TIS calls for more transparency from President’s office and finance ministry |13 March 2021
Transparency Initiative Seychelles has sent three letters to the President’s Office and the Ministry of Finance, calling for more transparency on the Covid-19 Relief Fund, the FA4JR beneficiary list, and land matters.
The letters, which were sent on Thursday, address lack of information or clarity pertaining to the first two above mentioned issues, namely plans for the Covid-19 relief fund and how the spending process will take place as well as a request that the full list of FA4JR beneficiaries be made public.
The third letter on land matters is an open letter and it reads as follows:
“Dear Mr President,
Transparency Initiative Seychelles (TIS) has been following closely the debates in recent weeks on the subject of land ownership, land use, land planning in Seychelles. The topic, interest in which first arose with the Anse à la Mouche development project, has brought to light many inefficiencies and loopholes which TIS feels require urgent attention.
The Environment Protection Act’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations
TIS would like to call for an urgent review of the Environment Protection Act which makes provisions for the EIA process. There is confusion about what the EIA consists of and its objectives, which has resulted in diminished public faith in its role. Given what is at stake, i.e. the sustainable use of our land, we implore the government to look into this as soon as possible. There are other projects, magnitude of which, stand to impact our local communities greatly, which are in the pipeline. A reviewed EIA will ensure that procedures and processes are up-dated and aligned with other policies and laws which have seen the light of day since the EIA Regulations were enforced.
Better transparency is guaranteed when the public participates in activities which will impact them. Public consultations are important in ensuring that concerns and grievances are known, understood and addressed.
There needs to be more clarity in how this process should work for both the public and the authorities. This is something which a revised EIA should take into account.
The 1972 Town & Country Planning Act
The Act, which makes provisions for all works and operations defined as development to obtain permission prior to implementation is 49 years old. It is significant to note that the (Town & Country) Planning Authority is established under this Act which also defines its functions and powers.
In 2019, the National Assembly approved a replacement, the Physical Planning bill, which the-then President Danny Faure refused to assent to on the grounds of inconsistencies and returned to the National Assembly. TIS is calling on the government to pick up where this was left off so that development can be guided by more updated and transparent policies and regulations.
Land Use Plans for Islands
Some islands have their own land use plans, specific to that particular island, which guides development. In the spirit of transparency, TIS is calling on the government to make these plans public so the nation can be better informed on the state of our islands and play a more informed watchful role on activities which take place on them.
This will also hold land administrators and developers accountable for development which take place on these islands.
Upcoming hotel projects
The public should be able to access information regarding approved hotel projects. TIS is calling on the government to ensure provision of this information, preferably through e-portals.
This brings us to the issue of moratorium on the construction of large hotels in the country. Can the government establish its position on the restriction? In his State-of-the-nation address in 2017, former President Danny Faure extended the moratorium to the end of 2020. How is the country proceeding with this decision now that we are in 2021? How does the decision align with the feasibility study on the impact of tourism on Seychelles which was carried out in 2019?
Land ownership in Seychelles
It is understood that it has always been the governments’ attempted intention to limit to 10% the ownership of land to foreigners in Seychelles. TIS would like to be informed whether there is such a policy or legislation, and welcomes the decision of the government today to request for an inventory report on land which are in the hands of foreigners, from the Ministry of Lands and Housing. TIS believes that we should go further and that an exercise should be conducted to establish ownership of land by the different types of categories of individuals namely by Seychelles born citizens, naturalised citizen, foreign nationals, foreigners under permanent permit of resident, or through companies be it local or offshore registered.
We would like to once again, re-iterate our commitment to promoting transparency and accountability in the governance of Seychelles. We look forward to the government’s engagement on the above issues.
Chairman Transparency Initiative Seychelles