Seychelles -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Seychelles
Capital City: Victoria
Languages: English (official) French
Official Currency: Seychellois rupee
Religions: catolicism,isliam, hinduism, others
Land Area: 451 km2
Landforms:An archipelago nation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean with mostly rocky terrain.
Land Divisions: An island nation, the Seychelles is located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km (994 mi) east of Kenya. The number of islands in the archipelago is often given as 115 but the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles lists 155. The islands as per the Constitution are divided into various groups. There are 42 granitic islands, two coral sand cays north of the granitics, two coral islands south of the granitics, 29 coral islands in the Amirantes group, 13 coral islands in the Farquhar Group, 67 raised coral islands in the Aldabra Group.
Seychelles -- History --
While Austronesian seafarers or Arab traders may have been the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles, the first known European recorded sighting of them took place in 1502, by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The first recorded landing and first written account was by the crew of the English East Indiaman Ascension in 1609. As a transit point for trading between Africa and Asia, they were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control of the islands starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Sechelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance. The British contested control over the islands with the French between 1794 and 1812. Jean Baptiste Queau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain, which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality. Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1812 and this was formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. The Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and independence was granted in 1976, as a republic within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup d'etat ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham, replacing him with France Albert Rene. The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60 percent of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.
Seychelles -- Economy --
Since independence in 1976, per capita output has expanded to roughly seven times the old near-subsistence level. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30% of the labour force and provides more than 70% of hard currency earnings, and by tuna fishing. In recent years the government has encouraged foreign investment in order to upgrade hotels and other services. These incentives have given rise to an enormous amount of investment in real estate projects and new (mostly five star) resort properties. Hilton, Four Seasons and Banyan Tree are all new entrants to Seychelles. Development projects projected in the hundreds of millions of dollars each are in the beginning stages for Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Raffles, Shangri-La. Other private developments such as Ile Aurore, Per Aquam and Eden Island are projected at over $2 billion.Coconut oil making in the early 1970s: At the same time, the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, small-scale manufacturing and most recently the offshore sector. The vulnerability of the tourist sector was illustrated by the sharp drop in 1991–1992 due largely to the country's significantly overvalued exchange rate and the Gulf War, and once again following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Other issues facing the government are the curbing of the budget deficit, including the containment of social welfare costs, and further privatisation of public enterprises. The government has a pervasive presence in economic activity, with public enterprises active in petroleum product distribution, insurance (has now been privatized), banking (is being privatized very soon), imports of basic products (now being privatized), telecommunications (four private ISP/telecom companies), and a wide range of other businesses. Beginning at the turn of the millennium the Seychelles Petroleum Company (SEPEC) started to develop the first fleet of modern petroleum double-hull tankers (five vessels), which was completed by late 2007/early 2008 with the possibility to build more in the near future. The Seychelles President claims that this has opened the door to a new industry for his country and encouraged economic growth by further removing over-reliance on traditional trades like fisheries and tourism, which is now falling rapidly as the country's main income but nevertheless, has experienced significant growth in recent years. Growth slowed in 1998–2001, due to sluggish tourist and tuna sectors. Also, tight controls on exchange rates and the scarcity of foreign exchange have impaired short-term economic prospects. The black market value of the Seychellois rupee is anywhere from two thirds to one half the official exchange rate. The next few years were also a bit slow due to the worldwide economic downturn and the fear of flying brought on by September 11, 2001. More recently though, tourism has roared back at a record pace setting successive records in 2006 and again in 2007 for number of visitors. The increased availability of flights to and from the archipelago due in part to new entrants Emirates and Qatar airlines is also beginning to show. New five star properties and the devaluation of the currency by nearly 33% by the Seychelles Government is having a positive influence on the tourism sector as well. Both at official exchange rates and at purchasing power parity (PPP), Seychelles remains the richest territory in Africa in terms of GDP per capita (US$9,440.095 at real exchange rates and US$17,560.062 at PPP 2008 estimate). Contrary to what was cited before in terms of the wealthiest African state, it is misleading to compare the Seychelles economy to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion which is part of France, economically dependent on the French income and