James Alix Michel
Former President of the Republic of Seychelles
James Alix Michel was born on the island of Mahé, Seychelles, on 16th August 1944.
He completed his secondary education in Victoria in 1959 and attended the teacher training college from 1960 to 1961. He taught for two years before joining the telecommunications company Cable & Wireless, the trade union movement and the hotel industry.
From 1974 to 1977, James Michel was a member of the Executive Committee of the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP), and in 1978 a member of the Central Executive Committee of the newly formed Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF), the successor to the SPUP. In 1978 He became deputy secretary general of the SPPF in 1984 and secretary-general in 1994, a party post which he occupied until June 2009. On June 2nd 2009, SPPF was rebranded as Parti Lepep (People’s Party) and he was elected its president.
He was running mate in the presidential elections of 1998 and 2001 and was Vice-President from August 1996 to April 2004. He succeeded Mr. France Albert René as president upon the retirement of the latter in April 2004 and was elected to the highest office in the land in July 2006. President Michel was re-elected in May 2011 and again in December 2015 for a third and final term in office.
|Mr. James Alix Michel, during his second term as President of the Republic of Seychelles.
In April 2016, an amendment to the Constitution, proposed by Michel, limiting presidential mandates to two terms of 5 years in office was approved by the country’s National Assembly. Faithful to his commitment not to hold on to power, “for power’s sake”, James Michel resigned as president barely 10 months after taking office, handing over office to the Vice President.
James Michel was, until he became President, the longest serving Cabinet minister in Seychelles. His first ministerial appointment was in June 1977 when he was given responsibilities for Public Administration and Information. As Minister for Information, he promoted the development of a modern telecommunications system in Seychelles and that of the media. In his long career, he also held the portfolios for Education, Finance, Communications, Defence, Culture and Sports.
In 1993 he was appointed First Designated Minister, a constitutional post in which he discharged the functions of the Office of the President during the absence of the Head of State.
James Michel was responsible for the democratisation of the islands’ education system in the early 1980s. Today all Seychellois children have access to a minimum 14 years of non-fee paying education and equal opportunities to learning.
A keen educationalist, Michel was directly involved in the creation of the University of Seychelles. At the establishment of the university on 17th September 2009, he was named its chancellor. He remains as the chancellor of the university, and the patron of the James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute at the university.
Prior to that, James Michel initiated the the Seychelles Young Leaders’ Programme, a two-year graduate programme, whose main aim is to bring together and groom potential Seychellois leaders who have demonstrated leadership capabilities or share a clear commitment in shaping and serving the nation’s future, thus providing them with the opportunities and training to develop the skills, ethics and values conducive to being not only effective citizens but also to be tomorrow’s leaders.
One of his greatest achievements as president has been the revitalisation and reform of the Seychelles’ economy. In October 2008 he embarked on an economic reform programme, undertaken with vigour and far-reaching impact, unprecedented in Seychelles history. The Seychelles rupee was floated, and a heavily front-loaded programme, that included a reduction of the public workforce, fiscal, structural and legal reforms, was implemented with the backing of a two-year IMF Stand-by Arrangement. One year following the reforms full macro-stabilisation has been achieved, as reflected through falling interest rates, curbing of inflation, and a considerable appreciation of the exchange rates, underpinned by strong fiscal and monetary policies.
James Michel has propelled Seychelles on the international scene as an ardent advocate of the cause of small island developing states, the preservation of the environment and, more recently, the “Blue Economy”. During his presidency, James Michel set up a Blue Economy Department to promote the concept to the Blue Economy, and he spearheaded a Blue Bonds initiative, to raise capital for the sustainable management of both ocean resources and fisheries using market mechanisms with the support of development institutions, as well as directing a $21 million a debt-for-nature swap agreement with the Paris Club, as an innovative method of debt forgiveness in which a part of the country's foreign debt was forgiven in exchange for a commitment for investments in domestic environmental conservation and sustainability projects.
Under Michel’s presidency, Seychelles started its journey to become the first country in the world to have a comprehensive marine spatial plan for its entire ocean territory, which continues to be developed through an ongoing full survey of the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone.
In February 2017 he set up the James Michel Foundation in order to further promote the Blue Economy concept. He has been responsible for the promulgation of legislation transforming half of Seychelles’ territory into nature reserves – the highest proportion in the world.
President James Michel co-chaired the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) which brings together world leaders to promote action on conservation and sustainability of islands. Under his leadership, GLISPA has mobilised political support for the Blue Economy and marine protected areas within island regions of the world. Sustainable development that reduces the vulnerability of Small Island States to climate change, food and energy crises remains at the forefront of Michel’s agenda. He is also one of the patrons of the World Sustainable Development Forum (WSDF). In 2017, he was invited to serve as member of the Advisory Board of the Group on Earth Observations Oceans and Society: Blue Planet Initiative (GEO Blue Planet).
A recurring theme of Michel’s is the need to invest in the youth – the leaders of tomorrow. To that end, he formulated policy and initiated several programmes aimed at their global holistic development and capacity building.
James Michel is the author of four books: “Man of the People”, a collection of speeches, “Distant Horizons – My Reflections”, an autobiography, “Island Nation in a Global Sea”, a study of the Blue Economy concept and “Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy”, a treatise on the “new frontier for human development”.
President James Michel is the recipient of several international awards.
- Outstanding Civilian Service Medal – Conferred by the United States Army in 1995.
- Knighthood of Science and Art – Presented by the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences in 2001, in recognition of the “great personal contribution in the guarantee of the stable development of the Republic of Seychelles and for the prosperity of the Seychelles people”.
- Grand Cross of the Order Pro Merito Melitensi – Conferred by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2001.
- Named a Paul Harris Fellow in 1997 by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world”.
- UNESCO Gold Medal of the Five Continents in recognition of his work “to promote the ideals of peace, tolerance and his work to sensitize the international community about the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States” in 2009.
- Most Innovative People Award (for Natural Innovation) by the Global Leadership Team at the Lebanon 2020 Summit, in 2009.
- Made Honorary Citizen of Daejeon City (Republic of Korea) in 2009.
- Special Award for Eco-Safety from the World Eco-Safety Assembly of the International Eco-Safety Cooperative Organisation, in 2010, in view of his “leadership in the field of environment and the long-standing efforts of the Government to foster sustainable development”.
- Grand Cross of the Knightly Order, Special Class, pro Merito Melitensi – Conferred by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in recognition of the “exceptional relations that exist between the Order and the Republic of Seychelles” in 2010.
- Doctorate (Phil) Honoris Causa awarded by TERI University in Delhi (The Energy and Resources Institute) for his “advocacy of the cause of small island states and the preservation of the environment” in 2010.
- Grand Commander of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (GCSK) – conferred by Dr Navin Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius in 2012 in recognition of his role in “strengthening the special ties of friendship and cooperation between Seychelles and Mauritius”.
- Sustainable Development Leadership Award in 2013 from the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, for his “visionary and strong leadership in the implementation of sustainable environmental programmes, economic and social renaissance”.
- African Development Excellence Award 2013, presented at the 2nd African Investment and Development Award 2013, in recognition of his “ outstanding contribution to Africa’s economic growth and development”.
- In June 2017, the Republic of the Seychelles and the leadership of former President of the Seychelles, James Alix Michel, was recognized as an “Ocean’s 8 Champion” by Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO at the UN Ocean conference in New York, for developing an innovative debt swap scheme that has enabled this small island developing nation to finance local ocean science and climate resilience programmes.