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Forgiveness in paradise?

January 10, 2009

If you lived on an archipelago that defined paradise with palm-fringed white sand beaches and emerald green waters, you would expect a relaxed, lazy pace of life.

Lazy would be a generous description of the Seychellois soldier’s wave at the entrance to State House as I arrived with my local colleague George Thande – who is admittedly a regular visitor here.

The Seychelles were ruled by the French before the British and State House in the capital Victoria is every bit the luxurious colonial mansion: a lush garden exploding with tropical colours; an oil painting of Britain’s Queen Victoria hangs in the wood-panelled reception room close to a portrait of Castor, a runaway slave from the 19th century with a fearsome reputation; a Daimler and Rolls Royce are parked on the forecourt.

But President James Alix Michel, cannot afford to be relaxed. This is an exotic destination at the sharp end of the global financial crisis.

The Indian Ocean archipelago may lie thousands of miles from the financial hubs of the world, but the bankers on Wall Street and in the City of London, not to mention the celebrity visitors, help keep the Seychelles’ tourism-dependent economy afloat.

On Friday, however, Michel told Reuters he thought visitor numbers might drop by as much as 25 percent, a painful blow for a heavily indebted economy –  its $800 million debt is somewhat more than 2007 gross domestic product according to World Bank figures. The country, with only 85,000 people, is in desperate need of foreign currency to replenish severely depleted reserves.

When the Seychelles failed to service an interest payment on a $230 million bond late last year, it called in the International Monetary Fund, which pledged a 2-year $26 million rescue package. Now negotiations are underway with creditors over how to re-structure the debts.

On Friday, Michel called on creditors to forgive fifty percent of the country’s debts.

But should they be forgiven or was the previous government reckless in the way it borrowed heavily to invest in social projects such as free education, free healthcare and housing over more than two decades?

Or does the fault lie with the creditors who issued loans they perhaps knew were ultimately unsustainable? The government might well argue that while it had borrowed irresponsibly – if it felt for good reason – but there had been no shortage of people willing to stump up the cash.

President Michel is holding out for an oil strike under the Seychelles’ offshore plateau. Seismic surveys suggested there could be reserves of oil and gas amounting to billions of barrels. But that’s not for years to come.

The Seychelles can’t wait that long.

(Picture 1: Miss New Zealand, Lauralee Martinovich, poses for photographs after taking the 2nd Princess title in the 1997 Miss World Pageant in the Seychelles. Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

(Picture 2: Seychelles’ President James Michel poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters in Victoria. Reuters/Richard Lough)


Seychelles is a beautiful place!


How can creditors write off debts to a government which remains corrupt and unaccountable. The justice system in Seychelles is permanently connected to State House from where the President appoints all judges. Let’s not forget that the former President, Albert Rene, is still one of the richest persons in Africa

Posted by Jefferson | Report as abusive

seychelles has invested in it’s people, and it’s country’s develpment. The smile on each seychellois face represents the 30 or more years of seychelles investment in them, ie free ,education health etc. For that we are proud of our country’s achievement. Eventhough today we are facing debts problem, i am sure that we will walk through it, as we are a proud nation. We stand by our country

Posted by veronica | Report as abusive

The major factors responsible for Seychelles’s predicament is 30 years lack of a free press, transparency and accountability in which corruptiopn has flourished. As a result, a handful of closely connected Seychellois own more in overseas accounts than the countrry’s $820 million national debt. Instead of begging the international community to write off our national debt, President Michel should concentrate on recovering the stolen money. Jefferson you are just regurgitating SPPF’s poisoned propaganda.

Posted by Not Such a Fool | Report as abusive

I’m a proud Seychellois and it brings tears to my eyes to see my country is such a mess. Top to bottom our country has no sense of itself. People are spoiled, lazy and don’t have a good work ethic – they rather leave work at 4pm and go dancing then think about tomorrow. With the exception of a few, most people in the government lack any IQ. 32 years of communist rule has robbed us of 2 generations.

