Seychelles' 2021 budget sits at $519 million after a year's battering by COVID-19
Naadir Hassan, Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade, said that the 2021 budget will take measures to stabilize the island nation's financial situation, including stabilizing its debt. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - A proposed budget of SCR 11 billion ($519 million) was presented to Seychelles' National Assembly for approval on Tuesday that gives more attention to the fisheries sector and jump-starting the dormant tourism industry.
The budget also reviews the tax collection process -- reserving some categories of business for only Seychellois -- and promotes the agriculture, financial and digital economy sectors.
In his first budget address, Naadir Hassan, Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade, said that the 2021 budget will take measures to stabilise the island nation's financial situation, including stabilizing its debt.
"These measures will also help towards the better management of our country's resources through good governance," said the minister.
Hassan added that "secondly, this budget will bring to the fore the new policies that this new government has put in place to boost our economy, which has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ambition is to bring about a comprehensive transformation that will create wealth for our people."
The minister noted that the government took power in one of the most difficult periods in the history of the island nation. Tourism collapsed in 2020, with visitor arrivals at 114,858 visitors compared to 384,204 visitors in 2019.
"With such a performance in our tourism sector, its revenue collection has decreased by approximately 322 million American dollars. This represents a 61.3 percent decrease compared to the provisional estimate for the year 2019. The same performance has been observed in VAT (Value Added Tax) collection in the domestics tourism sector with a reduction of 48.2 percent at the end of 2020, which is equivalent to SCR416 million ($20 million)," said Hassan.
Through the 2021 budget, the government also wants to reduce the fiscal deficit experienced in 2020, during the next three years, and remove dependence on social assistance for individuals who can work. No new recruitments will be done unless in priority areas as the government aims for a slimmer government.
The minister noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reducing the number of overseas embassies and personnel to reduce costs. That restructuring leads to a reduction of $707,000 in its 2021 budget.
The Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC) aims to improve tax collection and ensure that businesses honour their obligations, he said. The government will move to a default assessment system instead of relying on self-assessment only.
According to Hassan, the SRC is evaluating two proposals for installing a new system which will enable it to audit and identify businesses that make financial deposits abroad but do not declare the tax returns on these revenues to the authorities in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
The government, he said, believes the fishing industry can bring in more revenue. Transforming fish into new products through value addition is another area where Seychelles seeks investment, these include the construction of a factory for making fish products, especially tuna, so that the country obtains better value from this important resource, the development of better net repair facilities, developing and improving the facilities in the districts for artisanal fishermen, construction of a facility at the airport handle fish for exportation as well as developing a quality image for our fish exports and other ocean products at an international standard.
The government also has plans to review certain business categories in which only Seychellois are allowed to invest.
"Our plan is to protect Seychellois businessmen. At the same time, we will ensure that its implementation is well managed," said the minister.
Hassan added that through the budget, the new government which assumed power in October last year has laid down the foundations for the construction of the transformation that the country needs.
The National Assembly will resume on Friday where the two leaders, Sebastien Pillay of the Opposition and Bernard Georges for Government Business, will give their responses to the budget.