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Rapid Response Committee meets |25 May 2020

Rapid Response Committee meets

Members of the committee during the meeting on Saturday under the chairmanship of President Faure (Photo: Jude Morel)

Evaluating response and way forward after COVID-19


By Laura Pillay


Members of the Rapid Response Committee congregated at State House on Saturday for a special meeting chaired by President Danny Faure, in which they addressed food security and the numerous structures in place to provide assistance and protect citizens from the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee, which usually meets once a month, has over the past two months convened more frequently to address the numerous ways in which to safeguard the wellbeing of Seychellois families and society at large, during these uncertain times, brought on by the pandemic.

During the meet, members of the committee laid out the different structures in place within their respective ministries, departments and agencies, evaluating the work done thus far, the weaknesses and challenges presented by the structures, as well as the way forward, with emphasis on rendering services more effectively.

With the contraction of the economy and the stand-still in the tourism industry on which many families rely, agencies such as the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) and the department of poverty alleviation have recorded an influx in applications for assistance, as informal sector and casual basis workers find themselves with no source of income.

“Among the decisions taken, based on statistics recorded by the Agency for Social Protection (ASP), we are conscious that there are more persons who need assistance. It is important that people know that assistance comes with certain conditions, that tax payers money is put to good use. It is for that reason, aside from the financial assistance, there will be more emphasis on follow-ups. It is something we were already preparing for but we will initiate it sooner to offer psychological support to families to manage their finances well, to adapt when they are faced with problems, because at the core, to preserve the well-being and dignity of our families and people, we want to ensure that all structures are in place and to deliver,” said principal secretary for poverty alleviation Alvin Laurence.

“When we refer to human dignity we mean the standard of living but how well a family react to the different services and assistance at their disposition. In general, we have observed that the population have responded well and followed advisories of the department of health. But that is not to say that now, as we return to the new normal, we need to let our guard down; it is still essential for everyone to maintain the measures advised by the department of health. It is important for people to also know at this point that they need to better manage their finances and are prudent in their spending, because the situation is uncertain and could possibly worsen. It is important that families take the initiative to also make their contribution towards preserving their families’ dignity,” said PS Laurence.

According to PS Laurence, the pandemic and ensuing repercussions have served to highlight where more efforts need to be channeled and the need to keep engaging and continuously work with persons seeking assistance from the government is a priority. More specifically, the aim is to reduce dependence on assistance such as welfare assistance, and to keep citizens engaged to earn a living to support their families.

ASP has recorded a 500 percent increase in applications for welfare assistance over the past two months with applications jumping from an average 400 per month to 2758 in April alone. Most applicants are persons who do not qualify for the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR) scheme under the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning for reasons of being unemployed, as they work informally.

“During the week, the government announced the decision to guarantee salary payments for private sector employees until December and how else we can get our population to remain engaged and active because dependence on assistance is not beneficial to an individual,” chief executive officer of ASP, Marcus Simeon, stated.

“We also addressed how else we can assist someone to access an income since welfare assistance is not sufficient to meet all their needs. A vast plethora of issues were discussed today including retraining, reskilling and reinventing, which sectors can accommodate more people and in which sectors can we create jobs. Today, in Seychelles, we have seen a complete turn, we were in a situation where there were more jobs than human resource but now we need to find ways to put the human resources to use in other sectors so individuals can earn a living, as assistance sometimes barely meets their needs,” Mr Simeon stated.

In line with this priority, the Ministry of Family Affairs has been training and developing staff and mentors to follow-up on applicants and offer services such as counselling, help with budgeting, problem solving and more. Work is also underway to devise appropriate programmes aimed at training and reskilling citizens so they can access jobs and be less-reliant on government assistance.

With regards to food security, Mr Laurence affirmed that the country has adequate stock of essential commodities to last until December.

Members of the committee present at the meeting comprised Designated Minister Macsuzy Mondon, Minister for Family Affairs Mitcy Larue, Minister for Habitat, Lands, Infrastructure and Land Transport Pamela Charlette, communication advisor to the President Laurie-May Lepathy-Ansah, the chief executive (CEO) of Seychelles Trading Company (STC) Christine Joubert, the principal secretary for infrastructure Yves Choppy, principal secretary for local government Marie-Celine Vidot-Jeannevol, principal secretary for poverty alleviation Alvin Laurence, principal secretary for public affairs in the Office of the President Doreen Arnephy, and CEO of the Agency for Social Protection Marcus Simeon.



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