2011: after 68 years, momentous news

St Helena Airport Project

2011 continued

September: a review found that progress on reforming St Helena’s economy to meet the demands of the UK government was “on track”.

29 October: Mark Capes was sworn in as governor of St Helena. In his speech from the steps of the court house, he said:

“We stand on the threshold of writing an exciting new chapter in St Helena’s rich and colourful history. Construction of an airport would mean grappling with many new challenges…

“It is vital that in providing air access we should create the opportunities to attract Saints now working overseas to return home to contribute to the development of their island, to shape it in a way that preserves its distinctive charm and character…

“With air access, tourism could transform St Helena from an island in decline into a prosperous, thriving community. It could become the lifeblood of this economy, providing the revenue we need for improved healthcare, schools, roads and other essential services.”

His Excellency said he hoped the green light would shortly be given and urged islanders to “grip the opportunity firmly, roll up our sleeves and prepare…together…to write the next exciting chapter in St Helena’s history in a way that serves the best interests of you, the great people of St Helena.”

3 November: On his fifth day in office, Governor Capes announced that a contract to build and operate an airport had been signed with Basil Read (Pty) Ltd – some ten years after the company first expressed interest.

The International Development Secretary’s terms for the contract had been met. A commitment to reforms on the island had also been enshrined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The contract included £201.5 million to design and build the airport, and £35.1 million to operate it for ten years – a 20% saving on the 2008 in real terms. An additional £10 million was agreed as a shared-risk contingency fund.

In a statement, Mr Capes described the news as “momentous” – the same word that Governor Michael Clancy had used when the Labour government announced it would fund an airport in 2005, only to break its promise.

Mr Capes said:

“The airport will be the largest single investment ever made in our island. It will give us the best chance we will ever have of reversing the economic decline of the last 50 years.

“Saints currently overseas will be encouraged to come back home and contribute to a growing economy.

“The airport will inevitably bring changes, and we will need to work together to make sure that these are changes for the better.”

To be continued

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