Committee on Government Assurances (Coga) public hearings Assembly committee seeks feedback, updates on promises made before the House |23 April 2022
For two days this week, members of the National Assembly’s Committee on Government Assurances met with two ministers and their technical teams to seek feedback, updates and have a better understanding on promises to deliver on projects made before the House.
First to appear before the Committee on Government Assurances (Coga) on Thursday morning was Minister for Lands and Housing Billy Rangasamy and his team comprising among others principal secretary (PS) for lands Murielle Morgan, PS for housing Denis Barbé, chief executive of the Seychelles Infrastructure Agency Jitesh Shah and chairman of the Seychelles Planning Authority Cyril Bonnelame.
Coga is chaired by Hon. Sylvanne Lemiel and the other members are Hon. Norbert Loizeau as vice chairperson, Hon. Wallace Cosgrow, Hon. Philip Monthy, Hon. Desheila Bastienne, Hon. Rocky Uranie and Hon. Richard Labrosse.
Among the most pertinent assurances that the committee members sought feedback and updates on were housing projects in the different districts and the national demand for land and housing, and land bank projects in different districts.
Minister Rangasamy has informed committee members that assurances made by the previous government with regards to providing houses to those in need and land to individuals who can build their own houses are still there and presently there are 3,200 active requests for houses and 1,200 for land bank plots and the government remains committed to resolve the situation as fast as it can. He said assurances were made on different projects in 2019 but negotiations with India for funding kicked off the year before.
Minister Rangasamy went on to explain the different challenges and conditions to secure funding all of which have been delayed due to the economic situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But the government remains committed to its engagement and will continue to explore new opportunities for funding to ensure it continues to deliver on the housing projects and develop more land to meet demands while at the same time see how it can assist those individuals who are ready to finance their own homes through self-financing schemes,” Minister Rangasamy said.
During the discussions, members and the public learned that altogether a total of 100 plots from the land bank are almost ready for allocation. They were also briefed on the different issues that had caused delays including difficult terrain and topography, high cost to develop infrastructure, challenges in discussing way leave with private property owners among others.
The different plots to be allocated soon are at ‘Lo Lanmar’ in Beau Vallon ‒ seven plots which would be the first allocation for the year. PS Morgan said at present some technical works among other formalities are being finalised before applicants are called in and this is expected to happen in the coming two to three weeks.
At Ex-Holden Pierre, Anse Louis (Anse Boileau), there will be 26 plots and Mr Shah explained that access road and drainage have been completed since December last year.
Also at Anse Boileau, Ex-Zelia, four plots have been earmarked for allocation.
While an agreement has been found to settle payment for utilities infrastructure in installment with the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC), the latter is now in the process of installing its water pipes and electricity wiring and other related infrastructures on the different plots of land.
The ministry is finalising procedures for allocation of different plots in other districts ‒ La Gogue (35 plots), Ex-Melon in Pointe Larue (16 plots) and Machabée (12 plots). PS Morgan noted that allocation of the last plots in the batch of 100 plots will be at La Gogue by the end of June this year.
With regards to an assurance on the Plaisance housing project, Mr Shah said there is no new information as to the Ex-Murray project of 72 units and the Société du Logement in Belvédère ‒ two redevelopment projects which are still on the list and will be prioritised once funding is made available.
As for the Société du Logement, there was a request for government to look into and address the situation of the tenants who need to be relocated if the project was to start as their conditions are deteriorating namely those relating to sewerage.
On this issue, PS Barbé said work is being done behind the scene with regards to the Société du Logement project and a decision will be announced in due course. Other issues related to housing were the different challenges related to putting up sewerage treatment plants (STP) projects at the different housing estates, the high costs of maintaining the STPs, challenges to find the appropriate space to install STPs and other related issues.
Assurances on the land use plan were clarified by the chairman of the Seychelles Planning Authority Cyril Bonnelame and these include assurances given on the land use planning itself, the La Retraite reclamation project and access to beaches around the country.
