Magazine article New African

The Seychelles Way, Socialism with a Human Face: On 14 April This Year, James Alix Michel Became the President of the Seychelles after Many Years as Vice-President under Former President France Albert Rene. He Had Seen It All, from the Seychelles of Inequalities, Class Divisions and Shanty Towns to the Sumptuous Country That the Seychelles Is Today. in This Interview, President Michel Tells Our Editor, Baffour Ankomah, How It All Happened

Magazine article New African

The Seychelles Way, Socialism with a Human Face: On 14 April This Year, James Alix Michel Became the President of the Seychelles after Many Years as Vice-President under Former President France Albert Rene. He Had Seen It All, from the Seychelles of Inequalities, Class Divisions and Shanty Towns to the Sumptuous Country That the Seychelles Is Today. in This Interview, President Michel Tells Our Editor, Baffour Ankomah, How It All Happened

Article excerpt

Baffour: You worked under President Rene for a long time as vice-president. Today, the results of that partnership are there for all to see; a very beautiful country, an African success story in fact. Now that you are at the helm of affairs as president, what will be your programme for the future?

Michel: My programme will be to build on the successes of the past, on what we've been able to achieve so far. As you know, when we got our independence in 1976, we inherited an impoverished country in which social divisions; class divisions and racial divisions were rife. But when we liberated ourselves in 1977, we started a programme of democratisation which removed the inequalities in the system, and we also brought about a cultural liberation which practically eliminated the racial divisions. We also, at the same time, started to build a sound economic foundation and today we are a country with a lot of successes, both in human and economic terms.

Now I think it is a question of building on the successes that we have so far achieved. Of course we have to take into account what is happening in the world, the new global environment. Seychelles has to fit into this environment. So our new programme will embody the principles of this new environment and bring the economic structures of the country more in line with what is happening in the world.

We will also maintain our successes in the social sector, because for us some things are separate, things such as equal opportunity for all and social justice. We will continue to ensure that every Seychellois gets the best possibility of achieving the standard of living he or she aspires to. We will maintain our social cohesion and build on a new platform for further economic development, to bring about more growth and prosperity.

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Baffour: In spite of the obvious successes that your government and party have achieved, the opposition has been creeping up on you, the ruling SPPF, at every election. The last time, in 2001, the opposition vote was 44%. This must give you some sleepless nights. What do you think are the causes of this phenomenon, and what are you going to do to ensure that the SPPF maintains its lead?

Michel: Because of our investment in the social sector, we have created some economic imbalances, and in a country like ours with a high standard of living, where expectations are high, as soon as you experience an economic downturn, people tend to forget about the successes, they forget about what they have and see only what they want, without realising that the problems of today are as a result of the successes of the past.

It is true that our people have experienced certain frustrations because of the economic problems. But it doesn't mean they were not happy with the system as such. They were frustrated by several other things. But I think with the new environment we have now, this new approach, we will be in a position to build on the new way forward, and I am convinced that we will return to our strong party foundation in the next few years.

Baffour: President Rene is now the president of the party while you, as head of state, effectively run the country. Do you envisage any conflicts between you and him? For example, you as president of the country may introduce a policy, but the president of the party, using the levers of the party, will say "no, we don't want to go that way". What happens then, whose word goes?

Michel: No, I don't see any contradiction there because our party, by nature, is very structured and has its own programmes on which the people elected it. …

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