His Excellency, Dr. the Hon. Renganaden Padayachy, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development of the Republic of Mauritius,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to be addressing the business community of Mauritius today, barely a month after my election to the Presidency of my beloved Seychelles.
Surely though, being in your beautiful country, I would not miss the opportunity to interact with you, knowing the contribution of the private sector towards the economic success of Mauritius and the establishment of your country as an economic powerhouse in the Indian Ocean and, dare I say, even beyond.
In many ways, you are the reference point, and the envy of many other countries within the region and the continent.
To think that only a few decades ago, because of the vulnerabilities to the weather and price shocks, lack of job opportunities outside the sugar sector and over population, Noble Prize laureates, James Meade and later Sir V.S Naipaul predicted a dismal future for this island nation.
Today, only within decades of such harsh predictions, Mauritius having defied all odds, stands proudly as a developing nation with amongst the highest per capita income on the African continent, not only with experience to share, but the economic ability to also help in the development of our region, not to mention the potential to achieve even greater heights.
The number of Mauritian firms established in many countries within the Indian Ocean, Eastern and Southern Africa, including Seychelles, bears testimony to the capacities you have developed.
Indeed, you have all the reasons to be proud.
You will thus understand the honour and privilege I feel to be standing before and addressing such an auspicious gathering.
However, as I address you, I cannot abstain from the opportunity to explore avenues where our two countries, may mutually benefit from the experience, expertise and capabilities of such a vibrant private sector.
As you may very well know, Seychelles has also enjoyed its fair share of successes over the years, where we too have seen some important economic growth and improvement in our standard of living.
Unfortunately though, being highly dependent on a single sector, tourism, which is itself highly vulnerable to externalities, Seychelles’ economy remains fragile.
We need not look too far back, we are currently living the fact. The COVID 19 pandemic has turned what looked to be a very promising year for Seychelles, with forecasted economic growth of around 5 percent, into a very gloom and dire state where the economy will in fact contract by more than 13%.
Tourism arrivals, which was continuously on the upward trend for several years, dried out. Accommodation and catering businesses that were enjoying reasonably high occupancy and patronage all of a sudden had not a single client.
Instead, they triggered the downward spiral of the whole economy, with suppliers of goods and services, in turn, losing out on supply contracts and employees being laid off, requiring the state to establish costly support systems to mitigate the shock and sustain livelihoods.
Clearly, with a much lower revenue stream into the system whilst still being highly dependent on imports for most of our daily needs, the threat becomes existential.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have taken a little time to reflect over my country’s current predicament to illustrate its vulnerability, and to make the point for the need for diversification within our economy.
I have no doubt that Mauritius has also felt the blow of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, by virtue of a more diversified economy, the impact has been more bearable. A greater proportion of your population could still enjoy the security of employment, more businesses could still enjoy revenue as they were less dependent on the tourism industry.
This only confirms the fact that a diversified economy builds greater resilience to external shocks.
In this light, one of the priorities of my Government is to do all that is possible to ensure greater diversification of the Seychellois economy. We shall do the necessary to lay the foundation to allow for the local private sector to flourish and, as far as possible, entice them to go towards varied, yet sustainable, sectors.
It is important that we do provide the local private sector with the support to grow, expand and avail of opportunities that present and even better, to create their own opportunities as real entrepreneurs.
Seychelles, despite its small population of less than 100,000 persons, has a high propensity to consume. Add to this, a pre-COVID 19 tourism market of over 380,000 visitors annually, the potential of regional markets through COMESA, SADC and soon the African Continental Free Trade Area, and Seychelles does become a lot more attractive for investment in the supply of goods and services.
It is in this light, and with the aim of improving the prospects for my people that I wish to convey this invitation to you, the business community of Mauritius, to consider investing in Seychelles, a venture which I am sure would be of mutual benefit.
Besides tourism, opportunities exist in the sectors of the Blue Economy, Information and Communication Technology, Fisheries Industry, Trade, Health, Education, Recreation and Leisure, amongst others.
We are also carrying the final diagnostics on the development of the aquaculture industry. Depending on the outcome of this analysis, this new industry has the potential to be a game changer for the Seychelles economy.
You have proven yourselves through the success that you and the people of Mauritius enjoy, that there is no reason why you cannot replicate similar performances in Seychelles and have us as a second launch platform into mainland Africa.
At this point, may I also remind us of the FAO and IOC, Regional Programme for Food Security and Nutrition, PRESAN, which looks to developing and assuring greater food security for the Indian Ocean Island States. Such a programme would necessitate greater communication and transportation links between our countries, and therein lies the potential for even greater regional trade.
I would therefore gladly welcome you to consider venturing to Seychelles, another sister island state where we share very strong historical ties, and mostly the same culture.
The bonds between Seychelles and Mauritius are deep, cordial and very much family like. Why can we not turn this into our mutual advantage and in the process reduce our dependency on external sources?
From my side, I wish to assure you all that Seychelles is taking the revamping of the investment and business environment seriously, to ensure greater ease of doing business in the country so that any investor, local or foreign may establish in any allowable sector, free of unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
I do realise that we have a challenge in this area and that there is quite a bit to be done, however, it is not impossible, and we will face this challenge head on, for the greater prosperity of my people and the mutual gains of all involved.
As I do not wish to outstay your welcome, let me conclude by reiterating my invitation to you to join us in the next chapter of the socio-economic development of Seychelles. It is interesting times globally and particularly for Seychelles, having recently seen a change of Government after so long. Why not be a part of this journey?
Finally I wish to thank you for your attention and wish us all a pleasant day.
I thank you all.