Address by President Danny Faure to the National Assembly 25th July, 2017
Hon Leader of the Opposition
Hon Leader of Government Business
Hon Members of the National Assembly
Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters
1. Mr Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to address the National Assembly today. I would like to start by confirming, Mr Speaker, that our cohabitation is healthy and working well. What is important is that we have the will to work together for Seychelles and for all Seychellois. We, as leaders who respect the will of the people of Seychelles, we are giving the necessary leadership to take Seychelles forward. So today, I salute the role that the National Assembly is playing to strengthen democracy in Seychelles.
2. Mr Speaker, today I shall speak on a number of subjects that are important for our country. I shall start by explaining certain principles which guide Government with regard to good governance, accountability and transparency.
3. One of the policies I have introduced is to bring our citizens from either the private sector or civil society to lead or become Members of Boards of Public Sector Agencies, Enterprises or Regulatory Authorities. This is in line with making Government more inclusive, and to give opportunities for our citizens to play an important role in the development of our country.
4. Mr Speaker, the role of Ministries is to give direction in terms of policy and infrastructural development. They are there to measure and evaluate the performance of organisations falling under their responsibility. The agencies, public enterprises and regulatory authorities receive their directives from their appointed Boards. The Chief Executives receive their mandate from their Board. In other words, Chief Executives receive their instructions from the Board. In line with the principle of good governance, we are not here to micromanage authorities, agencies and public enterprises. We are not here to interfere in the operation and daily activities of those agencies, public enterprises and authorities. Government through the Ministers, gives directives in terms of policies in writing to the Chairperson of the Board. These directives are discussed at Board level for implementation.
5. With regard to large investments, all public enterprises and authorities need to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Finance, which has the responsibility to evaluate the impact on, and risks to, the country’s economy as well as on the national budget. All these are part of the new rules that must be followed.
6. Today I ask that all regulatory authorities, agencies and public enterprises discharge their functions according to the legislation governing them, according to their mandate and according to policy. That they improve their systems of internal communication, so that their workers are aware of the direction of their organisations. And that their workers are treated fairly.
7. In line with greater transparency, we have decided that all tenders will be announced over the radio as from this August. The important thing is for our citizens to be aware of what is on tender, and if they wish to take part in the tender, they have the opportunity to do so.
8. It is now 5 years since IDC was asked by Government to engage itself in the construction industry on a commercial basis. Government feels that it is now time for IDC to withdraw itself from this sector and focus more on its mandate for islands development. So it will be given until the end of next year to do this.
9. Mr Speaker, we have a task to amend legislation relating to institutions, authorities and agencies to ensure that they reflect the new principles of good governance. The law on procurement, for example, allows for an appeals process in a case where a tenderer is not satisfied with the procedure or outcome of the tender. Government plans to amend legislation where necessary to ensure that an appeals process always exists. This is aimed at promoting accountability and good governance.
10. The Constitutional Appointments Authority (CAA) recommends individuals for appointment in accordance with the Constitution and legislation. The Authority publishes vacancies in newspapers. It is interesting to see that many of our citizens come forward to show their interest. From the documents that the CAA submits to me, I note that there is a clear rule that it follows. They interview the applicants, and thereafter, they submit their recommendations to me. In line with the Constitution and the law, I undertake consultations, and in the spirit of working together, I also consult the Leader of the Opposition before I make a final decision.
11. Following the recommendations of the CAA, I consulted the Leader of the Opposition and appointed the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and one new member of the SBC Board. The other Board members were nominated by other organisations as provided for by law. The new SBC Board has interviewed several applicants, and the Chairman of the Board has submitted recommendations for the new Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive. I received the documents on 20th July. In accordance with the new law, I shall now consult the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chief Justice.
12. Government is also finalising another Bill which will govern the appointment of all public officers. All vacancies will be published, and will be announced over the radio. Appointments will be made by the new Public Service Commission. We have capable and competent Seychellois, and we must place confidence in Seychellois.
13. With greater transparency, good governance and accountability, the independence of institutions and authorities will continue to increase. It is necessary for all citizens to be informed and educated on the roles of the different institutions and authorities that exist today. With information and knowledge, our citizens will be in a better position to enjoy what the state has made available for them. With information and knowledge, there will be no place for confusion.
