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Conference of Honorary Consuls - 23rd ? 25th October 2007 Plantation Club Resort and Casino

02.11.2007

• Greetings/welcome
• Thanked the President of the Republic for being present as it demonstrated the importance the Government of Seychelles attaches to the work of the Consuls

• Thanked the 53 consuls who came for the conference (out of 77)
• Noted that in the last Consul’s meeting in March 2005, it was decided that the Consuls will meet every two years

Pertinent Points raised:

 

• The launching of Strategy 2017 early in 2007 whereby the Government is committed to work as the economic facilitator and, together with the private sector, to stimulate productivity.

• Inauguration of the “University of Seychelles Foundation” which kick-started the establishment of the first University of Seychelles.

• Seychelles’ international relations are being re-dynamised through the enhancement of our embassies overseas, with plans to cover all 5 continents of North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

• Seychelles assuming the Presidency of the IOC with the goal to unify the spirit of the Commission and to instigate a new vigour within the IOC.

• Seychelles has new representation at the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

• Seychelles consolidated its relationship with major economic partners such as the African Development Bank after we cleared a substantial portion of our arrears.

4 points of Foreign Policy drive

 

1. Protection of sovereignty and identity as well as promotion of our core values.
- Can be interpreted widely; e.g. creole values from culture perspectives to delimitation of our boundaries.

2. Ensure prosperity and well-being of the country and its citizens.
- Strategy 2017 – will guide us if we want to maintain prosperity and well-being.

3. Ethical Dimension: the country’s self-interest cannot be separated from that of the International Community as a whole – must match and marry;

- Maintain the pillars of Peace, Democracy, Global Security and Rule of Law, in order to ensure that the development path is maintained;

- The stability we enjoy gives us mileage.

4. Nurturing, Developing and Promoting high level of political friendship with bilateral and multilateral partners.

5 Key Areas (Priorities for Foreign Policy) brought out by President Michel in March 2005

1. New priority: the reinforcement at the highest level of cooperation between Seychelles and traditional international allies and partners

2. Regional groupings involvement
- We need to take the IOC Presidency and make a difference, e.g. Seychelles at the forefront in meetings that the South East Indian Ocean region is encouraging and supporting a diplomatic solution to the problems in the Comoros – more particularly regarding the island of Anjou’an;

e.g. EPA/EU negotiations: Seychelles at the forefront of the lobbying to be able to have an agreement within the IOC (minus Reunion)

e.g. UNESCO election: Competition for group 5 was between Seychelles, Madagascar and Tanzania.

We decided to withdraw and side with Mauritius and Comoros in supporting Madagascar as a regional block grouping.

3. Renewed support towards multilateral organisations

- We must derive benefits from regional organizations:

-African Development Bank: We have a personal connection through the recently appointed Director Peter Sinon, the former Seychellois Ambassador to South Africa.);

-SADC: our re-admission has been accepted during he last summit, at an annual contribution rate of $100,000, compared to the $250,000 we were expected to contribute

4. More aggressive support of Seychelles’s image in the area of fisheries and as a strategically located first class business hub.

- Private sector as engine of economic growth

5. Wider re-organisation with regards to eco-tourism

- President James Alix Michel launched the Sea-Level Rise Foundation earlier this year in Rome.

Conclusion

- Emphasis to be put on capacity building – development matters
- Status of middle-income countries: we lose out because we are penalised by not receiving grants and help;

- Need consuls to help fight for the cause of Middle Income Countries and make the case for us as we need to be able to maintain our level of development.

New Areas of Focus

- Look towards emerging Asian, African and South American superpowers; see what benefits can be derived and maximised upon, with help of Consuls;

- Need to look at African countries – be more visible to our African neighbours;

- Need to identify Able candidates to help further our agenda;

- We must have imagination, to be able to sort out what to do with the knowledge we have;

- Maintain our achievements and go for those yet unattained.

- Emphasised the need to develop objectives /structure/rules/law applicable for this association (Friends of Seychelles).

- Explained how this association could:
- Help with the promotion and diffusion of Seychelles image on the international scene;

- Create a network of contact.

Intervention

• Establishment of the Seychelles’ University (Mr Andre Schwarchtgen - Luxemburg)

Being a small country with a small population, Luxemburg faced similar challenges before the opening of the University of Luxemburg 4 years ago.

Mr Schwarchtgen announced that should Seychelles request for technical assistance for this particular endeavour, Luxemburg officials will gladly share their experience and advise local technicians accordingly.

