Finance minister Naadir Hassan presenting the 2024 Budget to the National Assembly on Friday (National Assembly)
(Seychelles News Agency) – Reclaiming five hectares of land for the industrial sector and building a rehabilitation centre for drug and alcohol addicts as well as a maximum-security prison are included in Seychelles’ 2024 budget presented by the Minister of Finance, Naadir Hassan, to the National Assembly on Friday.
Hassan is seeking the approval of the National Assembly for a proposed budget of SCR10.6 billion ($731 million) for 2024, an increase of 1 percent on the budget of 2023.
The Ministry of Finance is forecasting a collection of SCR 10.9 billion ($749 million) from revenues and donations in 2024.
Hassan said that health and education remain the two sectors with the highest amount in the budget with a total of SCR 1.41 billion ($96.9 million) and 1.40 billion ($96.2 million), respectively. This represents 13.4 percent of the total of the proposed budget.
“The budget for goods and services remains the biggest amount in the 2024 budget with a total of SCR 3.73 million which represents 35.1 percent of the total government budget. This also represents 12.3 percent GDP compared to the 12.8 percent GDP in the budget revision for 2023. The government will continue to look for ways to see more efficiency and reduce operational spending, and use the money to invest more in programmes,” said the minister.
Hassan said that “to improve the life of our citizens in the community, we recognise that we have to fight against the social ills. This remains one of our priorities. The budget 2024 will invest in programmes to help support those more in need. For us to have a people that is resilient, strong, and hardworking, we have to invest to combat the ills.”
Fighting social ills
Hassan said the government is investing a lot to combat social ills, “firstly the battle to stop illicit drugs entering our country will continue and secondly, we must continue to support those who have succumbed to drug abuse and alcohol.”
He said that the budget 2024, makes provision for the construction of a new rehabilitation centre at English River at the cost of SCR14.5 million and renovation of a centre at Anse Bouden on Praslin for patients with addiction problems.
He added that research has shown that drug and alcohol abuse are the principal reasons why many people have fallen into poverty.
The minister said that currently a study is being done by the World Bank to help the government better understand the gravity and impact of the socioeconomic situation.
The result will allow the government to take more effective, targeted and comprehensive measures that will help address the crisis that our country is facing.
“However, we recognise that there will always be a group that will need additional support, and as is the case, the government will provide the support to help the population in need. An allocation of SCR 1.3 billion ($97.8 million) is being budgeted for benefits and programmes under the Agency for Social Protection,” he explained.
Maintaining peace and order
Hassan said that for the Seychellois people to live well, there must be order and peace and this is still a priority for the government and that for 2024, the government will invest SCR62 million ($1.6 million) in different projects of the Ministry for Internal Affairs.
“One of the biggest projects is a maximum-security prison to separate the prisoners with more serious offences from the other prisoners. There is also a project to build a facility for prisoners classified as medium to low risk that will cost SCR 6 million ($451,000),” he added.
Adoption of technology in the agricultural sector
The minister said that the sector will need to adopt appropriate technology to facilitate commerce and information management that will allow better decisions to be made.
“We will also work with the local producers to adopt what we call high-tech farming that will help us become more resilient against climate change. As an encouragement for the farmers to adopt technology in their businesses, the government will revise the development fund for the agricultural sector,” said Hassan.
A sum of SCR 3 million ($227,000) has been allocated in the budget and SCR60 million ($4.5 million) in funds with the Development Bank of Seychelles, making a total of SCR 63 million ($4.7 million) for 2024 for hi-tech farming loans.
Reclamation of land for businesses
“In our next stage of economic development, we will need one of the most precious commodities – and rare in Seychelles – and this is land. We can all appreciate that we have a shortage of land in our country, especially flat land. The government intends to reclaim around 50 hectares of land for the industrial sector,” said Hassan.
He said that the preparation such as an environment impact assessment and financing has started and that more details will be given in early 2024.
Tax deduction on assessable income tax for businesses investing in community projects to increase to 150 percent
Hassan said that to encourage more charitable gestures towards the community from businesses, the government will increase the current reduction of taxes from 100 percent to 150 percent.
“This means that the businesses making those donations for projects and programmes in the community or the assistance they give for civil society projects and progamme, 150 percent of the donation will be deducted on the assessable income tax.”