Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles, June 12, 2020 – Contributed by Barry Laine, First published by Seychelles Civil Society – America is burning with hate and violence as we listen to their plea that the route of all their discontent is racism. I believe racism is the igniter and the root of their problem is years of inequality during which the rich have called the shots. This is also the case in Seychelles but we are remaining calm and we are going to approach the problem in a different way. We are going to elect new people with fresh minds and ideas in the next Government and we are going to elect a President with a marketing background who will develop and market Seychelles the way it should have been done. Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is only 1.6 Billion US dollars and this represents only 0.01 percent of the world economy. We have been too busy going around with a begging bowl instead of developing our own natural resources.
Life is going to be difficult as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and tourism is not going to return in abundance. We have to be smart in order for us to move our country forward and we need achievers with experience and guts in the next government. The “ek nou pas ek nou” era of giving jobs to friends and party supporters must end if we want to survive in the new world. The people want to elect their Ministers by democratic means not by “jobs for the boys” method. Drastic and fundamental changes in the way we live in Seychelles must now be made.
Our Creator has bestowed upon us vast numbers of natural resources just like the Arabs have been blessed with oil in the desert which they have developed and raised the standard of living of their people. We have done nothing to develop our natural resources because we do not have enough people with sales and marketing experience in charge of the various establishments. Politics, greed and self-enrichment have been the overwhelming activities which have stopped our nation from moving forward and the consequence is 40% of our small population lives below the poverty line and our last President had the nerve to tell us we are a high income nation, can you believe this? Can you believe that today in Seychelles some mothers go to sleep on an empty stomach because they have saved their dinner for the kids to take to school the next day as their lunch? This is going on in a high income country? Please, stop treating us as imbeciles.
Our first President, James Mancham, was a lawyer, our second President, Albert Rene, was a lawyer, our third President, James Michel, was a teacher and our current and fourth President Danny Faure comes from the education industry. None of them had/have any idea of how to market a product and the people they have engaged to do the job have little or no experience and/or qualifications in Sales and Marketing. We can no longer view marketing as cutting a bunch of bananas and sitting outside by the roadside to sell our bananas until dark. This method of marketing and selling went out with cooking our food on a small kerosene burner. Nowadays we use gas and/or electricity.
Marketing our natural resources
Our country has been blessed with natural resources but none of these resources have been developed for the benefit of the people of Seychelles. Our geographical location, our climate, our size, our good nature as a people where the colour of our skin makes no difference to the way we are received and treated but sadly one’s political affiliation can make or break us and can decide whether one gets a job or not and this is very sad and must come to an end. We are poor because politics and some politicians have made sure we remain poor so they can continue to enrich themselves at our expense.
We have been blessed with an abundance and variety of fish in our ocean, yet we are not making the kind of money this resource could bring us because we sit back and allow others to deplete our fish stock. We have oil deposits in our ocean because we are the peaks of the Pangaea continent so why have we not exploited our oil reserve? Are we waiting for someone else to exploit it or is someone going to make a killing from our oil reserve or has someone already created a company to exploit this resource privately? Tell us the truth.
We have sea creatures and planktons in our ocean that can yield medicines to treat cancers instead we sell a few sea cucumber (barbara) to the Chinese to consume as aphrodisiac. We have marine invertebrates that can yield antibiotics and anti-inflammatory substances to treat many diseases such as breast cancer and leukaemia and what have we done about it? We have been too busy calling our marine industry “the blue economy” when the sea water is colourless and not blue and the world is laughing at us.
We have failed to capitalise on the potential products from the sun that bathes our islands every day. Solar panels is today old technology, new products using Perovskites to create super conductive and flexible solar cells is a new technology we can develop. Solar rechargeable batteries with no harmful effects to our environment is another new product our new generation can take advantage of and all we have to do is get off our laurels and start some serious R & D and marketing activities. Don’t tell me we do not have the money because in business you use someone else’s money to make your money, do you get it? We have been asleep and it is time for us to wake up to the new world.
