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Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles, is an archipelagonation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some 1,500 kilometers(930 mi) east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar.The 2005 population estimate was 80,699 people. As the islands of theSeychelles had no indigenous population, the current Seychellois are composedof people who have immigrated to the island. The largest ethnic groups arethose of French, African, Indian, and Chinese descent. French and English areofficial languages along with Seychellois Creole, which is primarily based uponFrench. Most Seychellois are Christians; the Roman Catholic Church is the maindenomination.
Since independence in 1976, per capita output in this IndianOcean archipelago has expanded to roughly seven times the pre-independence,near-subsistence level, moving the island into the upper-middle income group ofcountries. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30%of the labor force and provides more than 70% of hard currency earnings, and bytuna fishing. In recent years, the government has encouraged foreign investmentto upgrade hotels and other services. At the same time, the government hasmoved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development offarming, fishing, and small-scale manufacturing.
Tourism has roared back at a record pace setting successiverecords in 2006 and again in 2007 for number of visitors. The increasedavailability of flights to and from the archipelego due in part to new entrantsEmirates and Qatar airlines is also beginning to show. New 5 star propertiesand the devaluation of the currency by nearly 33% by the Seychelles Governmentis having a positive influence on the tourism sector as well.
It is important to note that Seychelles is, per capita, themost highly indebted country in the world according to the World Bank, withtotal public debt around 122.8% of GDP. Approximately two thirds of this debtis owed domestically, with the balance due to multilaterals, bilaterals, andcommercial banks. Current external debt is estimated at 35.5% according to theIMF (2007). The country is in arrears to most of its international creditorsand has had to resort to pledged commercial debt to continue to be able to borrow.
New detailed studies and exploration show that theSeychelles potentially have large off-shore petroleum reservoirs which are yetto be discovered. Foreigners are allowed to buy residential property, to beused only by the buyer and his family, in Seychelles upon approval from theGovernment. Also, the Immovable Property (Transfer Restriction) Act prohibitsthe lease of immovable property owned by a non-Seychellois. Most potential real estate investors in Seychelles are fastidious about the location and views. Consequently properties with exotic views are highly in demand and overpriced.