Located deep in the Indian Ocean, the small island nation of Seychelles has built itself into an African success story. Its president, James Michel (pictured right), has told New African how they did it: "We accepted our own mistakes, abandoned what was not working, and embraced reform by putting the interests of the country first above any political considerations. This way we gave hope to the people that they can enjoy a more prosperous future." Wanjohi Kabukuru reports from the Seychelles capital, Victoria.
President James Michel of the Seychelles is not a gambler. But when it mattered most, he took one of the most daring political gambles in his life, ignoring warnings from his closest political aides and friends.
It all began in 2008. This was when Michel initiated a wide raft of economic reforms in the Indian Ocean island nation.
The economic ideals that Michel adopted took the country on the most difficult path it had ever taken since independence in 1976. This is because Seychelles' economic model, which it adopted when Michel's predecessor, France Albert Rene, overthrew James Mancham in 1976, was characterised by heavy state intervention in the economy and a well-spread welfare system unmatched in Africa and rivalling European welfare platforms.
Michel decided to take the unsavoury path and alter the country's socialist-leaning economic direction when it became clear that Seychelles was on the verge of economic difficulties as it was overburdened by debt and imbalance in international repayments.
The president overhauled the country's fiscal policies and liberalised the economy by reducing state monopolies and controls. The floatation of the Seychelles Rupee (SCR) and opening up of state enterprises for privatisation, together with civil service reforms, were the other measures that completely redefined the economy.
On the economic front, these decisions looked good but politically they were a hot potato. As he launched the economic transformation that included redundancies in the civil service, financial analysts predicted a tough time for Seychelles and a longer period of recovery. The IMF adjusted its predictions by forecasting a slow economic growth, pegging it to grow by 4% in 2010.
Politically Michel was billed to lose the 2011 general election simply because of the economic model he was introducing. The opposition picked up on this as the implementation of the reforms began to bite.
In the 2011 election, the opposition led by Wavel Ramkalawan's...