|National Day Address by President James Alix Michel, 29th June 2015
Mon, 29 June 2015
Your Excellency Mr Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau,
President James Richard Mancham,
Vice-President Danny Faure,
Vice-President Joseph Belmont,
Monsieur le Préfet de la Région Réunion,
The Speaker of the National Assembly,
The President of the Court of Appeal,
The Acting Chief Justice
The Designated Minister
Monsieur le Commandant Supérieur des Forces Françaises de l’Océan Indien,
Monsieur le Commandant de la Gendarmerie Nationale,
Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly,
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly,
Your Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions,
Yes, I remember 39 years ago, as do thousands of Seychellois, that day, that night, when our little country became an independent state.
From a small obscure corner of the old stadium, I witnessed that glorious event, so historic. That moment of joy. That moment of glory, that moment of hope which all Seychellois had been waiting for and sharing. A grand date with our destiny.
At midnight on the 29th of June 1976, President James Mancham and Prime Minister Albert René – the two great personalities of the history of Seychelles, two whom we pay a special tribute tonight – saluted the new Seychelles flag as it rose slowly and proudly, while the Union Jack was lowered. A republic was born. A colony was no more. We, Seychellois, took our destiny into our own hands. We were aware that the road ahead of us would be long and difficult. We were aware of the challenges ahead, but we were determined to overcome them. Our determination, reinforced by the hopes of a free and independent people.
Your Excellency Mr. Tommy Esang Remengesau,
President of the Republic of Palau,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are proud and honoured to welcome you to Seychelles as our guest of honour for our National Day celebrations. It is always a pleasure to share our accomplishments with our fellow island brothers and sisters who share a deeper appreciation of the specific challenges faced by Small Island Developing States in promoting sustainable development and the Blue Economy.
Seychelles and Palau are naturally aligned as two countries that have “sustainability” at the heart of our development efforts. And we are united in our efforts to continue speaking, with a loud and strong voice, one voice of the SIDS, to make the rest of the world listen! In particular in this year of climate action. I pay tribute to the exemplary working relationship that Seychelles and Palau share, through our joint-chairmanship of the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA). Our exemplary working relationship also finds vigour in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), not least through our participation in the SAMOA Conference last year and in other important fora. Our efforts are bearing fruit. Together we can make a difference, together we have made a difference and we shall make a difference! Thank you, Mr President and your delegation.
Monsieur le Préfet de la Région Réunion
To you, too, I want to say how honoured and happy we are to have you among us on this memorable occasion. History has produced exemplary relations – not to say unique – between Seychelles and Reunion. Up to now no uncertainty has managed to dent the fraternal ties, friendship and mutual respect between us. Today, we share a privileged moment, and I thank you whole- heartedly for being with us in Seychelles.
Dear People of Seychelles
We have made much progress since we gained our Independence. This is undeniable. The creation and affirmation of the identity of our people. One people, one nation. Progress in Education. In Health. In Housing. In the welfare of the elderly. The creation of opportunities for young Seychellois. The development and flourishing of businesses. The empowerment of Seychellois. The growth of the Gross Domestic Product. A considerable improvement in our standard of living. The strengthening of social justice and dignity of our people. The radiating of the image of Seychelles abroad. So many elements that represent progress that we have achieved together. Together, with our sweat, with our determination and resilience, we have built our Seychelles. A prosperous Seychelles with a high level of income, and a high development index. A Seychelles with a solid and performing economy, with foreign exchange reserves in excess of half a billion US dollars.
Truly, much progress, much achievement, and much transformation, which are the pride of our nation, the joy, the satisfaction of our people over the last 39 years.
Today, as we celebrate the 39th anniversary of or Independence, the time has come for us all to look toward the future. Put our differences aside and strengthen our national unity. One country. One people. Let us continue our efforts to put right the wrongs of the past. But at the same time, let us appreciate the positive things that have happened and which have benefited our people as a whole. Let us recognise and appreciate all the benefits that we enjoy: the stability of our country, the peace that reigns within it, and our national unity. That’s my message to all Seychellois today. A message of peace and unity. A message of love, compassion and solidarity. This is what will bring us toward greater prosperity.
