VP details outer island agricultural plans and internet costs |06 October 2021
Vice-President Ahmed Afif appeared before the National Assembly yesterday to address members’ questions pertaining to matters under his portfolio.
The vice-president was accompanied by officials and management from the departments and entities to which the questions related.
Plans for agricultural development on IDC-administered and outer islands
Vice-President Afif was joined by the chief executive of the Islands Development Company (IDC) Glenny Savyin responding to queries relating to plans for agricultural development on the islands under IDC’s portfolio, and the other outer islands.
As per his explanation, IDC has for two years engaged in testing out different plants on its Desroches farm, to determine which variety of fruits and vegetable crops will do better in the sandyand nutritionally-lacking soil. A plot measuring a hectare has been dedicated to the project, the results of which are already showing, with chilli, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage and other commonly used vegetables being supplied to the market.
In fact, while farmers on Mahe and Praslin were battling with the tuta absolutapest, IDC supplied 2,000kg of tomatoes from Desroches to the market. In addition, IDC is involved in the production of produce which are considered rare, including figs, although the majority of the produce is sold to the Four Seasons hotel on Desroches, reducing the institution’s dependence on imports, whilst also ensuring fresh supplies for clients. The institution also benefits from a supply of semi-free range eggs produced in Seychelles only by IDC.
However, production is expected to be transferred on a larger scale to Coetivy island, as the most ideal and largest island for agricultural development, with a substantial reserve of underground water, and its suited location not far from Mahe.
“It does not make sense for IDC to produce vegetables and be in direct competition with small farmers on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. If this happens, it will have a negative impact on agricultural development in the country. Production must co-exist and complement each other,” said VP Afif.
“IDC will therefore focus on agricultural produce which will replace importation, for instance vanilla, onions and ginger, so as not to be in competition with local farmers. What IDC can also do is produce fruits which are rare or seasonal,” VP Afif noted.
IDC has extended the invitation to farmers to collaborate with them in agricultural development.
In addition to Desroches and Coetivy, all other IDC islands have their own fruit and vegetable gardens for consumption by employees and guests.
Aside from agricultural production, the commercial parastatal entity is also engaged in livestock rearing. At present, a feasibility study has concluded that IDC can produce 1000 metric tonnes of semi-free range poultry annually, VP Afif noted, representing 20 to 25 percent of all poultry consumed locally in a year.IDC is presently exploring financing options for the significant investment.
Moreover, VP Afif noted that the aquaculture project iswell advanced, and IDC will be producing two types of shrimp, namelyblack tiger prawns which were produced by the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) and white shrimp. All basins for the project have been cleaned and refurbished, although IDC is experiencing some delays on the side of suppliers. Liners from America are expected to arrive in December and the first batch of shrimps by March next year. All components of the agricultural development project are in discussion with the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment to ensure that local farmers are safeguarded.
Towards better communication, collaboration and implementation of the plan, IDC has proposed that the Islands committee of the National Assembly be re-established.
In response to members’ questions, CEO Savy assured the assembly that the aquaculture project will not be mismanaged or abandoned, as production has advanced and grown exponentially around the world, making it easier to farm.
“Rest assured that our aim is to produce what our country needs and evidently there is another volume as well, in terms of production to replace importation. We have already started with onions on Desroches and it is going fairly well, and garlic and ginger, and a large vanilla plantation for exportation,” Mr Savy noted.
He further informed members thatthe major challenge IDC faces is manpower on the domestic labour market. The entity is however open to collaborating with farmers, the private sector and to go into joint ventures for any component of the agricultural projects, especially for large-scale production.
Improved national food security, employment creation, and import substitution are but some of the benefits expected from the projects. The projects are at no risk to government.
Department of culture’s short, medium and long term plan to animate Victoria, and entertainment industry
While there are plans to animate the little town of Victoria to commemorate Festival Kreol towards the end of the month, artists and entertainers will have to wait until public health measures are relaxed to get back to work as they know it, Mayor of Victoria and head of the department of culture, David Andre clarified.
In response to Hon. Waven William, Mayor Andre noted that several virtual and physical activities are scheduled for the celebrations upon the approval of the Public Health Authority (PHA), and for this year, the department of culture is closely collaborating district authorities to also have activities at district level, rather than just in town.
