Greece may still be on the verge of bankruptcy - the Seychelles are already behind them. the island paradise went bankrupt, ran up debts and got itself back on its feet four years ago. geopolitically, the Seychelles are a part of Africa, but this means that the similarities between the island state in the Indian Ocean and the mainland 1,600 kilometres away have already ceased to exist. because the 85,000 or so people who live on the main island of Mahe and the secondary islands are doing well.
Today, one notices nothing of the huge economic problems that the Seychelles had slid into just four years ago. paradise was broke virtually overnight at that time. the small nation had simply taken on too many debts. "there was no exact regulation regarding repayment," explains german honorary consul Kerstin Henri. "however, the loans had to be repaid in foreign currency that the country no longer had at that time.
Then the world economy went downhill, the flow of tourists slowed down and import prices for oil and other raw materials rose rapidly. foreign exchange was only available on the black market. as a result, currency reserves were exhausted and the government was no longer able to service a bond in September 2008.
IMF helped island state to turn around
in this hopeless situation, the international monetary fund stepped in and agreed with the government on a comprehensive programme to reorient the economy - and lent its new money. one of the most important immediate measures was a drastic devaluation of the seychelles rupee by over 40 percent. the currency has been freely convertible ever since. "today there is no black market here any more, it's just not worth it," says taxi driver ben, who emigrated from tanzania to the seychelles 28 years ago.
In addition, tax reforms as well as improvements in financial administration and expenditure management were introduced. this helped to support the credibility of the budget consolidation. already in 2010, the IMF again recorded above-average financial strength of the islands. with a per capita income of around 11,000 dollars (8,627 euros), the seychelles are also one of the richest nations in africa.
Tourism as the main source of income
Above all its scenic beauty has saved the Seychelles from ruin, as the tourism sector is flourishing again. 20,000 holidaymakers from Germany alone travel to paradise every year, and a total of 150,000 sun-seekers worldwide book a dream trip to one of the 115 islands. Around 30 per cent of the working population is employed in tourism and generates around 70 per cent of the national income.
In order to further strengthen the industry, the Seychelles Tourism Ministries, together with the neighbouring countries of Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion, recently developed a new marketing concept for the entire region. "Vanilla Islands" is the beguiling name of the idea. the aim is to develop a regional identity and, for example, to make island hopping easier through better transport routes. "We have a master plan to attract more holidaymakers in the future, especially in the low season," explains Lena Hoareau from the Seychelles Tourism Authority.
Those who are not employed in tourism usually work for the Indian Ocean Tuna, one of the largest fish processing factories in the world, for the Seybrew Brewery or in the construction sector: "In agriculture, however, the Seychelles are not competitive, the land is simply not made for growing anything", says Honorary Consul Henri.
"Those who are unemployed here are simply too lazy"
"But if you want to work in the Seychelles, you can have at least three jobs", explains Henri, and taxi driver Ben adds: "If you're unemployed here, you're simply too lazy" But even idlers have nothing to fear in this island paradise, according to the Honorary Consul: "Here, if necessary, people can simply sit on the beach and hold their fishing line in the sea - there's always something to eat".