriorating to 100 in December 2019.

Unfortunately, and especially for Seychellois owned business operators, we have not made much progress in this critical area. This is because too often the agencies that deal with approvals of proposed projects and programmes seem to forget their essential role as ‘facilitators’, which should complement their role as regulators. Policies are too often developed and put in place without long-term planning or consultations – which effectively does not inspire much confidence in investors. Some are even withdrawn at the last minute without first assessing their implications for established businesses.

One Seychelles will give particular attention and priority to the Government’s role as a facilitator for business realization, addressing all the critical points of a project cycle, especially approvals for viable and apt project development in all sectors. In an enabling, transparent and business-friendly environment, focus will be given to those with the greatest potentials for Seychelles.

With the focus on re-building the tourism industry and strengthening our weak economy, it is necessary to give the private sector a generous boost in order for them to thrive once more. The Seychellois entrepreneurs (big, medium and small) should not be made to navigate countless hurdles to finally bring viable projects to life. The new hotel that is being built in the South of Mahe, for instance, had some stumbling blocks to overcome (i.e. change of use), but the entire procedure and process were so seamless and smooth. If only that could be the model being applied for all Seychellois-owned projects going through similar transformations! All investors, without exception, require consistency in policy implementation and guidelines rather than personalities with connections and powers of persuasion to get things done in our Country – the enabling environment should be established to work for all.

Running a successful business in Seychelles should not hinge on who you know. We have witnessed Government’s knee-jerk reactions on very sensitive issues such as the revocation of all GOPs of expat workers that were on annual leave overseas. That was done with no consultation and has had very severe and lasting impacts on some establishments. The Seychelles Chamber Commerce and Industry (SSCI), as well as other entities representing employers, aired their disappointment on such rash and non-consultative announcements that transgressed previously established Public and Private Sector Partnership (PPP) and consensual modus operandi.

In fact, the hard times of the ‘new normal of the Covid-19 era’ that have befallen us justify the initial One Seychelles call for a Government of National Unity and a more unified approach to reboot the Seychelles economy. This in turn rationally vindicates the intensification for a more institutionalized framework for ‘Private & Public Sector Partnerships’ to fill the missing infrastructural gaps and strategically consolidate our joint efforts for more sustainable progress.

Amongst the creators of our wealth are some strategic parastatals that are public entities but operated as private entities. Those include STC, PUC, IDC and others. Some, such as Air Seychelles, need much financial and other support from the taxpayers – whilst others such as SEYPEC and SCAA do cover their own operational costs and may sometimes provide dividends to the coffers of the state. It is clear that their priorities remain to reinvest to better their services and move with the times and technology to enhance quality and profitability of their respective ventures.

In this spirit, One Seychelles will dedicate much effort to reviewing a number of those parastatals – their potentials and performances. As a matter of priority, we shall propose and promulgate a legal framework for a wider and more transparent PPP operation in Seychelles. The new normal era calls for revamping of existing, as well as introduction of new, infrastructure to facilitate the seizing of all opportunities that have thus far either been neglected or strategically put on hold for the same powerful, influential actors to enter in yet another new venture.

The framework and procedures currently hindering business development shall be redressed and simplified. The known factors and strategic barriers to entry that impede private sector proliferation in certain sectors will, under One Seychelles, benefit from incentives including lower, affordable and simplified taxes that will give much needed oxygen to the Seychelles business community. This will encourage a larger number of tax contributors who will then be entitled to effectively demand better and more efficient and modern services.

Stiff penalties for cannabis-users won’t go away with LDS or US
With the Country virtually on the doorstep of the 2020 National elections, each and every key politician has made his stance on the issue of drugs crystal clear. While some other politicians have allegedly made public outbursts that drug offenders should be exiled to another island “cold turkey”, One Seychelles has surpassed any other Presidential candidate in the 2020 election in terms of changing marijuana policy, proposing to legalize the drug for medicinal and recreational use.

On one side of the political divide, the US party hails from an era that imposed minimum mandatory sentences and stiff penalties for marijuana use and possession. As the Honorable Chief Justice, Mathilda Twomey, explained during her address on 21 August 2020 at the Mandela Day Symposium, “Any prescriptions in law that seek to replace the discretion of a judge during sentencing may come into conflict with the independence of the judiciary and the court’s ability to do justice in a case.”

In 2016, prior to the shift in Presidency to Danny Faure, our Misuse of Drugs Act was revised to be geared more towards rehabilitation for drug addicts than punishment for repeat offenders, regardless of whether our Nation had the necessary mechanisms in place to provide effective treatment for addicts. What followed from President Faure’s leadership was the roll-out of methadone for drug addicts, which was meant to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem, though it would now appear to have become a long-standing controversial recourse to treating addicts.

Cannabis-traffickers are today still being dealt with severely by our Court system. On 9 April 2014, Mr Adrienne (a young farmer and carpenter) and Mr Servina (a driver) were found in possession of 47 kgs of cannabis by the National Drug Enforcement Agency. In a move that shocked the Nation, both men were sentenced to life imprisonment. In the recent case of Adrienne & Servina versus The Republic SCA 25 & 26 /2015, their appeal on sentence was heard, but the Court of Appeal upheld the 20-year sentences for the two men. This is the end of the road for Mr Adrienne and Mr Servina, who have no other recourse for challenging the sentences that were imposed by the Court.

With the masses crying hoarse for its legalization, and many people having been penalized over the years for possession of cannabis, its prohibition is undemocratic. People are unlikely to voluntarily abide by laws or rules that they view as unwarranted. Many people view the laws on possession of marijuana as unjustified, which indicates why many do not comply with them.

When the criminal justice system enforces laws that the bulk of the public disagrees with, it harms the credibility of the criminal justice system which, in turn, impedes its ability to accomplish its goals of controlling and reducing crime. Our criminal justice system is ripe and ready for major reform. Any harm associated with marijuana use and legalization pales in comparison to its continued prohibition.

The year is 2020, and the people are ready for real change. The only way to bring about real change is to cast a vote for One Seychelles in the upcoming Presidential election.

Click here to download a copy of Zilwa Publication – Issue 11

Your comments are welcome and will receive a response in due course.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.