14. Our citizens also have a role to play in promoting transparency, accountability and good governance. Any of our citizens who has a complaint, or any proof of any dishonest action, corruption, inappropriate action, abuse of power, or where the law has been broken, or where human rights are being violated or abused – he or she should approach the institutions and authorities concerned, so that justice is done.
15. Mr Speaker, following a ruling of the Court of Appeal of 7th December 2012, I have decided to establish an administrative tribunal aimed at resolving all cases of compensation related to land in line with Part III of Schedule 7 the Constitution.
16. I have also decided to establish two special tribunals to address issues of compensation related to past abuses in the military, and by the military, which have affected our citizens. And similarly for abuses in the police, and by the police. It is my sincere desire to close this chapter.
17. We have the Ombudsman, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Police and the Human Rights Commission. With regard to the Police, we are not here to micro-manage the Police, nor is it the role of the Minister to run the Police Force. The Constitution is clear on the role of the Commissioner of Police.
18. It is the responsibility of the Commissioner of Police to run the Police Force, to raise the level of professionalism and standards in the Police so that the people of Seychelles have confidence in it.
19. The expectation of our population is that that Police Force does its work according to the law. And that citizens’ concerns are taken seriously. I recognise the fact that the police force faces considerable challenges.
20. Government has recently sought the technical assistance of the British Government to undertake a complete audit of the police investigation system with the aim of taking the necessary measures to bring the system up to the required standard. We have also decided that next year we shall invest in a forensics laboratory. The Government of India will support us in this project.
21. Mr Speaker, good governance, transparency and accountability also apply to businesses, civil society and political parties. It is important as a society that these principles are promoted and reflected in organisations –economic, social, civic and political. If we all support the development of our organisations along those principles, we shall contribute in increasing transparency, accountability and good governance.
22. The governance of the Electoral Commission will improve when the National Assembly approves the new law separating the roles of the Chairperson of the Commission and the Chief Executive of the Commission.
23. Mr Speaker, I believe that the time has come for the country to create a special fund for the Presidential and National Assembly elections. This fund shall receive money from the national budget every year. The campaign expenses of candidates who will participate in elections will come from this fund. The Electoral Commission will be responsible for the management of this fund. This will contribute towards the transparency and accountability of funds for election campaigns. This is also in line with the desire to have a more level playing field. And if this proposal is accepted by the Electoral Commission, a bill will be presented to the National Assembly for approval.
24. The future of Seychelles should not be dictated by power of money. It is the people who should dictate the political direction of our country.
25. Mr Speaker, one of my main preoccupations has been how to cope with a population that is increasingly living longer. In 2016, for the first time in our history, or women are living on average to an age of 80 years. Men are living to an average age of almost 70 years.
26. In view of these statistics, we cannot think of sustainability without thinking of our responsibility. We who are still working. And what will be the responsibility of the young generation that will have the responsibility in the future to take care of us.
27. This leads me to the subject of pensions. As you all know the pension that all our citizens receive upon retirement at the age of 63 comes from the National budget. And the sum is SCR5,050 per month.
28. And all citizens who have contributed to the pension fund, can enjoy their pension from the age of 60, in line with their contribution.
29. Mr Speaker, the fact that we have a population that is living longer, Government believes that the time has come to prepare our population for an increase in the retirement age. We believe that 5 years’ notice is appropriate. This is why government will present an amendment to the law before the end of this year, where the retirement age will move from 63 to 65 years. And this will become effective on the 1st January 2023.
30. Another amendment will be in the Pension Fund Act, where the pensionable age will move from 60 to 63 years of age. This too will become effective on the 1st January 2023.
31. This is very important if we want to address the issue of sustainability.
32. These are decisions we must take as a country, always in the interests of Seychelles.
33. Changes in the law are only part of the solution. A population that lives longer depends on services such as health, Home care programmes, housing, transportation, recreational facilities and so on. The question we ask ourselves is how are we going to sustain all those services and programmes.
