St Helena Online

Economy

St Helena’s very own offshore fishing vessel – in pictures

MFV Extractor arrives in James Bay. Click to pic to see a gallery of images by Bruce Salt
MFV Extractor arrives in James Bay. Click to pic to see a gallery of images by Bruce Salt

A large crowd of wellwishers gathered at the wharf in Jamestown to greet the arrival of the St Helena’s first island-owned offshore fishing vessel on 19 April 2014. A new company, Saint Marine Resources, was set up in January 2014 to buy and refit the trawler in Hout Bay, South Africa. The long-sought vessel will enable the island to exploit the rich fishing areas around its sea mounts.

Click here to see a gallery of images by Bruce Salt. 

A press release said:

MFV Extractor Arrived Safely in James Bay at 17:30hrs on Saturday 19 April.

Approximately 200 people turned up at the wharf to welcome the crew back, and they were given a brief demonstration of the vessel’s handling ability whilst awaiting clearance by Customs and Immigration officials.

Once ashore, the lead skipper, Trevor (Otto) Thomas, and crew members Waylon Thomas, Peter Benjamin, Errol Thomas, and Terry Richards, were presented with a St Helena “blue ensign” for the MFV Extractor by Councillor Lawson Henry, chairman of the Economic Development Committee.

During a small welcoming reception for the crew held at the St Helena Yacht Club shortly afterwards, Councillor Henry spoke about the significance of the Extractor’s arrival in St Helena, noting that when we talk about achieving economic growth for the island it is steps such as this that island needs to be taking.

SEE ALSO: MFV Extractor arrives in James Bay – pictures by Bruce Salt

St Helena shows UK the way with fizzy drinks tax

St Helena appears to be showing Britain the way to tackle obesity, by introducing a sugar tax.

A levy on high-sugar drinks was announced in the island’s budget in the very month that England’s chief medical officer warned that the British government might have to consider such a measure.

But Dame Sally Davies said she hoped it would not be needed in the UK.

St Helena Government (SHG) is introducing the 75p-per-litre excise duty from May.

It is a move that some on the island have long campaigned for, including shop owner Nick Thorpe, who sees the vast scale of imports of sugary foods and drinks.

The island is reported to import nearly a million cans of fizzy drinks per year, for a population of just over 4,000 people.

The island’s incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is among the highest in the world. The government has warned that the cost of treating the condition has put a massive strain on the island’s health service, as well as damaging the lives of diabetics.

The new budget includes an additional £692,000 for the health service, and more than £1.5 million has been set aside to fund infrastructure improvements to the hospital, including the furnishing of a diagnostic suite.

Colin Owen, the island’s Financial Secretary, said: “The introduction of a new tax on high-sugar drinks and higher-than-inflation increases on tobacco form part of a raft of measures which demonstrate that SHG takes the health of St Helena seriously.”

He also announced the introduction of liquor duty at £3.50 per litre, and a new duty of £1 per litre for drinks with an alcoholic content of 3% or below.

Councillor Ian Rummery pointed out the timeliness of the move in an email to St Helena Online. He wrote:

“I see that a sugar/fat tax is being debated in the UK media with statements from Dame Sally Davies, the Medical Officer, and the BBC World Service Business Matters programme has a week-long special on obesity and discussions on a fat tax.

“While the world talks about it, here on St Helena we have just introduced a tax on sugary carbonated drinks.”

Dame Sally first raised the prospect of a sugar tax in comments to the UK Parliament’s Health Select Committee. She also suggested that sugar might be addictive – though some scientists disagreed.

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said: “On St Helena, over 300,000 litres of carbonated sugar sweetened beverages are imported per year.

“This equates to around 67 litres per year for each person currently on island, each of us drinking around 200 cans a year. Within this, some people will consume very little, while others may consume many more.

“Just to be clear on the figures, we import just under ONE MILLION cans of fizzy soft drinks each year. And each can on average contains over 35 grams of sugar.

“We currently have a very high rate of obesity, and type 2 diabetes. This has a very high cost to the St Helena health service and there is significant evidence to show direct links.

“Every additional regular can-sized, sugar-sweetened drink per day, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%.

“A number of studies document a link between fizzy soft drink consumption and higher blood pressure.

“And dental health is negatively influenced by consumption. Studies have shown that consumption nearly doubles the risk of dental cavities in children.”

He added that healthier diet drinks were currently more expensive than high-sugar drinks, especially those from South Africa.