With regards to the reclamation project, Mr Bonnelame said following an issue raised by the MNA for Anse Etoile Georges Romain in March 2021 relating to the fact that the reclamation was heavily impacting on the livelihood of fishermen in the area, this resulted in the project being stopped temporarily to allow for more public consultations.
Mr Bonnelame said the demarcation was reviewed and at present work on the project is almost 80% complete. Once completed the reclaimed area would provide for the widening of the main road, a commercial and residential area among other businesses.
In relation to access to beaches, Mr Bonnelame pointed out that under the new law, all developments taking place near the beach should provide for public access to the beach. He said for businesses already established which have closed the access, the planning authority will have to undertake negotiations with them so that they reopen the access to the public and this he said is an issue which will pose a big challenge for the authority.
As for the assurance on the land use plan, Bernard Belle, senior urban planner with the planning authority, explained that the Strategic Land Use Plan Seychelles 2040 guides the planning authority’s land use planning and this is being used to review and update existing plans.
“What we are doing at present is to review areas which have been classified as medium density and change them to high density, thus allowing developers to add more developments to their plot of land. The land use plans of some districts are also in the process of being reviewed and almost nearing completion. These are namely the plans for Anse Royale, Baie Ste Anne, Grand Anse Praslin, La Digue and Anse Aux Pins,” Mr Belle said, adding that these plans will soon be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers.
For the Anse Royale land use plan, Mr Belle said they have gone back for more consultation with different departments, specifically on the development of the area from the Anglican church to the Anse Royale school.
Additionally, Mr Belle said they plan to go back to the public with the plans for eight districts around Victoria because public consultation was not adequate. He said they have also started to review the plan for Grand Anse Mahe and Bel Ombre. With regards to the Victoria Master Plan he said the design for the Victoria Waterfront would be amended and they are also exploring other ways to better manage traffic, infrastructure, electricity, telecommunication and the drainage systems in Victoria.
On Friday morning, it was the turn of Health Minister Peggy Vidot and her team comprising PS for health, Dr Bernard Valentin; chief executive of Health Care Agency, Dr Danny Louange; among other key officials, to answer questions.
Minister Vidot and her team were questioned on health assurances made in statements by the health minister in 2018 in relation to the health master plan.
Giving a brief overview of the health master plan, Minister Vidot said it detailed the development and implementation of different health-related projects stating when the different phases were to be carried out.
In the first five years of the plan, projects to be carried out included an outpatient hospital for Anse Royale, a new hospital for La Digue, a centralised sterile supply unit, internal relocation of different units in the ministry, a new health centre for Baie Lazare among different other projects.
“During the five years as per the plan, some projects have started as per the budget. But a pandemic hit us derailing our plan and causing significant delays to our planned projects. But I am happy to say that we have managed to work on and almost complete the sterile supply unit. At the beginning of this year work started on the new La Digue hospital and is expected to be completed early next year. Work has also started on the new health school ‒ National Institute of Health and Social Studies (NIHSS) at Mont Fleuri ‒ to boost training of health professionals,” Minister Vidot explained.
With regards to the Anse Royale outpatient facility, Minister Vidot explained that contrary to the original plan, the ministry will not be able to realise the project as originally planned, but is working with its partners to reassess the needs of the region. She said they are planning to modernise, and upgrade the emergency and casualty units of the Anse Royale hospital to add some facilities like X-ray and CT scan as well as increase doctors’ and specialists’ consultation rooms, and they are receiving assistance from a donor for the project.
Members of the committee had a lot of questions related to the different phases of the plan as well as different projects and other related matters.
At the end of the hearings Hon. Lemiel said it was important for ministers and their teams to answer on assurances still outstanding made before the National Assembly.
“Light has been shed on many issues related to the different housing, land and public infrastructure projects around the country,” said Hon. Lemiel.
Thanking Minister Vidot and her team, Hon. Lemiel said the public has received a better understanding and more clarity and information on assurances that were still outstanding.
“We now have a better understanding of what has and has not been done and why,” Hon. Lemiel stated.