With regards to the victimisation of artists and the possibility of promoting their music along Market Street, VP Afif cleared up that once restrictions are removed, artists will be permitted to promote their music in town, as per what the law allows.
Efforts to encourage youths to join defence forces and remuneration upon contract end
VP Afif in response to Hon. Rocky Uranie informed assembly members that recruitment campaigns within the defence forces include activities within schools and professional centres.
In terms of remuneration, recruits are given an allowance until they qualify for service. Salaries and allowances vary for different ranks, specialisations, allowances based on educational qualifications, allowances for transportation which are reserved for certain ranks, as well as duty allowance paid to all soldiers. The scheme makes provisions for sea time allowance, ceremonial allowances and flying hours allowance.
All soldiers also benefit from annual leave and payments for leave at contract end, gratuity, compensation upon retirement or non-renewal of contract, and compensation is permitted to break contract.
According to VP Afif, compensation is not given to those whose contracts are terminated on account of disciplinary issues, and when they face judgment.
In addition to monetary benefits, soldiers benefit from meals, uniforms and accessories, advanced training in other professional domains and welfare assistance.
With the pandemic, the procedure for payments has changed as of 2020, whereby benefits are deposited directly into their accounts.
VP Afif also clarified that only one retired officer is yet to be paid its dues, due to the fact that the matter is before court, and after having refused the compensation.
“We do not have on record any soldiers who have quit, and who are still owed benefits by SPDF. I want to highlight that soldiers have the opportunity to question payments and seek further explanation when unsure, through a process that has been established and which is being observed presently,” VP Afif added.
With regards to recruits from the inner islands, Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) Colonel Michael Rosette said that in future the force plans on establishing facilities on both Praslin and La Digue, where soldiers from those islands can also dwell.
Cost and quality of internet
Concerning the cost and quality of internet services provided in Seychelles, while VP Afif acknowledged that the sector is liberalised, with no price control measures applicable, he also highlighted the numerous benefits consumers stand to gain from a more competitive market.
Detailing government’s strategy adopted towards reduced internet services pricing and improved quality, the vice president explained the rationale behind issuing a license to a third telecommunications operator and to allow more competition in relation to international connectivity.
As per the explanation, by 2023 Seychelles will have three undersea fibre optic cables instead of just one, allowing more services beyond ‘unlimited’ packages, meaning no limits on the quantity of data used. In its efforts, government will negotiate with the company to offer all clients terms and conditions that are not preferential, as well as effect changes in legislation to curb commercial practices which are against fair commerce regulations.
Presently, a complete scientific study is being conducted conjointly with the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) to clearly indicate the different services and their costs.The study will also help to determine the inconsistencies to better address them in future.
To improve performance, regulations are in draft by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to allow consumers to measure quality of service against the price they pay to access the service. With the two new cables, internet services are expected to improve vastly, leaving operators more room to venture onto newer technologies. Currently, only one of three mobile services has fully implemented 5G technology, while the second has been granted permission, and a third is considering the option.
“If all the technical aspects of the cab are used, and the demand that we are seeing from the cable, it is using up only around 6.5 percent of its actual capacity,” explained VP Afif.
“Again, from a purely regulatory perspective, what I firmly believe is that there is space to reduce the price of data, but most importantly, we have to go towards a price, that similarly to what the operators do, has a price for bandwidth, which means paying for the speed and not the data. This is the direction that we are targeting,” VP Afif said.
In going forward, the VP expressed that he would like to see more use of technology in education whereby all schools are connected to broadband and develop expertise in IT, more e-services, more online services including in the private sector, and a gradual transition towards digital economy to create more demand and maximise the use of the fibre optic cable.
In concluding, he noted that the department of information, communication technology (DICT) and OAG are drafting a Cybercrime Bill to deal with instances whereby persons are scammed, with the creation of a specialised unit to investigate and handle such cases.
From January 2020, there have been 187 reported cases of persons being scammed through online platforms, primarily by scammers and criminal groups from West Africa. He urged that citizens be more vigilant and alert to such online activities, and take the necessary steps to educate the protect themselves.