COVID-19 downturn salary assistance in Seychelles to continue until February, official says

Businesses that were receiving salary assistance for their employees under the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR) scheme will continue to benefit from the programme until February 2021, said a top finance official.
In a meeting on Monday with the private sector, Secretary of State for Finance Patrick Payet said that the scheme has been reviewed and from March 2021 onwards it will be phased down and only those that fall under an affirmative list will benefit.
Examples of businesses under the affirmative list are accommodation and food service, administrative and support services such as airlines, yacht charters, DMCs, tour guides, travel agents, arts, entertainment and recreation, and transportation and storage.
“This decision has been taken as the country would not be able to continuously sustain these payments. The country is running at a deficit and we cannot simply borrow more money to make those payments as is,” said Payet.
According to the Ministry of Finance, a total of SCR1.2 billion ($52 million) has been disbursed since the scheme was set up in April. However, the new budget implication that will go towards the scheme for 2021 has been reduced to SCR 777. 8 million ($37 million).
Businesses on the affirmative list will receive 100 percent assistance from January to February. From March, those that are not on the list will receive 75 percent of the assistance.
To benefit from the reviewed scheme business establishments should have received the new license as per public health requirements.
“No Seychellois employees should receive a reduction in wages even if the establishments are receiving only 75 percent salary assistance,” said Payet.
The issue of Gainful Occupancy Permit (GOP) was also discussed, as Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – has a labour issue in terms of quantity and skills.
A lawyer, Laura Valabjhi, said that she has three clients who own businesses in the tourism industry who are struggling to get local employees.
“These businesses had to turn away their clients and this is money that could have gone into our economy. A lot of people locally do not want to work long hours or shift work which is required in the tourism field,” said Valabjhi.
She added that “if some people are choosing to sit on social welfare, we need to bring in people who want to work and pay tax, which in return support those on social welfare. Otherwise, when the tourists come on holiday they would not be able to get the required service as expected due to lack of manpower.”
In response, the Minister of Finance, Naadir Hassan, said that “we need to make people understand that it is easier to go for a job rather than apply for welfare. … We need to incentivise people into a job. Obviously, we take note that there are people who are vulnerable and we still need people with the required skill set. But we cannot continuously justify a decision whereby there are jobs, but people are still on welfare.”
For people who need to be reskilled, Seychelles has set up a scheme to reskill employees who have lost their job back into employment.
The Seychelles Employee Transition Scheme (SETS) is a temporary programme created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic economic retrenchment to assist private sector employees who are made redundant during the period of July  – December 2020.
It is funded by the Government of Seychelles under the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR). The programme is administered by SETS which is a state-owned enterprise.

Source: Seychelles News Agency