Assembly approves budget allocations for more departments and agencies |24 March 2021
Discussions and votes on the various budget heads in the national budget for the fiscal year 2021 continued yesterday during which the National Assembly approved several heads under the portfolio of the Ministry of Investment, Industry and Entrepreneurship.
Present throughout the day was Minister for Investment, Industry and Entrepreneurship, Devika Vidot.
The day started off with votes on the department of investment (R2,827,000) and the department of industry and entrepreneurship (R5,396,000). This adds up to a total of R8,224,000 for the ministry as a whole.
Although these are two separate departments, albeit in the same ministry, the National Assembly took on the departments in the same seating since they are considered interlinked.
When introducing her ministry, Minister Vidot underscored efforts to revitalise the ministry and explained its ambitions for the future.
“The primary objective of this ministry is the creation of wealth and employment in the economy. Our aim is focused around improving ease of doing business in the country so as to encourage investments and improve our ranking with the World Bank. At present, the ministry is pushing for electronic registration of businesses,” stated Minister Vidot.
“Additionally, minimum requirements are being set and published to facilitate the creation of new businesses and allow for more transparency in the process. These reforms are part of the principal aim of establishing a ‘one door’ policy where every business – whether Seychellois owned or foreign, and no matter its size or sector it falls in – can go to for support.”
“We are also making strides to set up a virtual platform to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles and introduce simpler procedures. We are already looking within departments and agencies to identify points of synergy to help us better work collaboratively and bring about more efficiency,” continued the minister.
Minister Vidot further added that the Ministry of Investment, Industry and Entrepreneurship is engaged in strengthening the spirit of doing business in the country, one where progressive ideas and innovation are at the core of the country’s development.
More encouragement is also being given to businesses that deals in local production and manufacturing so as to reduce the country’s reliance on imported goods.
The ministry will establish a framework to support research and development (R&D) as well as the protection of intellectual property in order to allow the local business community to thrive and eventually export their products, added Minister Vidot.
The Ministry of Investment, Industry and Entrepreneurship is also revising its land allocation policy for industrial use so as to ensure that allocations are conducted in a fair and transparent manner, in accordance with the priority sectors.
Further, a new payment system is in the works to collect payments from businesses that have received parcels of land from the government.
Minister Vidot noted that an exercise is currently being conducted to rectify the land allocation list managed by the Industrial Estates Authority (IEA) to ensure that the correct information are kept and updated.
Also present to answer the questions of the members of the National Assembly (MNAs) were principal secretary for investment Michael Nalletamby and principal secretary for industry and entrepreneurship Angelique Antat.
Hon. Terence Mondon was curious to understand the reason as to why the department of investment had estimated that Seychelles might rank 105th on the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business list compared to the country’s current and better position of 100th.
“This is simply because we did not receive a favourable first response from the World Bank when we submitted our list of reforms since they did not accept all of our submissions, even though we do not agree with this. It made no sense for us to estimate an improvement in our ranking when we are not receiving positive feedback,” explained PS Nalletamby.
Following more than two hours of deliberations, the budgets for the two departments were approved as a whole ministry (R8,224,000) with 30 votes in favour.
The National Assembly also approved a budget of R7,559,000 for the Seychelles Investment Board (SIB), represented by its chief executive Cindy Vidot and deputy chief executive Lenny Gabriel.
SIB’s budget for 2021 is a slight reduction from the revised budget of R7,975,000 it received the year prior.
The mandate of the SIB is to stimulate the development, expansion and growth of the economy by promoting Seychelles as an investment, business and service centre; promote and facilitate investments and re-investments; offer pre-and post-investment support services; devise robust promotional strategies and undertake effective promotional plans to attract local and foreign investors.
“Our budget for this year reflects a reduction of R416,000, equating to a 5.2% reduction compared to the revised budget for 2020. The budget reduction is seen in wages and salaries, and goods and services equally,” explained Mrs Vidot from SIB.
Similar to the morning’s session, many of the queries from the MNAs were on ways of improving ease of doing business in the country and finding synergies between various government entities so that they can function in symbiosis.
Mrs Vidot noted that SIB registered a total of R8.9 billion worth of investment in 2020 although she clarified that these are projects that have come to them with the interest of being set up in the country but they are not fully-fledged investments.
“This in itself was a reduction of R5.4 billion, a 37% decrease compared to 2019. As for January and February 2021, we have recorded a reduction of R186.7 million compared to the same period in 2020 which is a 68% decrease, and this of course is mainly due to our economic situation and the impacts of Covid-19,” added Mrs Vidot.
Meanwhile Minister Vidot also spoke of the merger of SIB and Enterprise Seychelles Agency (Esa), saying that her ministry’s long-term vision is to have a “single investment facilitation agency” in line with international best practices.
“SIB has its role to facilitate and promote while Esa also has a key role when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises and is undertaking capacity building exercises to develop them further. We need to develop and promote local businesses, and at present we need to have separate entities and resources aimed at tackling the current situation, but in the long term we will look at merging these two institutions into one. But for now each entity knows their roles […],” said Minister Vidot.
Thirty-one MNAs voted in favour of SIB’s budget following the question and answer session.
The Seychelles Bureau of Standards (SBS) appeared before the National Assembly with a budget of R23,154,000, a significant increase from its R21,916,000 budget in 2020.
The mandate of the SBS is to provide standardisation services, conformity assessment services (inspection, certification and testing) and metrology services to various stakeholders to enhance the country’s socio-economic development.
Minister Vidot explained that SBS is a key player in her ministry’s ambition to have more businesses involved in making locally produced and manufactured products, aimed at exportation.
“SBS is here to ensure that the standards are in place for these products to reach the necessary requirements for export, be it food or other items made in Seychelles,” stated Minister Vidot.
SBS’ chief executive, Andy Ally, made note that the bureau’s challenge lies in the lack of human resource to undertake work such as inspecting fish and fish products. It is to be noted that the issue of qualified human resource has been raised by various agencies during the budget discussion, particularly when it comes to more expert-driven fields such as at the Seychelles Meteorological Authority and the National Biosecurity Agency.
The budget of the SBS was approved with 33 votes in favour and no vote against or abstained.