President Danny Faure of Seychelles underscored the challenges facing island nations as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Faure’s pre-recorded speech was among six such talks scheduled for African leaders, in a format that replaced in-person meetings for the 75th UNGA. They included President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço of Angola, his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Faure said his Indian Ocean nation is struggling with the economic fallout because of the coronavirus impact, particularly on tourism.
“Everything Seychelles has done to date to minimize the impact of COVID-19 will not be sustainable in the long term because of the depletion of our foreign exchange reserves,” the president said. “It took us 44 years since Seychelles independence to attain the quality of life we enjoyed before COVID-19, and just four months for COVID-19 to paralyze our tourism industry and with it much of our economy.”
The government projects a 14 percent budget deficit in 2020 instead of an expected four percent surplus, he added. A recovery will take at least five years, once there is a vaccine and recovery is possible.
In keeping with this year’s UNGA theme, Faure appealed for help rooted in global multilateralism, on behalf of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). “International financial institutions should reexamine their eligibility criteria (to ensure) SIDS access to financing, to take into account our extreme vulnerability to economic, climate, and now public health shocks,” he said.
A separate event focused on financial assistance for SIDS nations is set for Thursday.