Leaders in Seychelles' National Assembly respond to 2020 budget proposal
Wavel Ramkalawan -- Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The two leaders in the National Assembly of Seychelles on Tuesday responded to the proposed budget for 2020 made by the Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, last Thursday.
The Leader of the Opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan, said that a national budget apart from looking at the proposed figures should also analyse how the economy is functioning and how the nation can improve and increase it.
“I believe that the 2020 budget should also ask the same questions for economic activities, especially our key industries.”
The key economic activities he mentioned were tourism and fisheries, the top two contributors to the economy of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
“The budget has missed the opportunity to put wind beneath the wings of Seychellois entrepreneur in the fisheries industry, to give encouragement such as equipment, market for their products, land to set up factories to transform their products.”
On the tourism industry, Ramkalawan said that “we need to see what we are going to do today to increase tomorrow’s befits. We’ve got the number of airlines that we can sustain and we are going towards the number of hotels we can sustain. It’s time to concentrate more seriously on how we earn more money with the tourists that we have.”
The Opposition leader said like other Seychellois he was shocked at the minister’s statement that 30 companies are contributing 80 percent of the total business tax and that 717 companies do not pay any taxes because of they do not make a profit.
Ramkalawan said that what he would like the minister to do is “balance the money leaving the country through the banks and money changers and that the Central Bank will see how many of those businesses and individuals saying they are not making a profit are transferring abroad.”
He also talked about the ease of doing business and that Seychelles is going down on the world rating and said that necessary reforms will address the constraints. He said that appropriate reforms will make it possible for a foreigner to land in Seychelles in the morning, register his business and then leave in the evening.
Ramkalawan said Air Seychelles remains a concern. “Tell us what is really happening so we can make a good decision when it comes to the subsidising for Air Seychelles. Is Etihad gifting Air Seychelles SCR 85 million ($6.5 million) every year? Give us details please.”
He ended in saying that “the money that will be spent in this budget needs to produce results in all areas. We need value for our money.”
The Leader of Government Business, Charles de Comarmond, said that through the announcements made by the Minister it is clear that the nation must participate more, become more productive and perform better.
|Leader of Government Business, Charles de Comarmond. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY|
“For the year 2020, the budget for salaries is SCR3 billion ($232 million) and increase by SCR530 million ($41 million) or 21 percent.
These are mainly because of the salary increase, revision of salary schemes, long service allowance and more people in employment.
“I know that some of us politicians will say that this is not enough. Maybe we would say that other salary schemes should be revised but this government has to do it in a sustainable way. As we are aware any increase in salary for civil servants puts pressure on the private sector to follow suit. So we need to have a collective responsibility on this subject in the way we educate our population and the way we meet the expectation of our workers.”
The minister has also mentioned the reform in the functions and programmes in the social services with the aim of making it more efficient and De Comarmond asked that “with the reform and effective implementation in those services that more investment is made in services we will need in view of our ageing population.”
De Comarmond welcomed the proposed introduction of flexible hours in public service especially for new mothers who are unable to return to work immediately after the end of their maternity leave.
The Leader of Government Business said that a major constraint that needs to improve is the ease of doing business and that “we need to remove all the bottleneck that exists so that businesses can develop and bring more revenue for Seychelles.”
On the proposed two new categories of Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) for non-Seychellois workers applicable as of January 2020, De Comarmond said: “We need to make way for our qualified Seychellois in the tourism sector and other sectors to assume management positions. It is not acceptable that a foreigner stays for 10 years in Seychelles without us putting a Seychellois in that post as much as possible. But I think that perhaps there is more discussion to be done around this subject.”