Dear People of Seychelles
Many things have changed since our Independence. Seychelles has experienced phenomenal transformation. We must continue to transform Seychelles for it to remain a country of progress. We must continue to transform our country for it to generate even more prosperity for all Seychellois.
That is the task of my Government. A proactive Government, dynamic and responsible and always in touch with the people. It seeks ways of preserving its gains, and continues to create an environment, and puts measures into place, to create greater prosperity and enhance the wellbeing of our people.
Remaining connected with the people means always going out towards them. Involving them in governance, in decisions that concern their everyday lives. Give people the power to manage their communities, their districts, in ways that are democratic, free and efficient. That is the objective of the new Bill on District Administration that Government will be proposing to the National Assembly shortly. It will provide for every District to have a District Council which is directly elected by the residents of the District. This is yet another important step in the evolution and strengthening of our democracy.
Dear People of Seychelles
Our prosperity depends mainly on our productivity and economic activity. Tourism and fisheries have long been the principal pillars of our economy. We depend considerably on them. They generate employment, investment and they are the principal motors of our economy and budgetary resources.
Another sector which I always emphasize upon – and which I will continue to emphasize – is the small and medium enterprise sector. Its development is a key element of the strategy and plan of my government to make available more opportunities for our youth, and generally, to empower our people. We have already put in place the tools, and we will continue to introduce all the measures which help the development and blossoming of small and medium enterprises in a harmonious and equitable manner.
It is with this in mind that we will be introducing legislation to give even more support to the small and medium enterprises. With this new law, small businesses with a revenue of less than SR250,000 will only have to register with SEnPA without falling under the administrative procedures of the Seychelles Revenue Commission. The new law will also enable small and medium enterprises to have more access to credit and, in certain cases, benefit from the subsidy for small innovative business start-ups. We are freeing the hands of Seychellois!
At the same time licensing procedures will be simplified further. Certain categories of small enterprises will be able to obtain their licences within a period of one week. They will be able to start their operations whilst the necessary procedures are undertaken to ensure their conformity with applicable health and environmental regulations. Here again, we are freeing the hands of small Seychellois businesses!
These measures are aimed at allowing all Seychellois, who wish to do so, to start their businesses and contribute to the prosperity of our country and the wellbeing of our people. The measures are also aimed at reducing bureaucracy and improving service delivery – issues that I have spoken much about, and which I continue to address.
Dear people of Seychelles,
My government believes in the initiatives of all its citizens. We will always put in place measures aimed at increasing productivity and improving service delivery. These need to be accompanied by certain incentives. We believe in rewarding hard work, productivity and innovation. As part of the measures, in January 2016, all public sector employees who are not on fixed term contract will receive a 13th-month salary, based on their performance. The measure is not applicable to constitutional appointees. Some private companies are already offering this type of incentive to their employees, to reward them for good performance. We will continue to encourage others to do the same, mindful of the need to minimize its impact on small and medium enterprises.
The dignity and comfort of, and support for our elderly citizens, and for those who are unable to work, as well as the more vulnerable in our society, have always been a concern of this government. In my state-of-the-nation address earlier this year, I talked about retirement pensions. I said it could not remain static and that we would look into the possibility of increasing it whenever possible, based on budgetary resources. Having taken everything into consideration, I have the pleasure today to announce that we can do it. And we shall do it. From December 2015, retirement pensions will increase by SR500 per month. This increase of SR500 per month will also apply to beneficiaries of Government pensions. This demonstrates that we are firmly committed to continue improving the standard of living of our people who have devoted themselves to the service of our nation. We will never forget our elderly citizens, or the more vulnerable persons.