34. The solution lies with us. We, the Seychellois workforce. It is we who control the destiny of our country. The destiny of Seychelles lies in our hands. We are a small country in the middle of the ocean. We are less than 95,000 people. Today we are living in harmony as brothers and sisters. We need to come together. We need to increase our national productivity, reinforce discipline in all aspects of our life, and take our responsibility seriously in our family. This is the key for the child growing up, for those of us who are working, and for our elderly who need to live their retirement in dignity.
35. Mr Speaker, on the shoulders of this new emerging generation, there is an enormous task and responsibility. They are the future workforce that must take care of Seychelles and the Seychellois nation.
36. Our future depends on the efforts that we put in towards what we want them to become. We are the workforce of today, we need to spend our energy on this generation. And redouble our efforts to take care of this older generation, who in their turn took care of Seychelles and who nurtured us.
37. Mr Speaker, what should change?
38. As from January 2018, the education system will orient itself so that the schools as institutions have more control over the education of their students. The head teachers and their teams will take complete control over the administration of their school, including decisions on discipline. The time that we play the ministry, school, parents, teachers and students against each other, has come to an end. My own child is in the Beau Vallon Secondary school. He knows very well what the school expects of him. He knows the consequences of breaking the rules. As a parent, I do not interfere. As the President, I do not interfere. Let the schools to do their work.
39. With the autonomy that the schools will get, they will also receive the resources and appropriate tools to do their work. The days when we micro-managed the schools has come to an end. The school administrators receive their guidance from the School Council.
40. All post-secondary institutions will also manage their own budget and have direct control over their administration.
41. Parents, we need to realise that when we give birth to our children, we become their first teacher. And when, our children go to school, let us continue to support our children. Let us participate in their development and let us support the teachers and the school administration.
42. Let us be careful of the remarks, comments and video clips that we post on various social media platforms today. Without realising it, we might be helping to sow the seeds of negativity that poisons the minds of our children and youth at a very young age. We all have a collective responsibility to promote good moral and spiritual values in your children and youth.
43. Children and youth of Seychelles. Please use the opportunity that you have to study, study, study. The future of Seychelles and our people depend on what you do today, and what you will be tomorrow.
44. Another thing we need to change is our life style. Our life style today is affecting our health, impacting on the national health budget, and affecting our national productivity. The solution is with us. Let us take control of our life style. Our health is our responsibility. Let us take time to exercise. Let us relook at what we consume. Use alcohol in moderation. Changing attitudes takes time, and is sometimes difficult. But when we are warned, and we understand the urgency to change, we must act.
45. When we wake up tomorrow, let us take this decision to help ourselves and our country. Let us adopt a good life style. One that will not add pressure to our health. One that will help our national productivity. I encourage and congratulate all those citizens who have already decided to adopt a good life style.
46. Mr Speaker, according to recent statistics, our economy today, is one with a workforce of 45,684 people. The unemployment rate during the same period was 4.7%. And in the 45,684 people almost one third are non-Seychellois workers: 1,328 in the public sector and 13,213 in the private sector.
47. This shows that our economy will not be able to function easily without non-Seychellois workers.
48. But, Mr Speaker, I am convinced that it is important for government to put more effort in helping our Seychellois to move higher in the level of work that they are in now. The mechanism to achieve this varies depending on the organisation and the sector. But the Employment and Immigration Departments, which are now established under one ministry, will facilitate this exercise. I am convinced that we can facilitate knowledge transfer from non-Seychellois workers to Seychellois workers. In such a way that, with time, our people will take up positions of greater responsibility in the various enterprises operating in Seychelles.
49. Mr Speaker, next year will be one decade, since Seychelles embarked on a fundamental economic reform. During all that time our growth has been at almost 4% on average and we have had macro-economic stability. Our foreign exchange reserve in the Central Bank has grown. Our debt has reduced. Our budget is balanced. We have become the first country in the Indian Ocean to achieve the status of High Income Country as measured by the World Bank.
50. However, Mr Speaker, we also realise that development has not reached all levels of our population and economic sector. Certain sectors such as agriculture illustrates what I am saying. Amongst the districts, levels of infrastructural development also varies.
51. There is considerable difference in the quality of life in different segments of our population. During the course of my visits, in each of the districts that I have visited so far, I have seen real development, of which we can be proud, but I have also seen real poverty, which pains me.