“Research has shown that increasing the price of fizzy soft drinks will lead to a fall in consumption, as consumers switch to alternatives.”

The island budget also included a range of tax increases for alcohol, and a 5% increase in tax on all tobacco goods, taking the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes to just under £5.

Mr Owen said: “The rate of throat cancer on island is one and half times more than the UK, the highest risk factors for throat cancer being smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. This above-inflation increase supports the health service.”

In his speech to Legislative Council on Friday, 21 March 2014, Mr Owen said:

“Madam Speaker this budget is different. It seeks to support not just economic development, but to support SHG’s top priority, health – and not just the health of individuals but that of the nation.

“I do not believe it’s right anymore to sit on the sidelines. We need to grab every opportunity available to support our health and green objectives, and that includes using the tax system to provide appropriate financial incentives. We need to change our tax policies to address the growing number of concerns around diabetes and cancers.”

He said the budget had been compiled by councillors, not just officials, which had brought fresh ideas.

SEE ALSO: 
Killer diabetes puts island under strain, says the Castle
Diabetes cases soar as island struggles with cost of healthcare
My sadness and anger at diabetes crisis, by writer Doreen

Plastic bag tax aims to cut landfill waste

The budget included new taxes of 5p on plastic bags and 1p on styrofoam containers for takeaway foods – both excise taxes, imposed within the island, as opposed to customs duties.

Mr Owen said: “Both products are made from petroleum and are not degradable. St Helena does not have the facilities to dispose of them and they end up in the landfill.

“Roughly 500,000 bags and containers are used per year and this is only likely to increase as tourism grows. Similar policies to reduce use of plastic bags have been very successful in places such as Wales.”

Budget facts

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said:

Prices in island shops rose by only 1.5%, against a forecast of just over 5%. But it was expected to rise during 2014.

The resident population averaged 4,297 people through 2013, and is forecast to reach to nearly 4,500 people in 2014.

More than 360 Saints were working on the airport project and unemployment was at an all-time low, with vacancies in government and the private sector. In total, 550 people were working on the project.

Income tax was set to have raised £3.4 million, some £325k ahead of targets.

Saints are letting out more properties than ever before.

Earnings from customs duties on alcohol and tobacco exceeded targets by £115,000 and £10,000.

The offshore fishing vessel MFV Extractor had been purchased, partly with funds from Enterprise St Helena (ESH) and would soon be leaving Cape Town to fish St Helena’s seamounts.

ESH had assisted in 30 youth training schemes and five public-private partnerships. More than 40 people enrolled as apprentices.

A 30-year planned maintenance programme for government housing began with the rewiring of flats in Jamestown.

Planning permission was granted for 65 homes in Half Tree Hollow, featuring wheelchair access and rainwater harvesting.

Two new “chuck and chew” waste lorries had been procured, along with 1,500 new wheelie bins.

Four conservation and environmental projects, due to start in April 2014, attracted grants worth more than £260,000.

Significant advances were made in standards of education. Almost half of the young people who took GCSEs in 2013 achieved a C grade or better in English and maths.

Mr Owen also said that December 2013 saw the introduction of a Minimum Income Standard. “St Helena should be proud that it is leading the world in ensuring that our benefits system properly reflects the actual costs of living here,” he said.

“This will be reviewed at least annually, with benefits adjusted accordingly – a tangible demonstration of our commitment to protect the most vulnerable from the rising cost of living. But this is only a starting point and we all know that there is much more to do.”

Other recommendations in the Sainsbury Report, commissioned from York University, would be considered over a five-year period – including a child benefit allowance, which the government planned to introduce from April 2015.

But he added: “Bringing benefits up to the level that we all see as desirable will be expensive, and to introduce every proposed reform now would simply be unaffordable.”

A settlement of £13.55 million in UK aid was confirmed on 13 March 2014 – an increase of £150,000 – with a further £4.5 million to cover the running costs refurbishment of the RMS St Helena.

The amount set aside for overseas medical referrals rose to £947,000, more than double the previous year’s figure.

Mr Owen said the budget also reconfirmed the government’s funding for the National Trust, New Horizons, Heritage Society and South Atlantic Media Services, and saw increased funding to SHAPE and the Public Solicitors Office, along with new funding for the Human Rights Office.

European funding of around 21.5 million Euros was likely to be made available for infrastructure development on St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island over the period 2016-20. Specific projects had yet to be formally agreed.

