An increase in the minimum wage, an integrated health information system and new categories of work permits for non-Seychellois workers are some of the highlights in the proposed budget for 2020.
The Seychelles' finance minister, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, presented the proposed budget of SCR 9.29 billion ($679 million) to the Members of the National Assembly on Thursday. The 2020 budget would represent about a 9 percent increase over the 2019 budget of SCR 8.5 billion ($625 million).
The 2020 budget is being financed by domestic resources (89 percent), from loan financing (4 percent) and from grant financing (7 percent), Loustau-Lalanne said.
Once again education and health remain the priority sectors with the largest share of the budget. A total of SCR 1.18 billion ($86 million) is allocated to education and SCR 1.12 billion ($82 million) to health. This represents 24.7 percent of the proposed budget.
Loustau-Lalanne said that the government is expected to sign an agreement for the integrated Health Information System by the end of the year.
"By establishing an integrated Health Information System, the government is making the necessary commitment that is expected to ensure improvements in health care quality, the efficiency of delivery and access, while also moving the health care system closer to harmonisation with relevant international standards," he said.
The system will be linked to the various national E-Government systems such as the birth and death registry, to improve health-related regulatory enforcement and overall government strategic decision-making nationally for planning purposes.
He added that central to this is the implementation of an integrated Electronic Medical Record solution that will cover 100 percent of the citizen population of Seychelles.
On the increase in the minimum wage, the minister said that as per the announcement made by President Danny Faure on Labour Day, the minimum wage will increase by SCR 500 per month effective January 1, 2020.
The rate will rise from SCR 34.97 to SCR 38.27 per hour for all workers other than casual. This means that based on 35 hours of work per week, the salary will increase from SCR 5,303.70 ($388) to SCR 5,804 ($424) per month from January.
The government will also introduce some new policies in 2020. This will include two new categories of Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) for non-Seychellois workers applicable as of January 2020.
For non-Seychellois employees who are in Seychelles for more than six years, the fee will be increased from SCR 500 ($37) to SCR 1,000 ($73) per month and for non-Seychellois employees who are in the country for more than ten years, the fee will be increased from SCR 500 to SCR 5,000 ($366) per month
Under the arts, culture and heritage as of January 2020, a National Arts Council grants policy will be introduced.
"The new Seychelles National Cultural Policy emphases on the importance to encourage artistic creativity to further enrich the Seychellois culture and promote Seychellois cultural goods and services abroad. The Grants Policy seeks to support and nurture creativity and encourage cultural activity to encourage greater social cohesion and economic development," said Loustau-Lalanne.
Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, will commemorate the 250th anniversary next year since the first settlers arrived in the island nation.
Loustau-Lalanne said that a preparatory committee will organise a number of activities at the national level and in all districts with a provision of SCR 5 million ($367,000) allocated in the budget 2020.
The finance minister ended his presentation in saying that "this budget that the government is proposing for the National Assembly's consideration will allow the Seychellois to take the opportunities so that together we build this country towards long term sustainable growth."
He added that "I know that unfortunately, we have not been able to include everything that has been requested during the different consultations since our resources are not unlimited. But I am convinced that what we have provided in the 2020 budget will allow for future growth opportunities in the different sectors whilst we remain resilient as a country."
The two leaders in the National Assembly, Wavel Ramkalawan of the Opposition and Charles De Comarmond for Government Business, will give their response to the budget next Tuesday.