Even if we get some sort of debt forgiveness, we’ll be back asking for more in a few years. Tough love that’s what Seychelles needs. We got ourselves into this mess, at least the people who keep voting this government in did. We need to learn from this, even if takes another 32 years or maybe even 132 years.

Posted by Andre | Report as abusive

Poor Seychelles! Those millions is inthe pockets of a few big cats on the isand with thier account overseas..the only victims are people who had to face the hard day.
lets do hope for the better.

Posted by Seyhelles k j'aime | Report as abusive

As a Seychellois I’m very proud of my country but not of this bunch of crooks messing the economy while, in the process, lining their pockets.

Posted by Veronica | Report as abusive

I think what the President is trying to do is commendable. What happened in Seychelles in the last 30 years was for the benefit of all Seychellois, not for the few land-owners and rich individuals. So before we run down Seychelles as a corrupt country let us look at the facts. Lest we forget that Seychelles is ranked 55 on the Corruption Perception Index (by Transparency International – perhaps they got a dose of SPPF poisoned propaganda..), out of 180 countries surveyed.Let us call a spade a spade, and stop denigrating the hundreds of honest, government-funded, hard-working, western-educated graduates under this so-called communist regime. President Michel is a president of the future and we should support him to bring Seychelles into this new era of economic freedom. All countries have debt and Seychelles is no exception – one has to see where the money was invested – roads, hospitals, schools, houses, overseas medical care, university education, ….the list is endless. Let us argue on facts not on emotions!

Posted by Marigolde Esami | Report as abusive

As a seychellois living abroad, i have long been in opposition to the Regime in my country for not respecting human rights and democracy. Since james Michel has been elected president, i have been observing the changes, small but significant and i have come to the conclusion that only in unity and with dialogue will our country move foreward; Seychelles is the most blessed place on earth and politics has done so much harm. families, friends have been seperated and suffered because of politics and this is unacceptable for such a peaceloving people.
Today i make an appeal to all seychellois to forget the past and put Seychelles first. We need to be united to get our country out of this financial crisis. We need to stop dirty politics and hatred. Let us work together for the good of seychelles and let us all individually bring our contribution to build a better futur for Seychelles

Posted by Ferrari Pauline | Report as abusive

Pauline, I lift my hat to you..yes, the time is now for us to put all this behind us and put Seychelles first. Afterall it is our only ‘patrie’. Bravo

Posted by Marigolde Esami | Report as abusive

55 in the corruption index is nothing to brag about. For our country it represents more than the US $820 million external debt. A sum more than enough to relieve the people of Seychelles of its SPPF-induced misery. A citizen who loves his country, like I do, is one who takes the interest of the victims and not of those responsible for their misery. With greater efficiency and less corruption, Seychelles would have had better schools, more houses, hospitals and other services without getting ourselves into this mess. Open your eyes and let us use our brains to help our country instead of getting carried away by gut felt nationalism.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Bang on Patrick. Like you I’m a loyal citizen who believes in justice, peace and prosperity. To achieve these objectives and avoid us getting into another economic mess, we need press freedom, an end to victimisation, confidence in the judicial system, greater transparency and an independent auditor general. If a person works hard and amass millions, I am pleased for him or her even if this is not a priority for me. But, if someone uses his position of power and corrupt practices to make a fortune at the expense of our fellow countrymen and women, it must condemned. Whether we are honest civil servants, SPPF, SNP, DP and non-partisans, are all victims. If we fail to recognise this basic fact, we will never move forward. Why cannot we have this kind of debate openly in Nation or SBC? Because those responsible for the mess doesn’t want the people to know the truth. They don’t trust the people to use their brain and reach their own conclusions.

Posted by Not such a Fool | Report as abusive

Dear Mr. i don’t know your name, who is talking about press freedom! First give us your true identity before talking about freedom of expression. Well you see, i believe it is people like you who have maintained this unhealty atmosphere in the country for many years by playing the game of those who wished to stifle freedom of speech. Of course, i am not saying that there was no victimisation , but you have encouraged it by your lack of courage!

