Temporary financial relief measures for low income earners |06 July 2022
• Assistance for pupils and other groups
In view that the world crisis is not showing any signs of improving anytime soon and the high cost of living is heavily affecting many families, the government is introducing a series of new temporary measures to support the lowest income earners, relieve school children and other vulnerable groups in the country.
The Minister for Finance, National Planning and Trade, Naadir Hassan, announced the measures in the National Assembly yesterday afternoon. His fellow ministers for education Dr Justin Valentin and Minister for Youth, Sports and Family, Marie Celine Zialor were also present alongside him to give their input following the announcements.
The new measures are as follows;
Employees from both the public and private sector earning less than R8500 will receive a temporary financial assistance of R500, those earning between R8500 and R9000 will receive a temporary assistance to reach R9000 monthly. Those earning less than R9000 with an electricity bill in their names will receive an additional support of R300. Those already being assisted by the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) will receive an additional sum of R500 monthly. These will include pensioners, home carers, those on invalidity and social benefits.
Pensioners whose monthly revenue exceeds R9000 will not qualify for any of these temporary assistance.
Minister Hassan noted that the country’s economic situation is still fragile following the Covid -19 pandemic when the country’s expenses were way more than it could afford and was collecting and its debt were no longer sustainable.
Among the first measures that the government carried out to help the most vulnerable citizens in our society was to review the weights for social assistance whereby the threshold of R3945 was increased to R5224, an increase of 32%. This came into effect on May 1, 2022.
Families in need of the assistance are being encouraged to apply through the Agency for Social Protection (ASP).
Meanwhile a structure to introduce the maximum price on products imported and sold by the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) will soon be put in place to ensure that these products are sold at the same prices on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
“Regulations will be drafted to make it an offense for these commodities to be sold higher than the maximum retail price,” Minister Hassan explained.
He further noted that in January 2023, all employees will benefit from a 13th month pay where 50%, or a half of their salary will be guaranteed while the other half will be calculated based on their productivity performance.
Minister Hassan said the government is still working on a complete review of the salary structure in the country for 2023 but this again will depend on the country’s economic and budgetary situation.
Support for schoolchildren
In terms of support for schoolchildren as from the third term breakfast for primary and secondary pupils in all State schools will be free but funded by government. Also effective from the third term, primary pupils in all State schools will not have to pay for lunch. Secondary students in all State schools receiving assistance under the Dedicated Fund will continue to be assisted.
The government is working with the caterer that supply school meals to discuss how it can improve on the menu provided.
23000 people to benefit
Meanwhile Minister Hassan has reassured Assembly members and the Seychellois public that the government is not making any additional debt to fund the temporary measures but it is through its economic reforms carried out during the past two years during which it has been very prudent in all its fiscal policies aimed at re-launching the economy, collect more revenue, cut down on expenses and reduce the country’s debts to make it more sustainable.
“The money to fund the new temporary measures is the fruit of the good fiscal performance that the government has undertaken during the past year,” Minister Hassan explained.
He went on to note that the new series of temporary measures will cost the government around R130.6 million for a six-month period. Around 23000 people will benefit from the assistance. After the six-month period the government will review the situation to assess if there is a need for any additional measures.
For those people concerned working in the public and parastatal sectors, it will be easier for them to receive the assistance as the government have access to their payroll but for private sector employees they will have to register through their respective district administration offices. Details of the registration process will be announced in due course.
Around 17,000 pupils concerned by the new assistance
The Minister for Education Dr Justin Valentin said the new measures announced to assist children in State schools will touch around 17,000 pupils and around 15,000 Seychellois families.
“The measures will ensure that no children start a school day on an empty stomach and that once and for all the issues will be eliminated but while the schools know their pupils it is also important for parents to come forward to discuss their situation,” Minister Valentin said.
Meanwhile Minister Valentin has expressed his ministry’s appreciation and thanked all the different organisations and individuals who are in any way possible contributing to improve or enrich the learning experience of the pupils specifically when it comes to providing meals and snacks.
“The Ministry of Education is calling on you all to continue with your different support and assistance as what you are doing will complement what the government is offering,” Minister Valentin said.
He went on to add that with the new measures more pupils will partake in the different meals and this will put some pressure on the ministry’s manpower. He has therefore appealed to teachers to rally parents who can to come and give a helping hand with the different programmes namely with distributing breakfast in the morning.
He added that the schools will also have to review and readjust their timetables noting that in the coming days the ministry will discuss with different groups concerned and agree on the most appropriate and convenient modalities to be applied.
Talks will also be held with tuckshop operators to discuss their role and contribution in the new meals programmes as well as with food caterers to seek ways to improve and enhance their menus to encourage more pupils to partake in the different meals.
“The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health will work closely with the different food caterers to discuss and agree on the different foods, menus, preparation and distribution of the different meals for the children. This will also ensure that if pupils enroll on a nutritious diet and a physical exercise regime during the day, we will succeed in fighting against certain health conditions among pupils,” Minister Valentin remarked.
While he noted that the measures to assist the pupils are aimed at alleviating the financial burden of many parents, our wish at the ministry is for all pupils to understand the importance of the programmes and its aim.
“This is why I am calling on all teachers to help erase the embarrassment that surrounds free school meals and prevent many pupils from benefitting thus causing them to continue to exert pressure on their parents for alternative meal options,” Minister Valentin pointed out, calling on teachers to make the programmes work.
‘All persons who need assistance and support should come forward’ –Minister Zialor
The Minister for Youth, Sports and Family, Marie Celine Zialor, on her part is calling on all persons who feel they need assistance and support in this difficult time to help themselves by coming forward “because it is not easy to have a system which would automatically detect all persons in need of assistance and support”.
For people who qualify to receive assistance with their utility bills but the bills are not in their names Minister Zialor said they should seek help through their district administration offices.
She has also called on families to educate and talk to their children and explain their financial difficulties and encourage their children to partake in the different meals that the school are offering.
Minister Zialor is appealing to families to be more mindful of their expenses and to cut out on consumption of things that they don’t really need and to take measures to reduce their energy consumption.
For those receiving assistance, she is calling on families to exercise more financial discipline and to be mindful of the needs of their children before buying alcohol and cigarettes which are expensive and not good for them and to also be conscious that any savings they could make would help them make ends meet each month and survive the difficult times.
“We don’t have any control over what happens with the world economy but we have control on our actions,” Minister Zialor said.
Minister Zialor has also called for more solidarity and support among family members.
Meanwhile in the committee stage Assembly members sought more clarifications and asked questions on the different measures announced.
Members from both sides of the House welcomed the measures.
Minority party United Seychelles members affirmed that they are satisfied that finally the government has admitted that there are people who need help in our society. They say it has been many months now since they have been calling on the government to listen to the desperate calls of the most vulnerable citizens who are struggling to make ends meet and whose children are going to school without the food they need. They said they appreciate that the government has finally accepted and recognised that families are suffering.
They have called on all families in need to make the most of the assistance being offered.
The secretary of state for finance, Patrick Payet, has meanwhile informed Assembly members that work is still ongoing by government to review different aspects of support and assistance for other groups which will be considered in the budget for next year.