budget and has the Euro as currency). The Seychelles is a totally independent state generating its own income. Because of economic contraction (the economy declined by about 2% in 2004 and 2005 and lost another 1.4% in 2006 according to the International Monetary Fund) the country was moving downwards in terms of per capita income. However, the economy came roaring back in 2007, growing by 5.3% due in part to the record tourism numbers but also the booming building and offshore industries which also continue to set records. The IMF has forecast further growth in 2008 with continuing increase in the GDP per capita.Seychelles is, per capita, the most highly indebted country in the world according to the World Bank, with total public debt around 122.8% of GDP. Approximately two thirds of this debt is owed domestically, with the balance due to multilaterals, bilaterals, and commercial banks. Current external debt is estimated at 35.5% according to the IMF (2007). The country is in arrears to most of its international creditors and has had to resort to pledged commercial debt to continue to be able to borrow. This high debt burden is a direct consequence of the overvalued exchange rate. In essence, the country is living beyond its means, and financing its lifestyle by borrowing domestically and internationally.The Seychelles rupee was freely floated on November 3, 2008. The rupee traded at an average 19.97 per euro by noon in the capital Victoria, compared with 11.3421 last week, according to Caroline Abel, head of monetary analysis and statistics at the Central Bank of Seychelles. It traded at 15.58 per dollar, from 8.9090, she said. Against the pound, it dropped to 25.02, from 14.3227.The decision to let the currency trade freely is part of a package of measures approved by the International Monetary Fund, which on October 31 agreed to give the Seychelles an emergency loan to help it meet spiraling debt-servicing costs. The country's $800 million external foreign debt is equivalent to almost 175 percent of gross domestic product.
Seychelles -- Culture --
Seychellois society is essentially matriarchal. Mothers tend to be dominant in the household, controlling most current expenditures and looking after the interests of the children. Unwed mothers are the societal norm, and the law requires fathers to support their children. Men are important for their earning ability, but their domestic role is relatively peripheral. Older women can usually count on financial support from family members living at home or contributions from the earnings of grown children.The district clock tower in the centre of Victoria, capital of Seychelles.The music of Seychelles is diverse. The folk music of the islands incorporates multiple nfluences in a syncretic fashion, including English contredanse, polka and mazurka, French folk and pop, sega from Mauritius and Reunion, taarab, soukous and other pan-African genres, and Polynesian, Indian and Arcadian music. A complex form of percussion music called contombley is popular, as is Moutya, a fusion of native folk rhythms with Kenyan benga developed by Ton Pa.Most of the people are Roman Catholic (90 percent) or Anglican (8 percent). What the priests teach is somewhat different from the beliefs and practices of the layperson. Seychellois traditionally had a strong belief in spirits (namman) and sorcery (gri-gri). Some sorcerers were very influential.Traditionally, despite a greater connection with Great Britain (e.g., in education, which follows the International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE) and "A" (advanced) Level curriculum and has a branch of The University of Manchester as one of its highest educational institutions, and on many aspects of the law) a British Sunday Telegraph' travel journalist and many other notable foreign observers have stated that "the culture remains emphatically French" and about 70% of the population have a French sounding family name, compared with only about 20% English sounding family names. The two are often mixed, such that inhabitants receive an English first name and a French family name or vice-versa (e.g., Jean-Pierre Kingsmith). Most people are of mixed origins, often of white Europeans with black Africans where the whites are mainly French and the blacks are mainly East Africans.
Seychelles -- Political system, law and government --
The Seychelles president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term of office. The previous president, France Albert Rene, first came to power in a coup d'etat in 1977, one year after independence. He was democratically elected after the constitutional reforms of 1992. He stood down in 2004 in favour of his vice-president, James Michel, who was re-elected in 2006. The cabinet is presided over and appointed by the president, subject to the approval of a majority of the legislature.The unicameral Seychellois parliament, the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale, consists of 34 members, of whom 25 are elected directly by popular vote, while the remaining nine seats are appointed proportionally according to the percentage of votes received by each party. All members serve five-year terms.Politics is a topic of hot debate in the country. The main rival parties are the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), as of 2009 the SPPF became the People's Party (PP) or Parti Lepep (LP), and the Seychelles National Party (SNP). Politics has been an integral part of the lives of the Seychellois since its inception in the early sixties. The range of opinion spans socialist and liberal democratic ideologyPresident James Michel in his office in Victoria, Seychelles in 2009.The Seychelles are part of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), La Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations.The Seychelles performed excellently on the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, ranking 2nd out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries. Particularly good were its scores in Safety and Security, Participation and Human Rights, and Human development. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens.