We live on top of a gold mine, yet we are poor, how come? |08 January 2022
This is a conundrum which I will try and explain frankly and honestly to the best of my knowledge and ability.
Yes this is our situation today because we have been impervious to our needs and requirements and we have left it to others to come forward and develop our country and when they do and they make money then we get jealous because we have sat with our fingers up our proverbial and spent our time watching 20 years old programmes on SBC.
In my opinion this is the real state of our nation today whether we like it or not and whether you agree with me or not. No politicians will speak up in this manner because they fear they will lose their political support, I have no fear and I am not a politician. We have been robbed blind; our economy (blue, white, green, yellow, purple or any colour you wish to use) has become stagnant, the cost of living continues to surge ahead and right now we are just about keeping our heads above water using donations from here and there then someone tells us there is a tsunami coming, can you believe this is going on in this day and age in our beloved Seychelles?
The people, through the ballot box, has removed a bad political party from power after 43 years, who took over our country in a coup d’état then kept changing the name of their party but retained the assets they have taken from us and now the people have voted in a new party. Now what? Well, things must change, wouldn’t you say so? It has to be acknowledged however, that the new team of ministers are more approachable, more intelligent, more pro-active and more effective than the last lot of ministers who thought they were “the untouchable primadonnas” and they would not answer emails and letters and would not see the people when the people needed to see them. While it is true that the new Government has inherited a kales kase (broken chariot) we have the Seychellois brains and the know-how to repair and renovate and make the kales (chariot) even more beautiful and comfortable and we have the means at our disposal to recover the assets taken from us, because we cannot continue to live in abject poverty when we can do something about recovering our assets, Covid is just an excuse to do nothing.
We see so many young Seychellois on drugs, we blame them for playing loud music while the older ones drink alcohol and shout and play dominos and anyone who has studied psychology will tell you this is because our way of life is stooped knee deep in poverty and some of us drink to alleviate the pain because alcohol supresses brain activities and numbs the subconscious mind. We have to ask ourselves a very important question, which is, how can a nation blessed by the Lord, or whoever you believe in, with such beauty, excellent climate, no cyclones, no tsunami, with an abundance of sunshine all year round, fish in the sea, rich agricultural and alluvial soil where anything grows and adequate rainfall, how come we are so poor that we have to take our begging bowls to our friendly Arab neighbours to help us survive? Where is our Seychellois pride? Where is all the learning we have spent time and money to acquire knowledge? Where are all the retired brains that could be re-utilised instead of them waiting to be fed to the worms? Do we want to be part of Africa? Do we want to go backward or do we want to move forward and become the pearl in the Indian Ocean?
India tries to help us when they themselves have a 6% poverty rate which equals to 97.7 million people living below India’s poverty line and raw sewage still runs along the street of Delhi where people live while here in Seychelles we have a 40% poverty rate which equals to just under 40,000 Seychellois and we can smell raw sewage coming from Providence, Roche Caiman and the new Port Area. China on the other hand has lifted more than 100 million people out of poverty so if China can do it why can’t we, yes? The choice is ours to make and we must stop making excuses for our failures always blaming others when we have to look at ourselves because it is us, we, the Seychellois nation who is not achieving what we can achieve using our assets.
So where do we start? First of all let us agree that it is no good having tons of assets when there is no cash in the bank to put food on the table. We must turn our assets into liquidity and trade our assets otherwise they just lie there and perish or someone comes along and steals our assets from us which has already happened. Some critical assets we must keep as Seychellois owned of course but what is the point of having 115 islands if we only use about 8, the rest is IDC’s playground where some people are making lots of money, wake up to reality my friend. We must sell as many islands as we can on 99 years lease which means we retain our sovereignty but we get an income. We have donated Aldabra to the World Heritage Foundation this leaves us 114 islands which means we have a minimum of at least 100 good islands we can sell. Covid has created more millionaires around the world and they can afford to buy their own island. Another idea is we create an Economic Manufacturing Zone where we allow Chinese people from Hong Kong and Taiwan to settle in this Zone and they create another Hong Kong miracle where we can have a manufacturing base right in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Think of the tax revenue alone from such an endeavour. In addition we share with our oceanic neighbours 115,000 square kilometres of the Mascarenes which is an enormous sea plateau full of potential marine products and medicines waiting for exploitation. We have been blessed with so much free assets that it beggars belief why are we still poor?
Furthermore a Technology Park must be created, where the young minds of our youth can be put to work and the people get back from the young people our investment in their education and further studies abroad but mostly the aim is to create Seychellois scientists. Until we create our own scientists we will have to use foreigners to fill the gap. We have an abundance of sunshine all year round what have we done about it? Sweet nothing, we keep relying on tourism as our main bread winner which is dangerous. We have done very little to help ourselves, we are still waiting for someone else to come and help us but what about self-help is this not in our language? We have been busy buying more solar panels and we have located our solar farm at sea level, which is real stupidity. Yet we know that nuclear energy is a dead technology and solar panels are also a dying technology. With free sunlight we can develop fusion cells which will replace the huge area required by solar panels. We can develop sunlight powered cars which use batteries when the sun is hiding and a fan when the wind is blowing.
