Island Government – St Helena Local

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St Helena is self-governed and has its own government and constitution. The Islands governor is responsible for the government and the running of the Island.

The island has a democratic system but the stigma of colonialism is still noticeable as some meetings are also held in the Government’s chambers in secrecy, supposedly when matters of sensitive issues are to be debated. The Government consists of seven directorates, which includes environment, education, social, health, child protection, corporate services, police and air access. It is assumed the air access directorate will fall away after the opening of the airport.

Twelve Councillors are elected by the people, these councillors officially collaborates with the public and Government Directorates and passes legislation. Approximately six elected councillors’ forms an Executive Council who collaborates with the Government administration on all internal affairs and projects.

The RMS ship for the time being remains St Helena’s only link to the outside world. The sea journey from St Helena to the UK takes up to fourteen days and from St Helena to Capetown takes five days. In terms of imports businesses can wait up to five weeks to receive merchandise and sometime even longer. Medevacs for the time being will have to endure the five-day sea trip to Capetown for specialist treatment. Over the decades this was seen as the catalyst for air access and finally to date air access will soon become a reality. In the last decade the British Government took significant steps to established air access and also to develop a breakwater in St Helena which is seen to provide the catalyst for economic growth.

The contract to design and build the airport and the breakwater was awarded to the South African company Basil Read. Basil Read in collaboration with Lanseria will operate the airport. This signals the physical start of the change process as the island embraces itself for the influx of contractors and their equipment. At this point of time hotel accommodation is scarce and will remain a problem for tourists that may want to come to the island soon after the airport opens. the Government has intervened with a proposal to build a hotel but the location chosen is undesirable by most islanders and it is seen to be a big challenge for the Government to overcome.

As for the airport project the Government and the contractor organised island wide community meetings to keep the population informed of progress. A small village in Rupert’s Valley was greatly impacted by the project as the villagers endured the noise of the construction equipment coming ashore and travelling up to the airport site and the sound of the blasting activities as the haul road was established up the mountain on to Prosperous Bay plain. Likewise, all of the communities situated close to the haul road were similarly affected and a mitigation process was implemented. The haul road passes through an unmarked slave cemetery and bodies of slaves were exhumed in the process. Some islanders believed that an alternative access via the north end of the Ruperts beach may have been more sensible avoiding Ruperts Valley all together.

Itis generally accepted that the island is changing since the start of the airport and the breakwater projects, as increase activity take priority and disrupts normal life on the island. More foreign people are seen in Jamestown, the queues are longer, more larger vehicles are been used on the islands roads. However, since more jobs are created this is generally seen by most islanders as progress and the government earns more revenue. Both the airport and the breakwater projects are seen as the largest since the rockfall protection project.

The island is funded by grant in aid from the British Government administered by DFID

(Department for International Development). Local revenues makes up the shortfalls most coming from the local taxes which are very high. The government generally charges 20% on the value of all imports and for instance 45% on the value of importing a 4 x 4 vehicle into the island. Business taxes are also high and the islanders see this as stifling the growth of the economy.

St Helena received roughly a three year budget aid of thirty million pound from the UK for the provision of essential services. Essential services includes Police, Medical and Social Services

The government proposes various projects to improve the island’s infrastructure. The Executive Councils approves project, and subsequently submits them to DFID for funding. Some large project are also funded by EDF (European Development Fund)

The Corporate Procurement Directorate of the Government outsources work, whereas in most cases at least three bids are required before any work is awarded according to the government’s policy.

To learn more about The St Helena Government you can vist the official St Helena Government website