I take this opportunity to salute the efforts of many of our elderly citizens who have contributed over many years to make our independence a success.
They know how things used to be in those days. And they see the difference today.
Among the elderly generation are people who worked prior to Independence and to date have not benefited from a pension from the then British administration. They include the Seychellois sailors who served on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) tankers and other British vessels. My government is undertaking to provide them with some financial support in the form of an ex-gratia payment as from 2016. This is in recognition of their contribution. We continue to support them in their initiative to get assistance and compensation from the British government.
I have mentioned the more vulnerable members of our society. Among them are the single mothers. I have always urged our young people to take their responsibilities seriously. And I will continue to do so. Becoming a parent is a major responsibility which one cannot delegate or abandon. My government is aware of the difficult situation of many single mothers. At the same time we want to help their total integration into society, particularly through productive and remunerative work. As a government contribution towards this aim, and also after taking into account the costs of day-care which maybe excessive for many mothers, we have decided to provide additional support to the day-care centres, which will help mothers who are more vulnerable. The measures we are taking will benefit all mothers – not only single mothers – provided they meet the relevant criteria. Once again, let us take our responsibilities seriously. Let us work and contribute towards our own wellbeing and the development of our country.
Dear people of Seychelles,
You know the intensity of our struggle for the protection of our environment and the importance my government attaches to renewable energy. Our principles are recognized worldwide and they have reinforced our reputation as ardent defenders of the environment and the interests of small island states. We want to continue to lead by example. Renewable energy is a key component in our strategy, not only because of the positive impact on the environment but also because of its economic value. This is why we want every Seychellois family to have access to renewable energy. We do not just want to encourage families to install solar panels on their houses, but we also want to support them financially and technically. As from next year government will subsidise the installation of solar panels for families that meet certain criteria, mainly the collective household income. It will also be compulsory for every new house and building to have its own solar panels installed. Here, too, a certain level of subvention may be applicable, depending on set criteria.
With the same aim in mind, with effect from 15th July 2015, duty on all electric vehicles will be abolished. At the same time, duty on hybrid vehicles will be reduced to 5%. This measure will help promote our policy of clean and renewable energy.
Renewable energy is the future. It complements the Blue Economy. This is the future we have chosen and which will ensure the survival of our children, the children of our children, and future generations. This is the lasting and sustainable future.
The Blue Economy is the foundation of our two main industries. Small and medium-sized businesses are adopting this concept with enthusiasm. A concept that is innovative, visionary and rewarding. We want the Blue Economy to benefit even more small businesses and small enterprises. In order to encourage this, we are introducing a programme whereby government will offer loans – through the Development Bank and SBFA (the Small Business Finance Agency) – specifically for small and medium enterprises wishing to start activities linked to the Blue Economy. There will be a special consideration for Praslin and La Digue where the possibilities of starting new businesses are limited, and especially so in the case of La Digue. Our objective, once again, is to empower our people, especially our youth, to strive and earn a living.
With regard to environmental protection and management in the context of the blue economy, I wish to say a few words on the development of tourism infrastructure. This infrastructure continues to serve us well. We have several tourism establishments which are either in the hands of our Seychellois entrepreneurs or owned by large international companies. Many of them are of international repute which bring prestige to our country. The presence of the big international hotel chains attests to the confidence they have in Seychelles, in our economy. I thank them for this. I also thank the Seychellois owners of hotels and guesthouses for the major role they are playing in our tourism industry and their significant contribution to our economy.
I have consulted and listened. I am convinced today that the time has come to stop the building of new big hotels, and to consolidate and enhance the unique products that Seychelles is offering. Consequently, my government has decided to impose, with immediate effect, a moratorium on large hotel projects on Mahé and the inner islands, with the exception of those projects for which approval has already been granted, or for which a commitment had been made by Government. A carrying capacity study, to be conducted with local and foreign expertise, will assist government in taking the necessary and informed decisions on all tourism development projects in the future. This strategy will create more space and opportunities for small hotels run by Seychellois.