To be honest , ask yourself what you have done all those years to bring more justice peace and prosperity to your country?
This is a question we must all ask ourselves.
If we have been sitting on our backsides doing nothing then we are to blame
Maybe we tried but failed because we did not have the right approach or maybe we managed to contribute to small changes.

It is always good to be humble, to question ourselves and take full reponsability of our mistakes. This is the only way to go foreward.

i agree that there cannot be sustainable development without those objectives you have mentioned, independence of justice, press freedom democracy. i want to believe that these objectives can be attained by the contribution of each one of us, by giving our support and ideas, by taking part in the building of this new society. But for that to happen we have to be united behind a same banner that of SEYCHELLES.

i do not believe that nationalism is a bad thing in certain circumstances but here i prefer to talk about being realistic and i certainly talk about solidarity. In no time the sufferings of the seychellois will be unbearable.with their financial difficulties the threat of insecurity dispair and so on. It would be so unfair to sit and wait until the situation gets out of hand. If you love your country would you not want to contribute with the competence that you have to try to soften the suffering of your People? There is no time for revenge and hatred. Time is precious.

best regards

Posted by Pauline ferrari | Report as abusive

As a prerequisite to national unity, we need to admit that we got into this mess because of gross inefficency and corruption. To such an extent that if just five persons, who have ripped the country off, return the stolen money the people of Seychelles will not need the IMF and its crippling policies. Why do you think the IMF made public this figure. If we are not prepared to recognise this basic fact, and find a way of recovering the money, loan forgiveness and rescheduling with not serve any purpose. From my vantage point, working for the Government, I know what I’m talking about. I’m doing my best to pass on this message to my Minister but it’s a dynamite that noone wants to touch. It’s even more frustrating working for the Government than not doing so. I leave to your imagination to unravel this puzzle.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Just re-post some thoughts that were published some days ago in one of Seychelles’ local blogs.

“Seychelles are not what they seem to be. Officials of the country are mostly not professional and some are even corrupted or involved into criminal activities.

1. Just have got the news saying that a number of persons working for Seychelles offshore industry regulator (SIBA) are involved in money-laundering. The source mentions Ms. Wendy (****) from Compliance Department as well as several persons out of SIBA (described as her connections). According to some anonymous sources there is a soon-to-follow lawsuit in preparation, with FATF-experts involved.

2. Sheikh Khalifa’s palace being built on the land once occupied by the USA Tracking Station site. This site was given to the Sheikh for one rupee by our incompetent President Michel, the same man who also gave Francis Savy the island of Ste. Anne for a rupee as well.”

Posted by Candy1 | Report as abusive

Please let me share my experiences of the the Paradise they call Seychelles.
Better still,let the press relaes from my lawyer do it.
Whilst I was been held ‘hostage’ there, I had 5 different offers to walk away from the nightmare from different levels of officaldom there.
Believe me,4 months of being forced to stay whilst Irish mercenaries invent more and more bogus charges is not funny and all backed up by the government who are bankrupt and treat the Seychellois disgracefully, many of whom live in fear daily of being arrested and remanded for years before going to trial.
Let us see if the Seychelles government stand up and justify in an independant court in New York what they did to myself and my family or run away like the cowards they are and hide behind legal arguements.

Read this and then decide if the Seychelles is a fair, democratic country where there is one state controlled television channel and the only person who speaks out, Ralph Volcere has repeated attempts on his life.
Also, they use the Nation newspaper to promote lies and falsehoods knowing that no 3rd party can ever sue them for libel in a court of law.
Judgement day will come and I will have my day in court with or without these spineless people present. 100505006581/en/Lawsuit-Charges-Seychell es-Intimidating-Children-Kidnapping-Furt herance


Stephen Scholes (not hiding behind an anonymous username)

Posted by SteveScholes | Report as abusive

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