Although, global attention is fixated on US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden to decide who leads America, somewhere in Africa, on the alluring Indian Ocean, an intriguing political drama is also unfolding in a smaller country.
The Republic of Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago will decide between three candidates running for president on October 24: Danny Faure, Wavel Ramkalawan, and Alain St Ange.
Both countries, the USA and Seychelles claim these are the most important elections ever, and both countries also face a common enemy: COVID-19
One of the two countries has tourism as its biggest industry.
This author was told by a former Foreign Minister of Seychelles, that the only more important minister in his country was the Minister of Tourism. At that time he referred to Alain St. Ange, who served as the minister of tourism.
It doesn’t happen very often that the largest industry on the globe rally behind a presidential candidate in a country of fewer than 100,000 citizens.
Alain St. Ange and Louis D’Amore are good friends. Louis D’Amore is the founder of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, a concept Alain used in many of his speeches over the years around the globe.
It never happened before that an ambassador of eTurboNews is running to become a head of state.
Alain St. Ange had been an ambassador to Seychelles for eTurboNews since 2008.
His message and his photo are still on top of the ABOUT Statement of the TravelNewsGroup, owner of eTurboNews. Yes, this article is an opinion article, but all of us here at eTurboNews around the globe mean it.
This was quoted again and again, also by the former UNWTO Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai. Even St Anges opponent who competed with St. Ange at the UNWTO General Election, Walter Mzembi, former minister of Tourism Zimbabwe is supporting St. Ange. Cuthbert Ncube, chairman of the African Tourism Board said that Africa is uniting behind St. Ange.
Also throwing its weight behind the presidential bid of Alain St. Ange is Theteamafrica led by Ikechi Uko. According to Uko who is the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, the leading Pan-African Tourism Expo, “Tourism is important to Africa and to Seychelles, so it is only proper for a tourism personality to lead a tourism nation like Seychelles.”
Alain St. Ange (born 24 October 1954) is a Seychellois politician who served as Minister of Tourism and Culture of Seychelles from 2012 to 2016.
If Alain St. Ange would be elected on his birthday October 24, this would be a present not only for him but more so to the People of Seychelles and the tourism industry as a whole.
Alain St. Ange is now a trademark on every continent in the industry that suffers the most right now with the Coronavirus. It’s no wonder that Alain St. Ange was a candidate for UNWTO, brought a world-famous carnival to his island country putting it on the map everywhere, and that Alain St. Ange is also the president of the African Tourism Board and a board member of Project Hope in Africa and rebuilding travel initiative in 120 countries as a united global response to COVID-19.
St. Ange was praised by leaders in the global LGBTQ movement in adding Seychelles to the map where LGBTQ travelers are welcome. St. Ange’s word to the world and quoted by many over time is, “Seychelles is a friend of all, and an enemy of none.”
With Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – gearing up for its presidential and legislative elections from October 22-24, SNA is talking to the island nation’s political leaders and presidential candidates about their campaigns, their plans as well as their take on pertinent issues in the country.
The Seychelles News Agency published an interview in the series is with Alain St Ange, the leader of the party One Seychelles, who fervently emphasized his desire to establish a technocratic government that bridges the gap between the haves and have-nots, and a need to redefine the term family.
SNA: What are some of the first things that you will tackle if you win the election?
A.S-A: The first issue that is bothering people is the cost of living. This has much to do with the cost of food in the country. After two weeks in power, we want to find tangible ways to bring down the cost of living. It is an easy-to-do-thing if you have the political will.
I do not believe in the reintroduction of price control given that we have forged our way into a liberal market. We do not want to lock heads with private merchants, but we want to use what we have at our disposal to tackle this issue.
The Seychelles Trading Company (STC) plays a pivotal role in the fight against the increase in the cost of living. The government has already removed duty on 30 basic commodities. Nevertheless, we feel that this does not suffix and should be raised to 100 instead.
Additionally, we would need to relook at the way STC is functioning.
The organisation cannot afford to be doing business with a middleman. It needs to go directly to the producer of the commodity. That said, many products such as rice and sugar can be sourced in the region. And we should not be looking further than in Mauritius and Madagascar – two islands of the Indian Ocean.