I spoke of the Cap Ternay project in my State of the Nation address. Unfortunately, speculation and allegations concerning this project continue to circulate. Today I want to put a stop, once and for all, to all these speculations. There will be no construction of any hotel at Cap Ternay. This unique site will host a Blue Economy Institute, and facilities for the youth. This is the best use of this site, for the benefit of all Seychellois and also the international community.
Dear People of Seychelles,
On several occasions I have spoken of our ambition to turn Seychelles into a knowledge-based society, a knowledge-based economy. A society where in each family there will be one or more graduates. This is happening gradually. Our ambition is achievable, but it must all start with a sound education. By strengthening of the quality of the foundation and the structure of our system of education, so that it better meets the needs and expectations of the New Seychelles. This is a matter which has been the subject of much debate in the National Consultative Forum. And I thank members of the Forum for their advice and suggestions they have made on education.
After much deliberation, my government has decided to extend the period of compulsory education from 10 years to 11 years, that is, up to Secondary 5. This will better prepare our youth for post-secondary education, equip them better for the world of work, and help them become better citizens.
It is good that we are continually reforming and boosting our education system. It is good, but this alone is not enough. What do we do with all the youth who complete studies in post-secondary institutions? What opportunities, what hope, do we give to all these young people for their integration into the world of work? For the start of a satisfying career?
My government is constantly reflecting on this matter. The youth of Seychelles are the future, the youth of Seychelles is the hope of our country. How do we help them realize their dreams, their ambitions, their aspirations? I think that one of the main measures is to offer them the opportunities for decent, productive and remunerative work that will enable them to realize their potentials to the maximum. Partnership with the private sector – particularly with its principal representative, the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industry – is indispensable.
Government is encouraging private companies to recruit more young people who have completed post-secondary institutions and are unemployed. As an incentive, we are proposing that Government pays 40% of the salaries of such young people who are employed by private companies for a period of one year, for salaries up to a maximum of SR7,000 a month. We shall begin implementing this scheme in 2016.
Let us work together for the development of our youth. Help them to become exemplary workers. Free their hands. Prepare them to take over the direction of the country. Let us educate our children to appreciate what we are as a people, the things we have accomplished together. Let us teach them to build the future together.
Dear people of Seychelles,
Freedom is priceless. There is no price for the dignity of a people. On the 29th June of 1976 we gained our freedom and dignity. Our pride and our identity as a nation. Let us continue to support our fundamental principles. Let us continue to live our moral and spiritual values. Our Creole values. And Let us inculcate these values in our children.
We are ready and will always be ready! The energy, resilience, fighting spirit, the unity of our people, are stronger than ever. The determination which invigorates our people today is stronger than ever, as strong as when we were fighting for our freedom. Our determination to sail to the new horizon and cross new frontiers is stronger than ever. These are what give us our strength as a nation. These are what unite us. These are what allow us to look toward a better future for our Seychelles, and we will never, never go backwards!
Today, 30 years after the historic event, we proudly hoist the flag of the Third Republic while our national anthem reminds us of our solemn obligations. These are the powerful symbols of the pride, unity, and fraternity of the New Seychelles which we committed ourselves to defend when we created the Third Republic.
39 years since our Independence … The event we are commemorating today is a powerful symbol of our national unity, which we need to adopt in our daily lives, and in our actions. A symbol to erase divisions so that we are all able to stand together, proudly, to swear to the new spirit of fraternity, of working together for our New Seychelles in peace, harmony and stability.
It is the occasion for a new celebration, a solemn moment which will unify us forever.
People of Seychelles,
Today is Our Day!
Let us seize this historic moment for us to make history!
Dear People of Seychelles.
I wish you all a happy Independence Day. May God continue to bless and protect our country, may God continue to bless the Seychellois people! We all love Seychelles!