Budget 2022: Day 3 More budget heads approved |27 November 2021
Minister Sylvestre Radegonde presented both budgets for the departments of foreign affairs and tourism in the National Assembly yesterday.
The tourism department received approval for their budget of R198.9 million for 2022 compared to R140.8 million received as revised budget in 2021. This represents a R58.1 million year-on-year increase.
“This sum of R58.1 million includes R28.7 million that STB (Seychelles Tourism Board) had already spent between January and June this year, before the restructuring. There is also a sum of R25.6 million that represents a budget cut approved for STB during the mid-year review. It is important to note that these two sums, which add up to R54.3 million, are not reflected in the 2021 revised budget. So in reality the department of tourism is actually getting an increase of only R3.8 million,” Minister Radegonde explained.
Present during the deliberations were principal secretary for tourism, Sherin Francis and Terrence Max, director of the Seychelles Tourism Academy which falls under the portfolio of the tourism department.
The department for foreign affairs, which is responsible for implementing the country’s foreign policies, saw its budget of R94.6 million, a reduction of R680,000 compared to 2021’s budget, approved by the Assembly.
Both departments were voted as part of the same ministry, totalling up to R293 million, and received 30 votes in favour.
During the morning session, Designated Minister and Minister for Fisheries and Blue Economy, Jean-François Ferrari, proposed an amendment to the budget, that two budget heads ‒ departments of fisheries and blue economy, would appear under one heading as the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy.
Minister Ferrari explained that the technical amendment had already received approval from President Wavel Ramkalawan.
The ministry’s budget for 2022 stands at R108.7 million and was approved with 28 votes in its favour.
Minister Ferrari noted that the budgets for both departments under the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy are among some of the budget heads that are not increasing in 2022.
However, the budget for the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), R132.7 million, was the subject of much scrutiny and debate in the National Assembly before it was approved.
SBC’s chief executive, Berard Duprès, was placed in the hot seat to answer questions related to increase of employees’ salaries and SBC’s broadcasting operations and content.
Mr Duprès noted that the national broadcaster is working towards creating a subscription-based, video on demand platform where the public will be able to access archived and well as recent contents.
“This will open up SBC to the world. Someone who speaks and understand Creole ‒ in Mauritius or other country ‒ will be able to view Seychellois music, drama and other contents which have subtitles. It also opens the door to more advertising[…],” he told the representatives.
Surprisingly, the interventions and questions targeted at Mr Duprès all came from United Seychelles (US) MNAs while Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) did not intervene.
On behalf of the LDS caucus, the elected member for Mont Buxton for LDS, Gervais Henrie, explained the reason as to why this was the case.
“We have not intervened on this budget and we want the people we represent to understand why we took this decision. In the 2021 budget, SBC was the entity which received the least votes in its favour and that was for a simple reason; the majority members of the LDS caucus did not support its budget because there is a perception, and even more than a perception, that SBC is not balanced in its coverage and does not present information in an impartial way that satisfies the population,” Hon. Henrie said.
“We are not satisfied in its efforts to address our concerns in the past months and are not convinced that SBC is looking into our concerns with the urgency it needs. We recognise personal efforts of some media practitioners within SBC ‒ we encourage them to continue doing so. We recall the acknowledgement made by SBC’s CEO in April that there are improvements to be made.”
Hon. Henrie explained that the LDS caucus of the National Assembly has not been satisfied with SBC’s performance during this year but is ready to give the entity space to improve and even to collaborate with SBC, particularly through the parliament’s Media, Youth and Culture committee.
In his reply, Mr Duprès noted that he is troubled with this discourse in regards to SBC since the broadcaster has made strides in becoming more impartial, independent and objective, particularly during his four years at the helm.
“If we are honest with ourselves ask whether the SBC we know now is much worse than the previous SBC in regards to impartiality, objectivity and accuracy,” Mr Duprès stated, adding that conclusions such as what have been made in the National Assembly should be backed by facts and evidence.
He added that SBC undertakes investigations in each complaint it receives, even those on Facebook, and it investigated a total of 43 complaints and 24 during this year.
SBC’s budget was approved with 19 votes in favour and 12 abstentions.
The National Assembly also approved budget allocations for:
- The Legislature (National Assembly): R40.5 million
- Other Goods and Services: R107.9 million
- Social Programmes of Central Government: R303.4 million
- Contingency: R50 million
- Tax exemptions: R10 million
- Others: R47.3 million