Air Seychelles' financial woes resolved, says Seychelles' President
President Wavel Ramkalawan held his second presidential press conference for this year at State House on Monday. (Seychelles Nation)
Seychelles' President Wavel Ramkalawan has announced that the financial difficulties Air Seychelles was previously facing have been resolved and that the government is considering an increase in social assistance for people earning less than SCR8,500 ($645).
In his introduction at the second presidential press conference for this year at State House on Monday, Ramkalawan talked about the cost of living and the prices of commodities.
He said that all items on the RRP (recommended retail price) list purchased by merchants from the state-owned Seychelles Trading Company (STC) should be sold at the same price.
"I am appealing to all shop owners who buy goods from STC to sell the goods on RRP the same price instead of adding a few rupees more. Let us think of our population," said Ramkalawan.
He said that the government is following the situation closely and will take the necessary measures if needed.
A petition filed by the Apex Trustees Bondholders last August for the winding up of Air Seychelles to recuperate their investment made in the airline was withdrawn in May. This came after the airline was able to provide the settlement funds of approximately $28 million in escrow, which means it is being held by a third party until all transactions are fulfilled.
President Ramkalawan said that now that the airline's problems have been solved and that "Air Seychelles is doing chartered flights to Afghanistan through a contract with the United States to take Afghans relocating to the United States."
He said that although there have been several readjustments in salaries at the airline, no one was made redundant.
Ramkalawan also revealed plans to remove ground handling operations from the airline's activities as the government wants to turn the section into a separate profitable entity.
Seychelles' national football teams have to play their home matches in other countries since the Stad Linite, the main playing field was banned by FIFA for not being up to international standards.
"We are talking to FIFA through the local football federation to overhaul the football pitch and the tracks," said the president.
He said the authorities are negotiating with FIFA to determine how much financing the organisation is willing to provide for the reparation of the football fields, due to be completed in 2023.
"This should bring the infrastructure in the country up to par to deliver in the new sports tourism initiative that has been set up," said Ramkalawan.
He added that contracts have already been given to repair the Palais de Sports, an indoor sports facility built in 1993 when Seychelles hosted the Indian Ocean Island Games for the first time.
Sports infrastructures on Praslin and La Digue, the other two most populated islands, will also be included in the overhaul of sporting infrastructures.
President Ramkalawan said that the government is using around $20 million of international assistance to help with the welfare system and currently around 100 people are being assisted with higher benefits payments.
He said that this will increase as "we are looking into changing the weights used to assist people with welfare. These are the requirements set to determine whether those applying for the assistance qualify for them."
Ramkalawan said that the government is also considering a raise for those earning less than SCR8,500 ($645) per month to cope with the difficult times.
Pensioners who are currently receiving SCR 5,060 ($388) a month will also be included.
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On the question of the alleged corrupt practices of transport minister Antony Derjacques, the President said that "there are many allegations but up to now no-one has come forward with concrete evidence that there have been corrupt practices. So, I believe in the rule of law so I will accuse a person when there is no evidence."
Ramkalawan mentioned the local The Independent newspaper as one of the papers writing about the alleged corruption.
The newspaper's editor, Ralph Volcere, who was present at the press conference said he stood by what has been written in The Independent and he can provide relevant documents.
War on drugs
The Anti-Narcotics Bureau (ANB) has been closed down and the president said that the officers of the bureau are being interviewed and, if successful, they will be trained to join the Seychelles Police Force.
Ramkalawan said that decision came after an analysis of the unit showed that it was unable to tackle the drug issues in the country. He said that this has forced the authorities to recall over 80 officers based on Praslin and La Digue as they were deemed unable to tackle the drug problems.
"Following their training they will use new tools at their disposal such as trained sniffer dogs and officers who have been trained. We are entering a new level of work in the war against drugs, we have five young dogs working on the force," he said.