VP Afif clarifies cabinet decisions |25 November 2023
Cabinet has reviewed the existing Home-Saving Scheme under which housing loan applicants contributed a percentage of their salary to the scheme until they had raised sufficient savings to qualify for housing assistance.
The Housing department would urge existing applicants to remain up to date with their monthly payments so as to remain on the active list.
This was among a number of policy memoranda and regulations approved during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by President Wavel Ramkalawan.
On Thursday Vice-President Ahmed Afif held the weekly press briefing to provide further details about the decision, explaining that a deadline would be set for applicants to express their continued interest to remain on the scheme.
VP Afif said the revisions basically tend to create a priority list within those who have applied for a housing system.
“We feel that there may be hundreds of applications but we need to give priority to those who are more serious in terms of their ability to pay, their track record and the ability to be immediately allocated with a house,” he said.
“For example if people are prepared to put aside 5 percent of their income for a home-saving scheme, this will show commitment and if they have a track record of having paid for 24 months, and they do not have a consecutive three months non-payment in a year, then they have a clean record to go on the active list. Your chance to get a house is much higher,” added the vice-president.
Cabinet has also reviewed the Scheme for Special Housing. “This review which caters for applicants who already owned land but did not have the means to build a house for themselves on the land. For the time being this will apply for people who earn up to R10,000,” noted VP Afif.
Another approved recommendation was the Remunerations Committee on the fees payable to chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and members of boards of parastatal companies and agencies. Increases were proposed based on the income generation level and strategic importance of the respective entities. The last such revision was done in 2019.
According to Mr Afif there was currently no framework to decide how much these people should be paid.
“Most of these people come from the private sector and we have to take into account what they are foregoing in order to fulfill this responsibility and pitch at a level to encourage them to provide such services.”
The allowances will be based on the size of the company and a chairperson could earn up to R13,000, while a member could earn upto R 4,500.
Another decision, approved by the Cabinet, was the setting up of a multi-stakeholder committee, including producers, to undertake a study on alcohol consumption in Seychelles. The findings would guide further policy development on this subject.
“Alcohol consumption is said to be very high in Seychelles and the government is very concerned about the negative effects of such consumptions. The family, work, healthcare and the economy are being affected. Productivity is affected and employers are affected,” elaborated VP Afif.
He said the first step would be to put together the stakeholders, which include producers, parents, doctors and people affected, so they understand exactly what the problem is.
“We get the statistics and have a clear reference what need to be done. Then they can make recommendations to the government,” stated VP Afif.
Another approved decision was for the continuation of the fuel subsidy made available to operators of inter-island ferries. The subsidy was introduced in 2022, and was to have ceased in October 2023. The intention had been to reduce the costs of ferrying goods from Mahé to other islands. It was reported that most ferry operators had not applied for the subsidy, and had not raised the prices they charged for ferrying the goods. Government has decided to continue with the subsidy to encourage further reduction in the cost of goods in other islands.
VP Afif noted that the government is encouraging the ferry operators who have not contacted the government for their 25 percent refund to do so and this concession will go for another six to 12 months, and will be reevaluated.
Cabinet also approved the Regulations under the Seychelles Gambling Act to clarify the specific categories of interactive gambling for the purpose of issuing licences under the Act, as well as the applicable licence fees and conditions. This would allow for gambling industry to remain abreast of global developments.
“These changes are intended to strengthen the regulatory framework around this law. The Act is dated 2014 and the Regulations today allows people to get their licence for normal gambling and nothing really stops them going for online gambling. In the absence of such regulations, Seychelles could be seen as not being helpful in the fight against illegal activities and money-laundering,” said VP Afif, adding that these changes will provide the necessary guidelines for licensees and allow the authorities to take actions in case something goes wrong.
Cabinet also approved the relocation of the Seychelles Electoral Commission which will soon move to a new premises in Mont Fleuri, which is the new steel building next to the current headquarters of the education ministry.
According to Mr Afif the new location will be more spacious and suitable for the commission’s functions. “Currently SEC is paying R5 million as rent and also the place it is currently in is not appropriate for the job it is doing. Space is a constraint. In terms of security, Seychelles Police is not satisfied with the current setting,” explained VP Afif.
He also provided clarification with regard to Cabinet’s decision two weeks ago not to turn Perseverance secondary school into a TVET school. VP shared that “after meeting with the parents of Perseverance, the Ministry of Education has to think otherwise. The idea of having a TVET is still here and the Ministry of Education is looking at alternative ways to take care of the children who are meant to go to TVET. One of the ways is to have the students go in specific institutions for training where they will get the practical base then do the theory at home,” explained VP Afif.
Text & photo by Vidya Gappy