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Economy of Seychelles

Economy - overview: Since Seychelles' independence in 1976, per capita[?] output in this Indian Ocean archipelago 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 labor 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. At the same time, the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, and small-scale manufacturing. The vulnerability of the tourist sector was illustrated by the sharp drop in 1991-92 due largely to the Gulf War. Although the industry has rebounded, the government recognizes the continuing need for upgrading the sector in the face of stiff international competition. Other issues facing the government are the curbing of the budget deficit and further privatization of public enterprises. Growth slowed in 1998-99, due to sluggish tourist and tuna sectors.

Economy - in greater depth:
The economy rests on tourism and fishing. Presently, tourism accounts for about 12.7% of the GDP and the manufacturing and construction sectors (including industrial fishing) account for about 28.8%. In 2000, industrial fishing surpassed tourism as the most important foreign exchange earner.

Tourism is one of the most important sectors of the economy, accounting for approximately 16.6% (2000) of GDP. Employment, foreign earnings, construction, banking, and commerce are all dominated by tourism-related industries. Tourism earned $631 million in 1999-2000. About 130,046 tourists visited Seychelles in 2000, 80.1% of them from Europe (United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland).

Industrial fishing in Seychelles, notably tuna fishing, is rapidly becoming a significant factor in the economy. Earnings are growing annually from licensing fees paid by foreign trawlers fishing in Seychelles' territorial waters. In 1995, Seychelles saw the privatization of the Seychelles Tuna Canning Factory[?], 60% of which was purchased by the American food company Heinz Inc. Similarly, some port operations have been privatized, a trend that has been accompanied by a fall in transshipment fees and an increase in efficiency. Overall, this has sparked a recovery in port services following a drastic fall in 1994.

While the tourism and industrial fishing industries were on a roll in the late 1990s, the traditional plantation economy atrophied. Cinnamon barks and copra -- traditional export crops -- dwindled to negligible amounts by 1991. There were no exports of copra in 1996; 318 tons of cinnamon bark was exported in 1996, reflecting a decrease of 35% in cinnamon bark exports from 1995.

Despite attempts to improve its agricultural base and emphasize locally manufactured products and indigenous materials, Seychelles continues to import 90% of what it consumes. The exceptions are some fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, pork, beer, cigarettes, paint, and a few locally made plastic items. Imports of all kind are controlled by the Seychelles Marketing Board[?] (SMB), a government parastatal which operates all the major supermarkets and is the distributor and licensor of most other imports.

In an effort to increase agricultural self-sufficiency, Seychelles has undertaken steps to make the sector more productive and to provide incentives to farmers. Much of the state holdings in the agricultural sector have been privatized, while the role of the government has been reduced to conducting research and providing infrastructure.

Many of the other industrial activities are limited to small scale manufacturing, particularly agro-processing and import substitution. Agriculture (including artisanal and forestry), once the backbone of the economy, now accounts for only around 3% of the GDP. The public sector, comprising the government and state-owned enterprises, dominates the economy in terms of employment and gross revenue. It employs two-thirds of the labor force. Public consumption absorbs over one-third of the GDP.

The country’s economy is extremely vulnerable to external shocks. Not only does it depend on tourism, but it imports over 90% of its total primary and secondary production inputs. Any decline in tourism quickly translates into a fall in GDP, a decline in foreign exchange receipts, and budgetary difficulties. Furthermore, recent changes in the climate have greatly affected the tuna industry.

The Central Bank[?] estimates that the Seychelles economy grew by around 1.4% in real terms in 2000. Despite a foreign exchange problem, which affected primarily the manufacturing industry, the economy still grew thanks largely to a rebound in the tourism industry and the strength of the fishing sector. Tourism arrivals, one of the two main indicators of vitality in the sector, grew by 4.1% in 2000. Income also rose by 0.6%. A strong marketing effort by the Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority[?] (STMA) and the introduction of several new five-star hotels seems to have spurred the growth. Officials hope that new hotels on the drawing board and expanded airline service to the island will help offset the possibility of reduced global travel in the current environment.

In 2000, there were also encouraging performances in other sectors of service, namely the telecommunications sector, where the boom in mobile services continues to persist. According to the Telecommunications division of the Ministry of Information Technology & Communication[?], one in every four Seychellois now owns a mobile phone.

The Ministry of Finance is responsible for economic decisions and budgetary policy. A separate Monetary Authority supervises the banking system and manages the money supply. Although foreign banks operate branches in Seychelles, the government owns the two local banks -- the Development Bank of Seychelles, which mobilizes resources to fund development programs, and the Seychelles Saving Bank, a bank for savings and current accounts. The commercial banking sector is presently made up of the following:

The first four are branches of foreign banks and the latter is a joint venture between the Seychelles government and the Standard Chartered Bank African PLC[?]. Commercial banks offer the full range of services.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $590 million (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 1.8% (1999 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $7,500 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 21%
services: 75% (1996)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (1999)

Labor force: 26,000 (1996)

Labor force - by occupation: industry 19%, services 57%, government 14%, fishing, agriculture, and forestry 10% (1989)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget:
revenues: $220 million
expenditures: $241 million, including capital expenditures of $36 million (1994 est.)

Industries: fishing; tourism; processing of coconuts and vanilla, coir (coconut fiber) rope, boat building, printing, furniture; beverages

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity - production: 125 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 116 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: coconuts, cinnamon, vanilla, sweet potatoes, cassava (tapioca), bananas; broiler chickens; tuna fish

Exports: $91 million (f.o.b., 1998)

Exports - commodities: fish, cinnamon bark, copra, petroleum products (reexports)

Exports - partners: France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, China, Germany, Japan

Imports: $403 million (c.i.f., 1998)

Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products

Imports - partners: [[South Africa, United Kingdom, China, Singapore, France, Italy

Debt - external: $149 million (1997 est.)

Economic aid - recipient: $16.4 million (1995)

Currency: 1 Seychelles rupee (SRe) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Seychelles rupees (SRe) per US$1 - 5.3060 (September 1999), 5.2622 (1998), 5.0263 (1997), 4.9700 (1996), 4.7620 (1995)

Fiscal year: calendar year

See also : Seychelles



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