President of the African Tourism Board, Alain St. Ange has tasked the government of Seychelles over stringent conditions and failed promises to support businesses amidst the Coronavirus economy collapse.
The former Minister of Tourism of the Indian Ocean Island nation points out that government’s promises of financial support during this uncertain time is proving to be empty and not genuine, while many are grappling with the harsh reality that their businesses will not be able to survive the coming months. Also, many individuals are desperately in need of work to keep a roof over their head and food on the table for their families.
According to him, “What was once, on the face of it, an unequivocal offer of support by a sympathetic Head of State, has now become lumbered by a seemingly endless stream of conditions that many businesses are failing to satisfy in order to receive the aid they had been hoping for to keep their businesses afloat while retaining all their staff on their payroll.”
St. Ange states that “The broken promises and contradictory statements being made by the branches of Government are causing anxiety in the Republic, and many families are unable to make ends meet as they worry about the future and the ability of their employers to survive the troubled waters lapping the shores of Seychelles.
COVID-19 has put our small country into an economic crisis, but with all the dedication displayed by our employees alongside their employers, we were all hoping that Officers in the Civil Service would honour the bold declarations made on National Television by the President of the Republic where he unequivocally guaranteed that employees would receive their salaries after the passing of the revised Budget 2020 by the National Assembly.
He added that, “Messages being received from across the country show glaring disappointment that the words of the President were just for show and hold little substance.”
He saluted local entrepreneurs and businesses who have not let their employees down and are still paying their workforce despite their own financial struggles during this trying time, instead of waiting endlessly for the elusive stimulus packages once promised by the Government.
Continuing, St. Ange said, “COVID-19, while serving to unite the world against a common enemy, has also brought the world of tourism to its knees. For the most part, countries have closed their borders, planes have been grounded forcing some airline companies to fold, and travellers are on lock-down; all in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
These drastic measures, however necessary under the circumstances, have tightened the noose around the neck of tourism-reliant businesses, many of which cannot survive the months of financial uncertainty to come. This extends from the humble fisherman who sold his daily catch to the hotels, to the large-scale Destination Management Companies (DMCs) that employ hundreds of staff, to the taxi operators and freelance guides etc.”
St. Ange also pointed out that, “Countries that took tourism for granted are today feeling the financial strain associated with the unprecedented demise of the once thriving industry.
We have taken note that many countries around the globe have announced and are delivering on the stimulus packages for the private sector to ensure they remain afloat. Seychelles made the same announcements but failed to deliver on the assistance. Employees were promised or guaranteed a salary and announcements were made to ensure that no redundancies would be allowed. The message by the Ministry of Employment was the equivalent of a gun pointed to the employer’s head. As employees who are somewhat assured that redundancies would not be approved, may nevertheless see themselves on the streets as businesses close their doors because they are simply unable to sustain the lack of revenue.
Many businesses are looking at going to Court to contest the redundancy directives that were not followed by the Presidential Promise of salaries by the Government for all private sector employees. Others are looking at staging sit-in protests in Victoria.
The word of a President on a public platform and a promise to the Country must mean something and the Seychelles Judiciary will need to be called upon to determine if what is said in a Presidential Address has merit or remains just ‘feel good’ manoeuvring prior to the elections.
Businesses are suffering and even when a claim for assistance is approved, it is only a fraction of what is needed. A referendum on the actions taken by all in elected offices will arrive soon and the People will have their chance to pass judgement on everything done and executed in the name of the People, for the People and by the People.
He concluded, “One Seychelles is again appealing to President Danny Faure and to the Leader of the Opposition Wavel Ramkalawan, to join in a bi-partisan approach across party lines, be it red, green, blue and orange, to rebuild the tourism industry and in so doing the economy of Seychelles and pull our struggling Nation out of bankruptcy.
The time is NOW to join forces in unity to rebuild Seychelles. Today, we are witnessing just a hint of the struggles to come. We need to work together to ensure that we are best placed to weather the storm that lies ahead.
No one in good conscience can stay silent on non-payment of workers in the private sector. Government is the biggest shareholder of every private sector business and collects its share through the different taxes levied. Today, it needs to inject its financial support to ensure that Seychelles can weather the storm and thrive in the months to come.