Tourism and Fishery industries
One President after another and one Tourism Minister after another have failed to ensure that Seychelles receive a bigger piece of the tourism cake. Payments are made overseas and Seychelles receive only a small proportion of the tourism spending by the tourists. The large international hotel chains have refused to engage Seychellois General Managers (except Mr Churchill Gill from Praslin) and we have done nothing about it. We get the leftovers the tourists spend locally. The cake is not fairly shared, we are the losers and yet Tourism is our main bread earner.
The government has failed to provide adequate facilities for our artisanal fishermen such as ice, landing facilities etc and they have failed to control the long-liners operators who steal our pelagic species such as Tuna and they have failed to patrol and control the industrial fishing by huge foreign ships who have depleted our fish stock. The future does not look good for our fishery industry unless drastic action is taken.
Inward Investment and Financial Services
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) decreased in 2018 to USD 124 million compared to USD 192 million in 2017. It was expected 2019 would be a better year but mainly in tourism development by the big hotel operators. No new business, just putting all our eggs in the Tourism basket which is very dangerous as we have found out to our detriment. SIB do not have enough people with marketing skills, experience and qualifications who can go out there and market Seychelles as a great potential investment country in the products I have outlined above so that we can move away from dependence on Tourism.
Seychelles can be a fantastic financial hub because of our geographical time zone. We can serve the East and the West round the clock because as the West goes to sleep the East is waking up and we are here and waiting to do business. Surely this is not difficult to understand but what have we done about it? Sweet nothing. We do not have a Stock Exchange and sometime ago a derivative stock agent called themselves Seychelles Stock Exchange and I was quick to tell them they are not. Why do some people believe Seychellois are stupid? We are also geographically well placed to have a huge or several International Call Centres but what have we done about it? Sweet nothing.
Transportation and Education
To cut a long story short, the Monorail project did not get off the ground because this government wanted the project to be undertaken by the Arabs instead of a Seychellois and there was no slush money. Consequently Victoria is a log jam of traffic and we waste fuel queuing up in traffic jams during the rush hours. The Monorail project must be a priority for the next President.
It is inconceivable that in this day and age we still teach our children Creole in school on the pretence that it is our culture. Are you sure it is not because of stupidity? It is well known that a fresh mind will, for life, use the language it perceives as its first and main language and everything gets translated into this primordial language. English is the most commonly used language in the world, French is a dying language and Creole is spoken in a small handful of countries of no significance. So why are we not teaching our young minds English and they will learn Creole at home anyway. What the hell are we doing to our next generation? The next President must address this urgent matter. We cannot keep our children behind the rest of the world.
The role of the President must change
The time has come for us to re-evaluate the role of our President. Our President cannot be a manager and a worker at the same time and the buck must never stop at the President’s desk every time. This is the old totalitarian way of doing things where nearly all national decisions were/are taken by the President. We have seen on our TV screen during the Truth Reconciliation and Unity hearings almost daily how Albert Rene made good use of this dictatorship modus operandi to have things done his way and to hurt those he did not like and in the process he enriched himself and his family.
We must create a Council of Elders where certain matters are considered and decisions taken and passed to the President thus allowing the President more time to be the President and not a very highly paid Caretaker who does everything and makes all the decisions. We are not operating as a democracy yet, so please do not kid yourself, we are in a neo-dictatorship environment where victimisation is still rampant. The civil service has become very inefficient where phone calls are ignored, letters are not answered and the Ministers have no time to see anyone.
We must reform our Judiciary system and remove the bad apples because it is unbelievable that the British handed over to us a fair, just and efficient Judiciary system and we have made it a place where the people have lost trust in our lawyers and judges. We have taken our Chief Justice to court, we have prosecuted one of our judges and if you are well connected your case gets heard quickly. The Judiciary say the Executive has no jurisdiction over them, the Legislative say none of the other two have any jurisdiction over them so the ball gets passed around while we the people and the citizens of Seychelles suffer as a consequence. How do we achieve a fair and workable jurisprudence in Seychelles and who has the guts to take on this job? We have been blind and stupid to ourselves while our politicians enriched themselves and we have descended into the depth of inequality and poverty. We will resolve these matters peacefully at the ballot box.
Barry Laine FCIM, FInst SMM, MCMI, MBSCH
Seychelles Civil Society
The Wishing Well
Anse Des Genets