Budget 2021 - Assembly approves allocations for more entities |02 March 2021
An allocation of R10 million for the department of fisheries and another sum of R144.627 million for the department of the Blue Economy were the first to be scrutinized before being approved by members of the National Assembly yesterday morning.
The minister responsible for fisheries Jean François Ferrari and other key officials from the same ministry namely outgoing PS Jude Talma, advisor Roy Clarisse, consultant Philip Michaud as well as the PS for the Blue Economy Kenneth Racombo were in the Assembly to answer members’ questions in relation to the two budget heads.
The PS for Finance, Damien Thesee, was also part of the panel.
Minister Ferrari pointed out in his presentation that the Ministry of Fisheries is one of the smallest in terms of budget and staffing and this he noted is because the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) has the responsibility to carry out the biggest part of the work relating to implementing projects in the fisheries sector and for this it has its own separate budget.
In relation to his title as Designated Minister, Mr Ferrari affirmed that the position carry no expenses and comes at no cost and has no secretariat as was the case in the previous administration.
Among the different issues members raised in relation to the budget were;
- allocation to complete infrastructure projects for Glacis fishermen as well as other similar projects to facilitate fishermen and artisanal fishing in other districts around the country.
With regard to facilities for fishermen at Cascade Minister Ferrari explained that the remaining infrastructure to be put in place include a fish market, pontoons among others are being finalised with the SFA before being taken back to the community for their inputs.
Minister Ferrari said their aim is to come up with projects that will benefit the community fully and not just be put up like has been the case in the past but which were not being put to good use by the community.
Minister Ferrari explained that money allocated for such projects do not feature in the budget as they will be funded under the EU Sectoral Support Fund for the fisheries sector which falls under the SFA budget.
- difficulties for fishermen to find market to sell their fish was also raised in view of the increasingly difficult situation where market is limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister Ferrari has assured fishermen that a lot of effort is being put in exploring different ways to open new markets both locally and internationally for fish products until the tourism industry gradually picks up and hotels restart buying local fish.
Minister Ferrari has also called on fishermen and all businessmen in the fisheries sector to continue to be innovative in this difficult time and to explore new markets for their fish products.
“We are doing our utmost to ensure that all fish catches brought ashore are sold but I am also calling on fishermen to be patient until the present difficult situation improves and to ensure they don’t just go out to fish if they have not secured markets for their products,” Minister Ferrari pointed out.
Minister Ferrari also gave Assembly members more details on the process underway to develop different projects, business initiatives on a plot of land earmarked for such projects situated in Zone 14 in relation to adding value to fish.
Assembly members also received more details on a policy for by-catch which PS Talma explained is being finalised, an insurance policy for fishermen which is being reviewed, talks underway to explore ways for Seychelles to benefit more from the fisheries agreement with the EU, the fuel allowance for fishermen which Minister Ferrari said is being reviewed by the SFA among many other issues raised and discussed.
Defending the budget for the Blue Economy department Minister Ferrari gave Assembly members a detailed vision of how his ministry is planning to develop the sector.
He noted that the budget for the Blue Economy comprises loans and grants that the government receives from various organisations.
Minister Ferrari has assured Assembly members that effort is being stepped up to encourage and invite all types of development initiatives related to the blue economy, a sector which he said is vast and full of potentials.
Assembly members were also given details of loans and grants which the department has received in the past and the challenges it faced which have prevented it from accessing the fund as well as work underway to better manage the situation and to ensure Seychelles benefit to the maximum.
A budget of R324,000 for the Office of the Commissioner of Public Persons (Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interest)
Judge Bernardin Renaud, the Commissioner responsible for the office, was present in the Assembly to defend the budget.
Judge Renaud highlighted the difficulties and the numerous challenges he has been facing to set up the office which was announced in June last year.
Mr Renaud explained that he is yet to recruit a permanent secretary for the office which is being set up at the Le Chantier Mall.
Judge Renaud explained that a lot needs to be done to educate the population on the role, function and mandate of the office while members have expressed concern that the office will not be able to operate appropriately and deliver on its important mandate based on its limited budget allocation.
The budget received the approval of members from both parties.
R7.743 million budget approved for the Seychelles Human Rights Commission
Judge Bernardin Renaud also defended the budget for the Seychelles Human Rights Commission of which he is the chairperson. The office was set up in March 2019 and Judge Renaud gave Assembly members a detailed overview of the work that the office carries out, the challenges it faces to raise public awareness on the importance of the Commission.
Members approved the budget for the commission after several clarifications were sought and questions answered.
R2.766 million for the Office of the Ombudsman
Ombudsman Nicole Tirant Gherardi defended the sum allocated for her office giving Assembly members an overview of the work the office is mandated to carry out.
She explained that there is still a lot of misunderstanding on the role of her office and a lot of public awareness and education is still required, something she aims to do.
She also noted that among the numerous complaints received by her office the majority was in relation to employment, house and land allocations as well as other public service grievances.
Assembly members from both parties approved the budget for the office of the Ombudsman.
Assembly Speaker rejects allegation of plagiarism by his deputy
Following an allegation tabled by the leader of the opposition Sebastien Pillay at the start of yesterday morning’s sitting that deputy Speaker Gervais Henrie had copied the speech of Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese, Speaker Roger Mancienne has rejected the allegation of plagiarism.
While he recognised the similarity between the two speeches, Speaker Mancienne went on to explain the different aspects of plagiarism and he explained that the words used by Mr Henrie applied very well in the context of his speech and the situation he was addressing which was replying to the budget address. He said Mr Henrie used his own words inspired by Mr Albanese speech. He said he should have acknowledged the fact that he had been inspired by the Australian politician but he stressed that this in no way affected the privilege of the Assembly.
For his part Mr Henrie admitted that he had been inspired by Mr Albanese speech.
“My wish is that we needed a speech which called for our nation to come together and help where we can to continue encouraging our brothers and sisters to come together at this difficult time where such a call is very important,” Mr Henrie stressed.
He added that he gets his inspiration from different sources and Mr Albanese’s speech inspired him so he adapted his words to fit our local context and his words are universal truth and could be used by anybody.
“Yes, I see his words as an inspiration that Seychelles and all Seychellois need at a time when our country is on its knees and needs the effort of everybody to bring it back on its feet. At a time when Seychelles needs all of us I call on the opposition to let themselves be inspired like me with the advice and wisdom of other world political leaders calling on their people to stand together so as to face and overcome the present difficult situation as soon as possible.”
In reference to a comment he made that the leader of the opposition Sebastien Pillay did not write his speech, Mr Henrie said this was just a passing remark which he has retracted.
The National Assembly continues its budget debate today.