Seychelles National Assembly leaders respond to proposed 2024 budget
Minister Hassan is seeking the approval of the National Assembly for a proposed budget of SCR10.6 billion. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The two leaders in the Seychelles National Assembly on Wednesday responded to the 2024 budget presented by the Minister of Finance, Naadir Hassan, to the parliamentarians last week.
Hassan is seeking the approval of the National Assembly for a proposed budget of SCR10.6 billion ($731 million) for 2024, an increase of 1 percent on the budget of 2023.
In his response, the Leader of the Opposition, Sebastien Pillay, said that the budget presented does not meet the expectations, and if the efficiency of the government is measured by this budget, Seychelles is in "big trouble".
"Our tourism industry is suffering and the number of cancellation that hotels are getting keep increasing. The fishing industry is still where it was, so where is the economy that the minister said is doing very well?" he added.
Pillay said the government should have used the opportunity that this budget presented to address the inequalities and failures that the Seyhcellois people are facing.
"Instead, what we saw is another budget full of big numbers that we don't believe that in reality will address the problems that our people are facing," he added.
Pillay said that in 2024, the government is seeking 10.64 billion and expects to collect 9.1 billion in taxes but in the same instance the minister said that the situation in the world is not too good.
"The conflict in the Middle East will affect tourism, especially from Israel and Europe, so our principal markets will be affected. How will we collect the revenue if you are projecting a downturn in the economy? So the question is where the money will be taken from?" he asked.
Pillay said he hopes that with the budget that it is being given, the Ministry of Employment will make more effort to look into the welfare of the workers.
"The Minister did not mention a group that is very important and is a vulnerable group in society today and this is the elderly. I was expecting them to propose an increase in the social security in view of the fact that there has been a 10 percent increase for other workers," he added.
The Leader of the Opposition said that health and education are two sectors getting the biggest amount in the budget but there is no mention of the changes in the schemes of service for workers.
He said the main problem with the budget is that more money is being put in infrastructure than in human resources.
Pillay also cautioned the government on the agreement with the European Union to use the Marie-Louise Island prison for high-risk prisoners caught by EU Atalanta forces as this could have repercussions on the tourism industry.
On his side, the Leader of Government Business, Bernard Georges, said that the budget "has allowed us to look back and see what has been accomplished and take stock of where we are and to analyse what has been done and what remains to be done in the next two years."
Georges said the budget focused on "creating more wealth in such a way that we can have more money to manage the country and share with the population, recognise our vulnerability and build up our resilience to external and internal shocks and improve infrastructures in our country, and support the social regime of the country so that no one is left behind."
He said that the budget ensures that all segments of the population are absorbed and that the budget has something for each person.
Georges said that as a country, Seychelles has many attractions but also challenges, and that "we are a beautiful country and this allows us to have a performing tourism industry as the first pillar of our economy."
He also talked about the Seychelles' vast maritime territory "with a high amount of tuna, one of the highest stocks in the world. Our country gets many benefits through this industry."
Georges said the budget focuses on that but also on the island nation's vulnerabilities.
"We are a small country and do not have enough land for housing and industries. We are far from the rest of the world and whatever we need costs to bring into the country. So each external shock, COVID, conflict in Ukraine or Israel has a direct impact on us," he said.
He said that, nevertheless, the only objective of the government is to improve the lives of every Seychellois, especially the more vulnerable ones who need the government's support.
"The budget has something for everyone from the newborn to those who have retired," said Georges.