Ian responds to critics on Rupert’s port project

Traders in Jamestown have been strongly critical of the plan to land cargo at Rupert’s Bay – leaving them with a difficult journey to transport goods to the shops, on narrow roads that hug steep hillsides. Executive councillor IAN RUMMERY offers a personal response. 

The thing about Rupert’s is that with limited funding, albeit £15 million, we are limited to construction at Rupert’s.

While Jamestown is the main wharf at present it cannot continue to be all things to all people.  If it is a working port then it cannot be used for leisure purposes.

At present there are significant health and safety risks. There is no room for warehousing. What would happen if we enforced health and safety measures and then prevented yachties from coming ashore?  What happens if a yachtie/tourist/Saint gets run over while on the wharf as they are moving cargo?

Another potential issue is that without a wharf we would require ships with their own cranes.  We have yet to receive the tenders for a new freight service but my understanding is that options would be more limited if the ships had to have their own crane.

There is a plan to upgrade the road from Rupert’s (Field Road and Side Path Road) and this is in the capital programme.

Rupert’s is not ideal but it is a compromise. Also, the haul road potentially opens up development opportunities outside of Jamestown, so in this case Rupert’s is ideally situated as the port.

SEE ALSO:
Monster wharf crane is shipped out in pieces
Rupert’s set to be new ‘port’ as wharf is approved

£75k economy chief ‘needs to get people talking’

Whoever gets the job of leading St Helena’s economic transformation will have to improve links with the island’s decision-makers – and its business people.

Concerns about dialogue between the government and its arms-length enterprise agency were pointed out at the end of the annual visit of UK aid negotiators.

Their final report said: “A closer working relationship between the St Helena Government and Enterprise St Helena is needed if the airport’s potential to transform the island’s economy is to be fully realised.

“More could be done to provide effective and coordinated business planning advice and to ensure that there is an appropriate supply of credit to the private sector.”

The deadline to apply for the job of Chief Executive, Economic Development (CEED) passed while the aid advisers were on the island, on 17 January 2014.

The salary was advertised at £75-90,000 – or more for an “exceptional candidate”. Interviews were scheduled for 5-6 February 2014.

The advertisement said that the successful candidate would work “hand-in-hand with the private sector and St Helena Government”, and “articulate a shared vision of change”.

The new chief executive “must show strong pragmatic leadership” and have high-level experience of packaging investment opportunities, among other skills, it said.

“Experience of working closely with or for government organisations would be desirable.”

The advert added that the island must have the beginnings of a tourist industry in place by the time the island’s airport opens in early 2016.

Island councillor Ian Rummery – expressing a personal view – told St Helena Online: “We have raised issues with ESH about working more closely with local investors and there has been more dialogue on this.

“As Legislative Council (LegCo) we would plan to meet the new CEED once appointed to highlight the need to work together on local development.

“The recent investment in an offshore fishing vessel is a real success story and proof that this closer cooperation is working.”

The aide memoire published at the end of the UK advisers’ visit also warned that the island’s home-grown economy would dip once construction work on the airport tailed off after 2016.

But Ian said: “The expectation is that economic development will absorb many of these jobs as other projects – the wharf, possible hotel construction, etc – will pick up the slack.”

There was a backlog of construction jobs waiting to be done, he said, because there were simply not enough people on the island to carry them out.

“My concern is that while there are potential job opportunities with economic development, the move from a construction-based economy to a tourist, service-based economy requires a different skill set.

“This is going to require re-training for some people.

“The fact is that we have full employment (there are on average five people unemployed) so there are vacancies to be filled.”

He said St Helena Government was working with construction firm Basil Read to minimise the impact of work ending on the airport.

Read the full Development Aid Planning Mission report here

Read the full aid mission report for St Helena

The aide memoire signed at the end of the annual visit of advisers from the UK serves as a state-of-the-island report for St Helena. The Development Aid Planning Mission 2014 report covers key aspects of life such as health, education, social services and shipping, as well as progress on the economic transformation of the island. Read the full text here.

SEE ALSO: Hospital and child safety highlighted as aid talks end

Aid mission talks begin on 11 January 2014

Annual talks to agree St Helena’s settlement of aid from Britain are scheduled for 11 to 18 January 2014 – though an economist will arrive a week early for preliminary discussions. The Development Aid Planning Mission, usually referred to as “Dap’m” in speech, is the most critical event of the year for the island. Governor Mark Capes chose to call the 2013 general election for July, rather than waiting until November, to give time for new councillors to prepare for the talks. In the past, the visiting officials have offered public criticisms and advice on the conduct of island affairs.