52. Mr Speaker, from now on growth needs to be more inclusive. Development also needs to be more inclusive. There should be no segment of our population that gets left behind. And the dignity of each of our citizen needs to be preserved at all cost.
53. Mr Speaker, next year will be exactly five years since the National Assembly approved the salary table that guides salary allocation in the public sector. The time has come to conduct an exercise to identify the strengths and weaknesses and to see how we can improve the structure.
54. Small and medium enterprises are functioning in a very competitive environment. It is important that new policies reflect this dynamism, and we must establish the framework to support such businesses. This is why I have created a single Ministry to be responsible for small and medium businesses, enterprises, business innovation as well as industry.
55. Mr Speaker, interest rates on bank loans has been a topic that has pre-occupied all of us. The Central Bank’s decision to review the way that it implements the monetary policy will have a more positive and direct impact on the interest rates than was the case previously. Its application comes into force on the 19th July of this year.
56. Every three months, the Central Bank sets a target on the liquidity level in the economy, and in return this determines whether the interest rates in the financial market increase or decrease. This target that is applicable for the third quarter of this year 2017 is expected to translate into a decrease in the interest rate on loans. For the individual this means that loan repayments will reduce. For the businesses, this will mean more access to affordable financing to facilitate investments.
57. This more relaxed monetary policy brings with it a risk of increased consumption on the part of the individual. One way to reduce this risk in consumption is our approach as individuals and businesses, is one that has to be prudent – focused on investment. After all, all individuals together form the country. All businesses together form the economy. This means that we all have a responsibility and our responsibility is collective.
58. What is important is that the banks orient loans to the productive sectors. Investment has an important role in inclusive growth, that will also help in the development of other sectors that need this oxygen.
59. I encourage individuals where possible to invest in other instruments that will come out in August. This is because in a small economy like the Seychelles that depends a lot on importation, a huge increase in consumption translates into an increase in importation and as a result an increase need for foreign exchange. Increased demand for foreign exchange will in the short term lead to a depreciation of the rupee and an increase in the price of commodities and services, and therefore a rise in the cost of living.
60. To ensure that increase in price is not alarming, the Central Bank will adjust its monetary policy in line with its principal objective of ensuring that price changes remain at an acceptable level.
61. The aim of this change in the monetary policy is to increase investment in the economy while at the same time maintaining a stable macro-economic situation. I appeal to the private sector to ensure that benefits in line with this change in monetary policy touch the consumers and help reduce the cost of living.
62. Mr Speaker, the government will continue to consolidate its partnership with all sectors and economic actors. For the private sector to develop their business and strategic plans they need certainty on the economic direction of the country. As we have announced, Government will begin work on a Vision 2032 and a National Development Strategy for 2018-2022. This will be done in consultation with all stakeholders. Once the Vision and Strategic Plan have been adopted in June 2018, we will have a clearer road and a vision of where Seychelles wants to go in the long term and how we will realise that vision together.
63. Mr Speaker, in May of this year, I announced that I will give more details on the KIS which means Keep it Simple. By simplifying procedures, this will make life easier for everyone that does business and that depend on the services of government. For example, it will allow us to increase the collection of taxes within increasing the tax rates. Our aim is to simplify the collection procedure and have a more equitable system in all sectors.
64. Mr Speaker, we have had delays in elaborating a comprehensive system; to allow for discussions with the private sector on the impact of the changes; and changes to the legal structures that will be necessary for the implementation of the system from 2018.
65. Final details on the KIS concept will be presented by the Minister responsible for Finance during the budget 2018 presentation at the end of October.
66. Mr Speaker, I wish to announce that there will be no increase on any taxes or charges and fees for next year. This is an important decision as it helps the private sector to have more certainty and confidence in the Seychelles economy. And for them to more effectively plan their operation that will in return contribute to the economy.
67. Mr Speaker, all sectors have their importance in the Seychelles’ economy. But today, I want to talk about two sectors that are directly linked to our food security. They are Agriculture and Fisheries. The Government is responsible to ensure that these sectors have the necessary infrastructure to move to the next level of performance. It is for this reason that Government has decided that as from January 2018, a special fund on the development of infrastructure in those two sectors to the value of SCR50M will be available. A dedicated project team will be set up to oversee the implementation of projects financed under this special fund.
