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eTN Executive Talk: Seychelles needs reforms to turn “doom and gloom” to opportunity

Alain St. Ange, eTN Ambassador  Dec 21, 2008

The Seychelles economic reform program launched with the support of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) since November 1 has moved to pave the way for political stability with Seychelles founding President James R. Mancham calling for the formation of a government of “national reconstruction,” as well as constituting a Seychelles first “think-tank.”

Mr. Mancham made the proposal when he was addressed a press conference at Eden House, Eden Island, in Seychelles, earlier this month, on the subject of the economic reform program to which the Seychelles government has committed itself with IMF.

Recalling the fact that over recent years, he has, in his capacity as the president of the Global Peace Council of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), been pro-actively engaged in the promotion of peace in Serbia, Kosovo, Kenya, Korea, and elsewhere, Mr. Mancham said that as the founding president, and since “charity begins at home,” it was his duty to speak out at this time when the Seychelles is going through a severe economic malaise with the sudden discovery by the people, that their country is bankrupt and that government has taken public loans in excess of US$800 million and private loans in excess of US$500 million.

“It is important for us to look at the situation with hindsight, foresight and objectivity. While we must be more concerned with the present and the future, it would still be important to know the story of debt accumulation and discover how much we owe can be regarded as ‘illegitimate.’ For example, those loans taken for useless projects, or at usurious rates of interest or primarily to benefit the donor country rather than the recipient nation,” Mr. Mancham stated, calling on the Seychelles government to audit the debt and release details of what was spent on.

“If loans were lent recklessly, or tinged with corruption, they should not be repaid,” Mr. Mancham added. Likewise, those here who have taken money illegitimately should return it to the country.

Noting that a “drowning man will clutch at a straw,” Mr. Mancham said that perhaps the Seychelles government should enlist the support and assistance of the Jubilee Debt Campaign Movement in its dealings with the IMF and Le Club de Paris. This organization has an impressive record in achieving debt forgiveness. This is the organization that lobbied the G8 Leaders to forgive debts of many impoverished Nations at their summit in Birmingham, UK, in 1998.

Taking note of a recent statement of President James Michel that all citizens should work together and make big sacrifices to get the Nation out of the economic mess, the former president said that the only way to get this materialize peacefully and in unity, will be through the creation of a “government of national reconstruction,” which will involve all active political parties committed to look at our situation in a transparent way through a Seychelles “first philosophy.” He explained that over the last two decades, the interest of some individuals and the interest of the political party had taken priority over the interest of the nation.

In this connection, Mr. Mancham recalled US history when American Statesmen closed themselves up in a house in Philadelphia a whole summer to bring forth the US Constitution. Mr. Mancham said that leaders of all political parties in Seychelles should cast aside existing hate and grievances and work together to come up with a Seychelles “first policy.”

The creation of a “Seychelles First Think-Tank” under the auspices of a Seychelles Foundation for National Reconciliation and Prosperity (SFNRP) will act as a watchdog vis-à-vis the “government of national reconstruction” to ensure transparency, good governance and commitment to the Seychelles “first approach.”

Mr Mancham stated that this think-tank should include representative of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Seychelles Labor Union, the Seychelles Hospitality & Tourism Association, inter-faith religious leaders, representative of the Farmers Association, the Bar Association, representative of the Medical Association and social welfare leaders, as well as some respected citizens of proven wisdom, character and experience. The ultimate objective of the think-Tank would be to monitor the behavior of the government and to turn a situation of “doom and gloom” into one of opportunity for the country.

Mr. Mancham finally made clear that he was speaking out as the founding president of the republic within the spirit of statesmanship and that his initiative was not associated with any party politics.

eTN Executive Talk:  Seychelles needs reforms to turn “doom and gloom” to opportunity
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