Read the full press release here

St Helena 1, UK nil: writer marks the score on welfare reforms

St Helena’s welfare reform programme has been used as a tool to chide the UK government on its own drive to reduce social benefits, in a column in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Hugh Muir notes that executive councillors have “taken the best advice” and “agreed to introduce a new system based on minimum income standards, linking benefit rates to the cost of a basket of goods judged necessary for an adequate standard of living.”

The Westminster government, on the other hand, has been accused of throwing some households into poverty with changes to housing benefits.

And it is taking a tough line on employment benefits too, saying there are “insufficient incentives to encourage people on benefits to start paid work or increase their hours”.

The Guardian makes no mention of the long-standing discontent over unequal treatment of people on different kinds of benefits on St Helena.

The island’s government appears gratified by the Guardian’s implied approval for its reforms. It has drawn attention to it in a press release, with the comment: “Diary columns traditionally take a quirky look at the news.”

Read the piece here

New farming plan will help boost economy and health

A blueprint for transforming food production on St Helena – and making the island less dependent on imported goods – has been approved by executive councillors.

The St Helena National Agricultural Policy for 2014-2020 should also help to tackle the island’s problems with unhealthy diet.

The document sets out plans to increase production and food quality, and give farmers new skills.

Click here to read reports from the draft plan.

Robert drives his way to top business prize

business 640Robert Peters has won St Helena’s Business of the Year prize, by capitalising on the heritage that has been seen as one of the island’s great attractions for future tourists.

He received £250 for his History on Wheels business at the awards night, hosted by Enterprise St Helena at the Consulate Hotel on Saturday, 23 November 2013.

Christen Yon was awarded the same amount as winner of the Young Businessman of the Year prize, for his pig farming enterprise.

The island’s disability charity, SHAPE, won the Green Business title, after being nominated in four of the five categories.

The Buy Local prize went to Stevens Family Butchers, and Giselle Roberts won the Innovative Business award with her company, G-Unique, which sells island-made jewellery as well as items sourced from around the world.

She toasted the news in a Facebook message that received 83 “likes” within 10 hours.

g unique 550

Governor’s Cape seduction: tax breaks to lure investors

The lure of ten-year tax breaks is set to make St Helena a hot topic with investors in Cape Town, says a South African financial website.

The MoneyWeb report – ahead of a visit by Governor Mark Capes – says the opening of St Helena’s airport in 2016 “will open the island up for business.”

And it lists an array of incentives to pull in investors.

They include “early tax breaks, zero customs duty, corporate tax and capital gains tax for seven years on investments over £1million and below £5million.”

For even bigger investments, it goes on, the tax sweeteners would continue for ten years.

“Investments of more than £1million will attract a 50% discount on freight rates, and those bigger than £5million also qualify for a 50% discount on passenger rates,” says MoneyWeb.

It adds that St Helena has no off-putting sales or property taxes.

An event for would-be investors has been organised by Wesgro, the marketing agency for the Western Cape, to coincide with the governor’s stop-over en route to Tristan da Cunha.

The island party includes Julian Morris, who is leaving his job as the island’s head of economic development.

“The St Helena government is planning £24 million of infrastructure upgrades in the next few years in anticipation of air access,” says MoneyWeb.

“Opportunities are mainly focussed on tourism, fishing and services.

“Extensive research has shown opportunities in especially heritage and culture tours. The island’s link to Napoleon is a huge point of interest. Bird watching, gaming, fishing and diving, and to a lesser extent astronomy are other niche tourism markets targeted.

“On the fishing side, St. Helena has a 200-mile exclusive zone where it controls marine resources and tuna stocks are largely untouched.

“Fresh and frozen tuna provide opportunities as well as sports fishing, says Morris.”

The report does not mention efforts to bring a vessel to the island to enable local fishermen to exploit rich fishing around the island’s sea mounts.

But it does say that the island team will be “in serious talks with prospective hotel investors and parties interested in establishing a fish processing plant”.

The island team, including Enterprise St Helena director Rob Midwinter and councillor Lawson Henry, departed from Jamestown yesterday (7 November 2013).

Lawson will travel on to London with Dax Richards, the island’s Assistant Financial Secretary, to attend the annual Joint Ministerial Conference for overseas territories.

Read the MoneyWeb report:
www.moneyweb.co.za/moneyweb-2013-budget/airport-opens-up-opportunities-on-st-helena

Facebook