Recent Policy Changes
• Exchange Rate
• Trade Liberalisation
• Fiscal Tightening
• Privatisation
• Banking Rules Relaxation
• FDI and other investment incentives

Constraints
• Foreign Exchange
• Dependency on external energy sources
• Skilled labour
• ICT Infra-Structure (Undersea Cable)

Areas of Interventions

Exchange Rate:
The Seychelles rupee (SCR) is tied to a basket of currencies, with the main currency being the US dollar along with the Euro and the British Pound Sterling.

Currently the rupee is tied at a fixed rate of SCR8 to USD1.

PS(Finance) explained that as a result of the SCR becoming more competitive and closer to its real rate, the gap is being bridged between the official rate and the parallel rate.

The policy of the Government with regards to Foreign Exchange is no longer one of control but rather one whereby the market will ultimately decide on the real rate.

The Government is carrying out this liberalisation process in phases due to consideration it is giving to other factors such as the fact that a sudden and full devaluation will affect the middle income earner (So far, the prices of electricity/ public transport/ food have not risen).

Inflation rate
The rate has been extremely low for the last two years, with a record low of -1% in 2005.

Concerns were raised however regarding the measurement of this rate and the PS stated that the method of this calculation will be reviewed.

Tourism
Opposing opinions were expressed regarding Government funding for the expansion of the tourism industry.

PS (Finance) noted that while the Government recognises the importance of the contribution of a successful tourism industry towards the economy, the fact remained that individual tourism establishments were the ultimate beneficiaries and that they should make a contribution towards the marketing of the product, i.e. Seychelles.

As it stands, the Government invests SCR35-40 million into the Tourism industry annually.

In relation to the Exchange rate issue, consuls were informed that 70% of foreign exchange required by private establishments was obtained officially and the remaining 30% were obtained in the parallel market.

ICT Infra-Structure (Undersea Cable)
PS(Finance) stated during his presentation that one constraint faced by offshore businesses was the lack of a modern internet system.

To date, an assessment of being part of an underwater cable has been done and the results have shown that the best connection would be via the Maldives.

A probable source of financing for such a project would be the Chinese Government under concessionary terms.

Make-up of Public & Private sector
Concerns were expressed regarding the fact that the public sector (including parastatals) employed 55% of the workforce being an indicator that Seychellois were not actively engaged in the economic activities of the country.

PS(Finance) explained that despite being a small country with a small population, there is still a minimum size required for establishments and the running of such establishments, eg: a hospital.

Seychellois Working Overseas
Queries were made regarding the contribution(s) made by Seychellois living and working overseas towards the economy.

PS(Finance) explained that in the majority of cases, Seychellois living overseas are settled and living with their families and that as a result, their contribution towards the economy is very small.

Loans/Grants
During the presentation, it was explained that Seychelles had become a victim of its own success from having moved from the LDC status to that of a Middle Income Country.

As a result, we are less likely to receive loans or grants at concessionary rates that LDCs receive.

Importation of New Cars
It has been noticed that in comparison to a couple of years ago, the number of cars on the roads have increased significantly.

Queries were therefore made with regards to how this is possible given the foreign exchange restrictions.

PS(Finance) explained that most of the imported cars (on average there are 3 new cars on the roads on a daily basis) are brought in by Car Hire Companies, given they have easier access to foreign exchange being licensed businesses.

The remaining imported cars are brought in by private individuals who obtain the money on the parallel markets or with the assistance of relatives overseas.

2007 Tourism Strategy
- Communicated a strong, sizzling unique cultural identity and product diversity through New Branding and Imagery;

- Train and Motivate a professional Seychellois workforce for the local industry;
- Ensure continued collaboration with Trade Partners.

Future targets and Expectations:
- Tourist arrival target for 2017 is 360,000 (more than double the target figure for 2007)

- Increase in flights to Seychelles. As is stands, Air Seychelles will need to add 4 more planes to its fleet in order to accommodate the target for 2017.

- 32 large hotel establishment projects have been approved (redevelopments included)

- Over 7500 new job opportunities will arise in this industry by 2012.

The Seychelles Islands ‘Another World’
Consuls were taken down the branding path right back to the beginning.

They were explained that after 6 years of the black and white “As pure as it gets” branding, it was decided that it was time to review Seychelles’ image on the international scene.

The new colourful “The Seychelles Islands, Another World’’ was launched locally in December 2006 and internationally at the ITB in Berlin in March 2007.

Positive feedback and responses have been noted.

Role of STB in the Creole Festival
STB will be more active in the future in the festival.

Its lack of involvement in the recent past has been due to the fact that its limited resources only allowed for focus to be on few activities, e.g. the new branding exercise.

Role of Consuls in the promotion of Seychelles
CEO(STB) explained that the individual consuls were in better positions to see how they can assist rather than STB making general suggestions.

