Please find attached a pdf version of a 24-page special feature on Seychelles published in today with the Guardian newspaper in the UK.
The Guardian website has also, for the first time, launched their country feature online, which has many extras includeded and will be featured on their website for the next month at the link below.
Among many articles and features is a Q&A with Minister Adam which I have attached below.
The Report Company: You have been in office since June 2010, what are/have been the 'non-negotiable' objectives during your mandate?
Jean-Paul Adam: As a country, our non-negotiables are health and education. Because we put so much emphasis on these sectors, after the 2008 crisis we had a very educated population that we could re-skill and retrain.
In terms of our foreign policy we’re very strong advocates for island issues. There is a gap in the development architecture and islands have fallen into that gap. There’s so much more Seychelles could be doing with access to the right development financing, because we pay for the isolation.
We’ve finally managed to connect the fibre optic cable to Dar es Salaam, which will revolutionise communications and create so many more business opportunities.
Another area where we have very strong advocacy on the international scene is climate change. We feel that the climate change debate is going in the wrong direction because the debate has become almost ideological, which it shouldn’t be.
TRC: Climate change is obviously a threat to development – how do you promote and push the issue within the framework of your bilateral relationship with the UK?
JA: We’re being realistic in the sense that we understand that no agreement can come just by telling businesses to foot the bill. We know and understand that there’s a certain amount of negotiation but the science is very straightforward and even the most recent reports, whether scientists have oversold it or not, make it clear that climate change will have a huge effect on the world.
In the same way that the debt crisis happened because the right decisions were not taken 5 years ago, if we do not take the right decisions now, in 5 years we will face a climate change disaster.
TRC: Over the last decade, the country has achieved spectacular economic success while paying due regard to environmental protection. To what extent is Seychelles maintaining environmental protection at the forefront of its development agenda?
JA: There has been a vision right from independence wherein the leaders of Seychelles have said that if we’re going to be successful we’re never going to be in the business of mass production of anything.
We have recognised that the economy in Seychelles can’t be divorced from the environment. We depend on tourism and fisheries. If you have a polluted environment in Seychelles you don’t have an economy. Seychelles is the country with the most protected land in the world, 50% of our land territory is protected.
TRC: How important would you say your membership of the Commonwealth is to Seychelles as a small island state?
JA: The Commonwealth has done the most work on the specificities of islands and we would like that other development organisations look to the Commonwealth on these issues.
Overall, Seychelles is developing strong relationships with a number of countries. We are right in the middle of the Indian Ocean in terms of continental politics, we are affiliated with Africa, but we offer so much more because we have this view of the Indian Ocean.
TRC: As a former colony, Seychelles has a very close relationship with the UK. How do you see these bilateral relations evolving?
JA: One of the key aspects is education. Our education system is linked to the UK system and we’ve just launched our first university, which is affiliated with the University of London.
It’s a relationship that has stood the test of time and which we see will continue. It’s things like investment in education, people to people contacts; those are the things that will keep the relationship going.
In terms of other issues, more recently we’ve had a lot of cooperation on piracy.
TRC: Piracy is a growing threat, not only to the shipping and fishing industries, but also to the security of the region as a whole. What is the strategic role of Seychelles in the fight against piracy?
JA: Piracy is a very complicated subject and in Seychelles it’s very emotional. Seychellois people have a very special relationship with the sea; it’s how we connect with the rest of the world.
Our main islands are still very safe but we have 1.3m sq km of ocean so our fishing vessels can no longer go as far afield as they used to and we are paying higher insurance costs to import goods, which has a huge bearing on the cost of living.
This is a global problem because two-thirds of the world’s shipped oil goes through this region.
As a government we’ve been very strong in pushing for a rational approach. There needs to be a more coherent attempt to ensure safety and security in Somalia. What’s there at the moment in terms of peacekeeping is not sufficient, there needs to be more effort within Somalia itself to contain the problem areas, which is not just piracy but also terrorism in the long term.
Secondly, there needs to be better coordination in terms of a more robust maritime response. Seychelles has been very successful in prosecuting pirates; we’ve changed our laws and made them very robust. Through the prosecutions we have built a picture of a network that is much wider. Seychelles in collaboration with the UK will be setting up a regional intelligence-sharing centre that will be looking at building cases against people that are financing piracy and sharing intelligence garnered within Somalia with other countries.
TRC: To what extent is Seychelles important when it comes to understanding this part of the world?
JA: Seychelles was historically the centre of the world. We give a whole new meaning to stability.
We’re the first stop between Africa and Asia and vice versa and in terms of financial services there are a lot of opportunities, because we’re a low tax jurisdiction while also offering fantastic services and excellent access to African markets.
We’re part of regional agreements that include SADC and COMESA, so we strongly believe that Seychelles is a very interesting stepping stone in terms of global geopolitics and the global economy.
In addition we offer that stability, that long-term return on investments that you do not always get in this region. Seychelles has consistently put itself out there as somewhere where it’s relatively easy to do business and invest and a great place to live.
TRC: Eighty per cent of Seychelles’ tourists come from Europe. What are you doing to weather these knock-on effects from the global crisis to continue your growth?
JA: What we’re going through is one of the biggest threats to the international economy since World War II. We should not underestimate the scale of the problem that we’re faced with and we are not complacent at all. We’ve grown incredibly well in the last two years but we would have done so much better if the world had too, because we’re a very open economy linked in a very special way to the world economy.
We are diversifying the tourism product and the way we market tourism. In March 2011, we organised an international carnival for the first time. We will have over 50 in the 2012 edition, so you can come to our carnival and see groups from Zimbabwe, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia, Korea and we even had a delegation from the Notting Hill carnival. Within tourism there are certain things you can do. Also, there are certain people who want very niche products and Seychelles is built for niche markets.
Our largest tourism market is currently Europe but we’re seeing impressive growth from the Middle East and Africa, particularly South Africa, and there’s a huge opportunity in terms of China, Korea and Australia.
In financial services there’s a lot of opportunity in the sense that the global economic problems are such that businesses around the world are looking for more efficiency and cost savings and they’re also looking for the right regulatory framework. A lot of companies based here want strong regulation and we offer that while at the same time offering a low cost and efficiency.
We do need to work very hard on improving the maritime trading links and piracy is one of the breaks on this, but long term, there’s a lot of potential in that sector.
In terms of fisheries what Seychelles has is a huge opportunity to catch not necessarily huge quantities but very good quality fish and our supply chain ensures that the norms and standards are of the highest quality.
Another area is energy. Within that are three possibilities. The first is renewable energy - we are passing legislation now wherein if anyone produces energy it will be purchased by the state, which will make it very economically viable because whatever you produce in terms of renewable energy will be purchased. The second aspect is the re-export of oil, which we’re already doing – we bunker, we have huge storage facilities for oil and we already re-export a large amount of oil. The third aspect is that recent seismic surveys have shown that there could be vast quantities of oil in certain parts of our ocean, but the way we’re planning our economy is that this would be a bonus card. We’re not factoring that potential revenue into any of our economic models.
TRC: What would be your final message about Seychelles? How would you like the country to be perceived?
JA: The best place to see the world is from the Seychelles.