- The global rise in food prices has started alarming consumers and the opposition in one of Africa's richest nations, Seychelles. But in the Victoria parliament, Seychelles speaker Patrick Herminie has rejected an opposition call to hold an emergency session to address issues on the issue.
The opposition call followed a recent announcement by government to increase the price of rice, the Seychellois staple meal. The increase is a direct result of international food prices hiking, but for Seychelles it comes just after the government had devalued its currency, making price of basic food items too expensive for the average family, Alain St Ange reports from Seychelles.
Seychelles National Party leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, said his call was justified as the public had a right to be informed of government's plans to mitigate the effects of hiking food prices in the country. Mr Ramkalawan explained that his demand for parliament to reconvene in an emergency session should be seen as a call by the opposition for the government to come up with both short term and long term measures to address the critical increases in food prices and with their effects on the population.
The 2008 Budget presented by Finance Minister Danny Faure brought excessive increases in the price of electricity and water amongst many other necessities needed by regular households. The increment in basic household requirements comes at a time when the population has not seen any substantial increase in their salaries while members of government and parliament had allocated themselves huge salary increases, bonuses and gratuities.
In trying to mitigate the adverse effects that the food price hikes could have on the population, the Secretary General of Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nicole Tirant-Gherardi, said government should consider subsidising farmers as an encouragement for surplus production.
The Seychellois government has been criticised for taking previously agricultural land and earmarking such for other uses like the building of Seychelles University project and new tourism projects. Many outer coralline islands also remain virtually idle and farming programmes have been discontinued or placed on back burners, as government considers deals to turn some of them into new tourism resorts.
The opposition has hailed the speaker's rejection as insensitive and sidelining important issues of the country to allow the ruling party members to undertake a sightseeing tour of China that is also being organised. Meanwhile, the poorer members of the population become more vulnerable to price increases as they remain underpaid compared to the Seychelles high cost of living index.
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