Some examples cited were:
Costa Rica – Suggestion to twin Aldabra Atoll with Cocos Island;
Belgium – Having the new logo on the consul’s letterhead;

Future challenges
- Figures after 3 years show that the Industry has only retained 30% of the Seychelles Tourism Academy graduates.

With the additional job opportunities, the tourism industry needs to retain its local professionals.

- Seychelles is not being spared of global challenges, such as effects of global warming and so forth.

CEO (STB) emphasized the crucial importance of sustaining our pristine environment, and more importantly how its disintegration will ruin our tourism industry.

He noted the importance of constant reviews and assessments to ensure that we do not negatively exploit our natural environment.

The tourism presentation concluded with the presentation of the 2008 Eco-Healing Seychelles Marathon by the South Korean Honorary Consul, Mr Dong Jeong.

Strategy 2017
- To double GDP by 2017;
- The development of the financial services industry as a support to tourism and fisheries sectors as a support to tourism and fisheries sectors.

Investment Performance
A total of 667 approved projects to date valued at USD 3,658,737,123.69.

Upcoming infrastructural development
- Installation of a sub-marine fibre optic cable;
- Creation of a University of Seychelles;
- Upgrading of electricity infrastructure;
- E-Commerce platform.

Challenges
- Limited resources
- Developing partnership with mission overseas
- Diversify portfolio investor nationalities

Areas of intervention

- Repatriation of profits in hard currency
The investment code provides a guarantee for repatriation as long as profit has been earned in hard currency.

- Allocation of space for warehouses and supermarkets
This issue will be addressed by the Bureau in the foreseeable future.

Provision of Residency
Investors will receive residency permits valid for 5 years, and renewable thereafter. Concerns were raised based on the fact that investments are not only for 5 year periods but longer.

Consuls are in favour of a provision for permanent residency.

- Art
With a growing international market for arts and crafts, Seychelles should do its utmost to promote itself in this area internationally.

Furthermore, Seychelles should seize every opportunity to advertise itself.

The recent Miss Inter-Continental Beauty Pageant was one such event whereby Seychelles should have advertised internationally.

Mission
- Unlock the Seychellois potential for economic, sustainable and cultural growth;

- Create a high profile environment for life-long learning and technological advancement;

- Serve as a hub for the development of a knowledge-based society.

Areas of Intervention
• Job Opportunities
In order to build its reputation, the University will tap into retired and reputed professors as well as qualified existing teachers.

• Affiliations
Degrees will be carried out jointly with reputed existing universities in order to earn credibility.

• PHD courses
The idea it to encourage PHD students in the environment field to carry out their researches in Seychelles.

• Donations
A donation can be made today and the Foundation will remain open even after the University is up and running in order to fund its expansion.

• How can consuls help?
By registering the Foundation in Europe/USA/Asia in order to benefit from tax concessions and simultaneously encourage investors.

The presentation gave an overview of the development of the fisheries industry in Seychelles.

To note that currently, the volume of fish production is 100,000 metric tons per year.

It was mentioned that Seychelles attaches great importance to Fisheries Management, displayed by Seychelles holding the current chairmanship for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC).

Strategy 2017 and Fisheries
Five major areas are to be addressed to help achieve the target of this strategy:

a. Increase stake-holding in industrial (capture) fisheries;
b. Value addition, processing and market;
c. Improving and diversifying amenities;
d. Fisheries infrastructure development;
e. Fisheries Management.

GDP Contribution
Fisheries activities contributed SR400m in 2006, with an annual growth rate of 3% over the last 10 years.

Targeted growth for the coming 3 years is targeted at 50%, increasing GDP contribution to SR620m.

Financial Implication
The total cost of the 3-year plan is SR526-609m, with a Government input of SR112m.

The bulk of the financial commitment is expected to be generated by the private sector.

Zone 14
Launched as an Industrial Integrated Fisheries Development Plan in June 2007, the project is expected to bring investment opportunities in the following activities:

- Value-added Activities;
- Dry dock and ship repair facility;
- Vessel equipment supplies;
- Investment in infrastructure; and
- Aquaculture

The project is to be private-sector lead investment; an investment company will be created, with investors as share holders.

The 52 hectares of land earmarked for this development will be leased out to investors for 30-60 year periods.

Areas of Intervention

- Sports Fishing
It was expressed that sports fishing might be better regulated if it fell under the dossier of Fisheries, rather than that of Tourism, as it is an area that can have potential benefits for the Fisheries Industry.

SFA noted it as a valid point to be discussed in future with STB.

- Branding and Marketing of Seychelles Tuna
Example of Canada was highlighted, where wild salmon is more expensive and considered of better quality than farmed salmon.