Seychelles is the remains of Gondwana, which collided with Europe, North America and Siberia some 540 million years ago to form the super continent of Pangea. Therefore we have enough carbon deposits in our ocean beds to provide us with an adequate supply of crude oil for our immediate exploitation but someone has put a lid on this matter hoping to exploit it later privately. Sorry we must exploit it now for the good of all Seychellois.
We must rethink our childhood early learning strategy because I can’t believe that in this day and age we teach out young children Creole in school, this is such a big mistake and has kept our nation behind the rest of the world. The global language used to be English but more and more we have to contend with two global languages which are English and Chinese. The main Chinese language is Mandarin or locally called “Putonghua” spoken in 70% of China. English is spoken in 67 countries plus 27 non-sovereign entities around the world. The Americans are credited for spreading the English language not the English nation. Ask yourself how many countries speak our Creole language? So why do we teach our children Creole?
Drinking water is becoming a real problem around the world because the sun is approaching the Earth in its natural elliptical cycle and this is creating climate change. Climate change is not man-made despite the fact that our scientists and politicians are blaming climate change on the activities of mankind. Whether we burn fossil fuel or not or travel on the back of donkeys instead of cars climate change will continue to occur because it is a non-stoppable natural process. What mankind is doing is exacerbating the onslaught and effects of climate change by creating carbon emissions. Clean drinking water will continue to be a scarce commodity and here in Seychelles where our atmosphere is not polluted we can use natural sunlight to turn the hydrogen in the air into water because the mountain streams will soon dry up. The scientific symbol for water is H20 which means two part hydrogen and one part oxygen so there you have it the raw material is free and exists all around us, day and night.
One more beef I have is the amount of money foreigners pay us to fish in our waters. It is not enough because they are depleting our fish stock then they sit around the table and give us a few Euros. This is not good enough again because we rely and live on such revenue instead of having Seychellois ships doing the fishing, processing the catch onshore and selling the finished products, but why can’t we do it instead we have a company all the way from Thailand doing it? What is wrong with us? I am sure Minister Ferrari will tell you it can be done and he wants it to be done that way but we need more Seychellois entrepreneurs involved in the process.
Another asset we are not using is our geographical position in the world. Seychelles lies at the crossroad of East and West physically and in time zone differences and a Global Financial Centre in Seychelles including several Call Centres handling international calls in different languages will bring us a huge amount of revenue. Why are we not doing it? Another asset which can bring us revenue is SBC. We need to sell SBC because SBC is wasting 3 valuable TV channels of broadcasting and not educating our population. SBC is not making programmes to sell to the world yet we have the best film locations in the world. This festive season has really shown us how unproductive SBC can be with SBC3 not used at all and SBC 1 and SBC 2 showing the same antiquated repeats. This is our tax payers’ money being wasted. On the other hand the Seychelles NATION newspaper is being very well managed but the workers are not being paid enough so let us privatise NATION and let the good workers earn what they deserve.
The problem is every President we have had so far have wanted SBC and NATION at their beck and call but funded by you and I so that each time they cough it is reported on front page and on the 7, 8 and 10 o’clock news. This is a waste of tax payers’ money and a luxury we can no longer afford. It is time to put together a small team of like- minded people and we start to market the assets of Seychelles, we are tired of being poor while some people steal our assets and go and live overseas with our money in their offshore bank accounts. I have been in marketing most all my working life and I have made lots of money for companies overseas and it is as clear as daylight that we are sitting on a gold mine while some of our kids go hungry and we cannot let the situation continue for much longer. The Minister for Finance must move to create a new marketing team to market the assets of Seychelles as a matter of urgency, Covid or no Covid. Our young people are coming home with their new degrees and they do not have job opportunities so they languish in the quagmire of our current poverty stricken environment and they will turn to drugs and crime if we do nothing about the current state of our nation. Poverty is the most existential threat to our burgeoning society and our Seychellois way of life must change with the times so join me in this endeavour.
Please make contact with me so we can put together a delegation and meet with the Minister for Finance and the President with plans to start to market our assets and reduce our dependence on begging and donations. We have taken donations too far to the point that now a well known Indian entrepreneur is sponsoring free tampons for our women soon his name will become a household name, where? Down there of course where else? We already issue free condoms so what next? Come on this is a bridge too far, we cannot continue along that road. Some of us still treasure in high esteem our Seychellois pride and dignity and enough is enough?
Barry Laine FCIM, FInst SMM, MCMI, MBSCH
Seychelles Civil Society (SCS)
The Wishing Well
Anse Des genets, Mahe, Seychelles
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Seychelles NATION newspaper.