Beneficial relationship with UAE


I read with interest your article today entitled “Works start on a new coast guard base” – and would be grateful if you will publish the following comments which I consider pertinent and of obvious interest to your readers.

There is a phrase in common parlance in Seychelles which says: “Grand prometteur, petit donneur”. Literally this refers to those people who make big promises but never deliver. Obviously this phrase would not apply to High Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, President of the wealthy state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It is only a few months ago that Sheikh Khalifa announced his readiness to finance a new base for the Seychelles Coast Guard in our endeavour to combat piracy in our region and now already on Sunday October 10, 2010, Seychelles witnessed the laying of the foundation stone for that costly project on Ile Perseverance.

Briefly, Sheikh Khalifa’s government has entered into a contract with one of the leading construction groups in the UAE to get the project materialised within 10 months.

The company entrusted with this contract is named Trojan, and within that time they are expected to build not only a headquarters, a helicopter pad, a place for inter-faith worship, a ship workshop, accommodation for officers, NCOs and others, but also a ship platform, a fuel station, a multi-purpose building, a football ground, a volleyball court and more.

The overall cost of the project, if one is to include the patrol boats and the helicopter pledged, will come to around US $50 million.

From now on, the countdown starts as Trojan begins working around the clock to realise a development which, above all, testifies to the growing amity and ties between Seychelles and the UAE.

The coast guard project is not the only investment made by Sheikh Khalifa in Seychelles. On top of the mountainside of La Misère and Barbarons, glittering lights at night confirm that the four impressive and unique palaces he is building at a cost of millions of dollars are certainly approaching time of completion.

Seen from all sides, an image is emerging of a relationship where the UAE can best be described as a “big brother” to Seychelles. It is understood that over the last two years, the UAE has financed development projects in Seychelles to the tune of more than US $100m – a sum which is probably more than the total contribution of all other nations to Seychelles over that period.

Seychelles must consider itself lucky, at these difficult times, to be blessed by the benevolence of this generous Arab leader, who could have built his palaces in Hawaii, in the south of France, in Hollywood or anywhere else in the world.

By choosing Seychelles as his favourite holiday place – the Sheikh sends a message as to the beauty of our country and as to its quality as a destination of hospitality and enjoyment. Not too bad a message to get across in the sphere of competitive international tourism at this time.

There is no doubt that Sheikh Khalifa’s involvement in Seychelles today is making an extremely positive psychological impact within the world of investors – and that the increasing interest which many of the latter are showing in Seychelles at this moment has a lot to do with “big brother’s” interest in us.

Seychelles may not become to the UAE what Hawaii became to the United States – another State within the American federation. But Seychelles can develop a close, meaningful and mutually beneficial relation with the UAE if the overall policy guiding the collaboration is motivated by “grandeur d’esprit” and a sense of enlightenment and mutual satisfaction.
It is interesting in this context to note what I wrote about Seychelles’ relationship with the Gulf states in my autobiography Seychelles Global Citizen, which was published by Paragon House, USA, in 2009.

James R. Mancham

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