Proposal was given for Seychelles’ tuna to be branded as “wild” to attribute to it a status of superior quality.

This proposal was taken onboard by SFA and said they are looking at similar avenues for the new marketing strategy which is being developed.

The expertise of IOT is being relied upon, since they already have 3 major brands under which Seychelles’ tuna is sold in Europe (John West, UK; Mare Blu, Italy and Petit Navire, France).

- Fisheries Licenses
It was pointed out that some of the smaller European vessels are often turned down when they request for a fishing license.

It was explained that in the Fisheries Agreement between Seychelles and EU, there is a fixed number of licenses that are given out at any one time and once this limit is reached, no one can receive new licenses.

The new strategy is to give license to those who are willing to invest in the development of the fisheries sector, especially in terms of infrastructure.

Other general remarks were raised with regards to the protection of fish stocks, including sharks and further emphasis was placed on ensuring that the coastal zone maintains its pristine state amidst the development.

Focal Point to contact in order to organize a festival/exhibition
Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Why are architectural designs not more “Colonial Style”
National Heritage Foundation is working on preserving existing “Creole” houses and encouraging future buildings to adopt the creole architectural style.

French-Creole Dictionary
The dictionary is being sold in the local bookstore “Antigone” in Victoria.

Exchange opportunities between local and foreign artists
Government, through the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture encourages the participation of our local artists in as many events locally and internationally as possible.

Training of Seychellois Youth in Cultural areas
It was noted that professionals in cultural animation are lacking.

The Consuls were presented with a detailed plan of the mission and activities that Seychelles wishes them to conduct in order to better represent and to further our interest in their respective countries.

The Mission Statement of this Roadmap aims at the development of relations between Seychelles and the Consuls’ countries of jurisdiction, as well as the promotion of cooperation in the political, economic, technical, scientific, educational and cultural fields.

The Roadmap has seven Governing Principles, which in essence govern the appointment and broad duties of the Honorary Consuls.

The General objectives of the work of the Consuls are also outlined, encompassing duties such as promotion of Seychelles’ political , economic and development objectives in their respective countries; the facilitation of economic and commercial relations between Seychelles and companies in their respective countries; assisting Seychellois nationals abroad and pursuing economic activities.

The Roadmap also lists out a number of Economic Functions, with the broad aim of promoting Seychelles as a viable investment, business destination and to conduct lobbying activities.

The functions include the promotion of different sectors including Tourism, Fisheries Industry, Environment and Partnerships with Seychelles, as well as to plead the case of Seychelles as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS).

The duties of the Honorary Consuls also extend in the areas of Communication, Media and Public Relations and Dissemination of information, to ensure the visibility of Seychelles on the international scene and that accurate information pertaining to Seychelles can be easily accessed and disseminated.

Culture, Education and Science and Technology are also included, with the aim of promoting cultural exchanges, stimulate educational cooperation and help sustain academic projects of interest to Seychelles.

The Honorary Consuls are also expected to perform various consul activities including rendering various services to Seychellois abroad.

Pertinent Points raised

• Parallel to efforts in developing reciprocal businesses, cultural values and human resources should also be developed via capacity building programs, trainings and interactive programs and exchange of best practices to empower the government and local communities of Seychelles.

• In a personal effort to promote cultural and art exchanges, Mr Barito sponsored the Indonesia Cultural & Culinary event in Seychelles, whereby a cultural group from the Indonesia National Art Institute came to perform while serving Indonesian culinary.

• It should be part of the mission of Honorary consuls within Asia and Africa to strengthen the South South Cooperation.

Mr Barito successfully secured the support of NAM and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia to secure sponsorship for Seychelles’ officials to attend capacity building programs in Indonesia.

• Seychellois artist, Nigel Henri, will be traveling to Indonesia in November 2007 to observe the life of fishermen, the port, and the facility and reality of the life of coastal society in order to perform live, by painting what he has observed, during the Climate Change Conference COP-13 in Bali in early December 2007.

• Possibly diverting efficient medical tourism programs which have been effective in Asia to Seychelles and which SIB has identified as a potential area of interest to support tourism and services in Seychelles.

The Minister thanked all Honorary Consuls for having made this trip and re-iterated the significance of their presence in this conference.

He expressed his appreciation for the way the Conference was conducted, more specifically for the active participation of the Delegates.

The Minsiter is pleased with the road map and expressed his sincere wish that the map is used as a crucial tool with which the Honorary Consuls execute their duties.

He concluded that he looks forward to the next Honorary Consuls Meeting which should take place in 2009 and that by then he hopes that the issues and concerns raised in this particular conference will have been satisfactorily dealt with.

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