Another point of paramount importance, obviously, now that we are in a period of COVID-19, is how to redress the economy. Seychelles needs to come up with a solution to address damages caused by the pandemic. The economy is suffocating, people are losing their jobs, and allowances are being cut down. This is having a direct social impact on families, especially those already struggling laboriously to make ends meet.
SNA: On that very note, Seychelles has been hit hard with COVID-19 and the tourism industry, the top pillar of the economy, has been most affected. Should we continuously rely on tourism or does it call for a remodeling of the economy?
A.S-A: Considerably, we can have a 360-degree turn with the economy, but the only thing that is going to change it for the better, tomorrow morning, is the tourism sector. Let us not kid ourselves that we would wake up tomorrow thinking that we can completely redesign the economy without putting tourism as a priority.
It is what we have to offer as an island nation to give us the dollars we need to sustain the economy.
What we need to do as a country is to transform the tourism sector, putting it abreast with the current era we are living in today. At the same time, we need to hold in hand both the fishing and agricultural industry to maintain food security.
For the first year that we will be in power, One Seychelles will make sure that we have our tuna fishing vessel flying the island nation’s flag. We want the private sector to take ownership of this. Let us not forget that one factor causing the biggest loss of foreign exchange in the country is tuna being caught in our waters, then sold back to us in foreign currency. At the same time, Seychelles has signed an agreement with the European Union, which allows them to fish in our waters. We need to review this agreement extensively for us to get a better deal.
SNA: As a political figure, you have gained experience working with both the opposition and the executive. How would this experience help you as someone aspiring to lead Seychelles?
A.SA: One Seychelles will be made up of technocrats rather than politicians. Indeed, it is all about finding the best person for the job without looking at their political affiliation.
Is the experience of playing on both political spectrums helping me out in my political endeavours?
Yes. This is because today I can sit down and talk to any technocrats in any political party. This will obviate the division and polarized approach to politics that have long been in existence in Seychelles.
SNA: Are you prepared to join another party in the coalition if the presidential election extends to a second round?
A.SA: I take this as a tricky question. I am asked this question whenever I am doing my door-to-door visits. Our main objective is to work toward pushing the presidential election into a second round. But I will not be joining the current party in power. Other than that, I am prepared to welcome any other party in coalition to remove the status quo.
SNA: Let us talk about a pertinent issue raised a lot by voters and this is with regards to the point system being used to allocate houses and land. Some people feel that they are at a disadvantage because of the system. If you were to propose another system, what would it be and how would it function?
A SA: Access to housing is a right given to a citizen under the Constitution of Seychelles. We cannot put our people in an obstacle race to be allocated a house. There are different ways for us to raise the housing stock that we need in Seychelles. One of them is that we have 115 islands and we should start thinking about the possibility of using some of these lands for housing development.
SNA: Many of the hardest decisions in the State House will perhaps not be entirely based on consensus. It will need you to be prompt, bold and decisive. What will inform your decision making?
A.SA: That will be based purely on the voice of the people. It will depend on the different obstacles that the people are facing in their daily lives. We would take their challenges and turn it into the agenda of our political party – One Seychelles.
I will not just be a president that will sit at the State House. Firstly, I have said that I will appoint a minister for Praslin and La Digue, the second and third most populated island. Our cabinet of ministers will convene every month to discuss pertinent issues faced by the two islands.
SNA: Seychelles is now divided politically. How would you create a unified Seychelles after the election?
A.SA: Interestingly, to have a unified Seychelles, we need to look at the outset of the national assembly. We cannot continuously have a political party that has a crushing majority over the other. The country has been embroiled in partisan politics.
As voters, we need to change that if we want to unify and work together. We need a third force as a kingpin to balance things and to be a voice for those that feel that they are not being represented.
I will stress again on building a technocrat government, which will always be ready to work for anyone that seeks the service of the public sector.
Last but not least, we cannot talk about the unification of the country if we do not intensify effort to reduce the huge disparity between those that have and those that are more vulnerable.