68. Government has realised that it is necessary that the level of agency support given to operators in those two sectors should increase. It is also important the agencies and authorities in the two sectors have the right resources and manpower to support development in these sectors.
69. Mr Speaker, where there is real poverty, government engages itself to address those situations in a comprehensive manner. We shall work in close partnership with leaders in communities. Our work through the Task Force on Corgat Estate is based on solid partnership which illustrates the level of commitment. It has shown us that we need to adjust our policies, improve our programmes and services, and also change our approach to the provision of assistance. A new, more coordinated approach is necessary. One that is citizen centred and aimed at improving the quality of life of our families. What is clear, Mr Speaker, is that the Agency for Social Protection will need to increase/improve its capacity so that assistance given is not simply financial, but that it includes follow up and continued support for the family. The Ministry of Family Affairs has an important role to play as we change our approach and our policies. We cannot leave anyone behind. The dignity of each of our citizen must, by all means, be preserved.
70. Mr Speaker, independently of the work that government is doing to ensure that social assistance is better coordinated, we feel that there is a necessity to review the rate of financial assistance that people receive. This will take effect from the 1st of September this year.
71. Mr Speaker, we cannot talk about the social situation and the preservation of the dignity of our citizens without addressing the housing situation. Our housing situation is critical. Further to the measures that I announced in February of this year, and that are being implemented, I wish to inform the National Assembly that we have decided to allocate land on Perseverance to the private sector to build at least 250 more units. This measure will mean that Government will be in a position to concentrate on the planning and construction of another 250 units in districts and regions.
72. Following discussions I had with the Government of the UAE, there is an engagement to support the construction of 400 units distributed on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
73. All these efforts are being made with the aim of increasing the number of houses at the disposal of our citizens who have for many years been making sacrifices and waiting.
74. The housing problem is at the base of many of our social problems. I understand our people’s situation and I wish to assure them that many efforts are being made to address the situation.
75. Mr Speaker, I recognise that we need to address the manner in which land allocation is done. The Assembly has debated on the issue of agricultural land, and I have asked the new minister to, once and for all sort out the agricultural land as well. With regards to land that falls under the responsibility of the Industrial Authority, it is this Authority that henceforth has the mandate to allocate land in the industrial zone. We will present amendments to the law to reflect this new policy. The law will also make provisions for an appeals mechanism. Before the lease of any government land to a company or individual is sold or transferred to a third party, they will need to go before a Commission with the mandate to make recommendations before government gives its final approval. This is in line with resolution that the National Assembly adopted. I will appoint members of the Commission on the 1st August this year.
76. Mr Speaker, drugs are a societal problem. It affects the health of our people. It creates domestic problem in the family. It brings pain, suffering to the family. It affects the national security of our country. And it is related to crime in the region.
77. We are a small population and we, the workforce of today, the pillar of our society, we need to fight against this scourge that has the potential to destroy the Seychellois workforce.
78. The solution is with all of us. Therefore we need to adopt a more coordinated approach in our fight against drugs. The new team at NDEA are doing their work. They need all our support. We should not interfere in their work. The government has finalised a new Bill that will create a special agency that will bring together all partners and representatives of ministries and key agencies to address the issue of prevention, rehabilitation of victims, and education and information that our people need about drugs.
79. Mr Speaker, our recent political life has shown us that members of the National Assembly come and go; the Leader of the Opposition comes and goes; the Leader of Government business comes and goes; the Speaker comes and goes: the President comes and goes. What is important is that we all discharge our responsibility according to the oath we took. We do our work honestly and with sincerity. We put the interest of Seychelles and the Seychellois people above all other considerations. We work hard, very hard, for Seychelles. We remain servants of the people.
80. We are writing a new chapter. A very promising one for our country. In a Seychelles where we work together to overcome all our challenges. In a Seychelles where we show respect for all opinions. In a Seychelles that unites all of us despite our differences. In a Seychelles where we all feel we can live free and proud. In a Seychelles that inspires the best in each one of us.
In this Seychelles that will always remain larger than us all.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.