Michel takes over Seychelles

2004-04-15 09:44
Victoria - Veteran minister James Michel, 59, was sworn in as president of the Indian Ocean's Seychelle islands Wednesday, when France-Albert Rene retired after 27 years in power.

Originally a teacher, Michel worked in the telecommunications and hotel sectors before joining the Seychelles armed forces, becoming chief of staff in 1993.

He also worked at the central bank.

Michel entered politics in 1974 when he joined the Seychelles People's Unity Party, which became the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), now in power.

He has been a close ally of Rene since Rene came to power in a coup in 1977.

Michel became SPPF deputy secretary general in 1994, when he became secretary general.

Since 1977, he has held numerous ministerial portfolios, including education, information, finances.

Michel was named vice president of the Seychelles in 1996, since when he has also retained the positions of minister of finance and planning.

"I accept this responsibility without hesitation because I am confident in the good potential of the country and its people," Michel said on being sworn in to office.

"By harnessing this potential and by working together we can realise great things," he said.

"I see unity and tolerance in our diversity, no matter what our religious and political affiliations," he added.

"I want to see in the Seychelles a society where there is no place for corruption and favouritism," he said.

"I see Seychelles overcoming its economic difficulties and being successful in integrating itself in the world economy," he predicted.

Enviable welfare state

While Rene built up an enviable welfare state while in power and oversaw the development of the fishing and tourism sectors, the economy has been in decline since the early 1990s.

The Seychelles imports almost all of its consumer goods, and a fall in overseas visitors has exacerbated a shortage of foreign currency, supplies of which, like most other aspects of the economy, are stringently controlled.

Michel is due to serve for the remainder of Rene's constitutional term, which expires in 2006, when new presidential elections will be held.

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