Executive Council met today, Tuesday 1 October 2019, to discuss two items on the Open Agenda.
Council approves increase in the Minimum Income Standard (MIS)
Councillor Green supported by the Deputy Financial Secretary and Statistician presented this paper to Elected Members.
Council was asked to consider and advise whether the MIS should be increased in line with the current policy which would subsequently trigger an increase to £71.50 for Income Related Benefits (IRB) recipients and £74.00 for Basic Island Pension (BIP) recipients. This represents an increase of 65.1% and 64.4% respectively since the Social Security Ordinance 2010 and Social Security Regulations were brought into force on 1 April 2011.
Council was also asked whether the Social Security (Amendment No.2) Regulations 2019 should be approved and brought into force on 4 October 2019.
The MIS is the mechanism by which the rates of IRB and BIP are determined using a set and agreed basket of goods and services determined to be the minimum requirement for an individual based on international standards.
The MIS basket includes the following goods and services: Food and drink (based on healthy diet international guidelines), Utilities, Telecommunications, Clothing, Shoes, Essential items (e.g. cups, washing up liquid, etc), Toiletries and Bus fares.
The prices of these goods and services are reviewed every six months to determine whether an increase in the MIS and rates of IRB and BIP are required. Following price collection work by the Statistics Office for the MIS basket carried out in July/August 2019 it was recommended that there be a 2.1% increase in the MIS of £1.50 per week.
Currently 160 households on St Helena receive IRB and 770 people are in receipt of BIP. The uplift is estimated to cost approximately £35,000 based on current households and individuals receiving benefits plus an element of contingency.
While Council agreed that increasing the MIS ensures that the most vulnerable in society are being protected and also helps to reduce inequality, Members also noted that current market prices are volatile and this increase could be viewed as very small.
Members noted that leisure activities were not included in the MIS basket and also raised concerns about the composition of the basket bearing in mind St Helena’s current economic climate.
Members acknowledged that the food part of the basket was reviewed only two years ago based on advice from the dietician using a locally-relevant healthy basket. However following much discussion and debate it was agreed that other elements of the basket should be reviewed.
Taking this into account and noting that this was a positive process that happens twice a year, Council was content to approve the uplift in the MIS.
The first payments will be made from Thursday, 3 October 2019. A separate press release will be issued shortly and recipients and households in receipt of benefits will also be directly informed of how the IRB and BIP will affect them.
Council endorses the publication of Investor Prospectus
An updated Investor Prospectus has been developed by Enterprise St Helena in partnership with SHG which highlights the key message that ‘St Helena is on a journey towards becoming a globally-connected green and blue Island destination with a vibrant tourism and digital-driven economy.’
The core objective of the Investor Prospectus will be to promote investment opportunities and in doing so attract appetite for equitable investments necessary to support the relevant growth industries of the Sustainable Economic Development Plan (SEDP).
The updated Prospectus is different to the previous one in that it promotes opportunities and incentives rather than focusing on Crown land and property. It is also a ‘live’ document which allows modifications as and when necessary and is more digitally aligned to enable better capturing of data. It was noted that around 80% of investors are resident on St Helena and the planned launch of the document has been developed with that in mind. Members were keen to place on record that the Prospectus should target the Diaspora and attract working age skilled Islanders back.
Council was asked to endorse the publication of the Investor Prospectus to enable the inclusion of:
- The opportunities described, and
- The Strategic Assets described; St Helena Government assets/properties and state-owned entities
Members noted that a number of SHG properties could be put to much better use and be brought ‘back to life’ but were concerned about who would manage their disposal. Members were reassured that as per the Land Disposal Policy any significant asset over one acre or which is a grade 1, 2 or 3 listed building would come back to ExCo for approval. It was also agreed that other options other than sale of strategic assets would be considered for example part sale and lease.
The Prospectus was seen as a positive drive towards investment and economic growth and can only add value to what we are already trying to achieve.
The Prospectus is about inclusivity and it was felt that Saints should be able to access funds if they have a viable interest in the investment opportunities available.
The Prospectus will be launched locally via a community event so Islanders can easily access the document. Following the launch relevant workshops will be held with the business community to maintain momentum.
It was also felt strongly that there needed to be a way to facilitate partnership/private sector opportunities and this would be taken forward with the Investment Enabling Group and the Investor Prospectus updated accordingly. Should anyone feel that they have a business opportunity which they are looking for a partner for, please contact Martin George via: email@example.com.
Members endorsed the Prospectus to be finalised to take to the local and international market.
1 October 2019