Executive Council met today, Tuesday 11 March, to consider five items on the open agenda.
The first item was an information paper on fuel prices implemented on 24 February 2014. This is now a standard agenda item following each change in fuel prices. It was noted that the price of diesel fell by 2 pence per litre and petrol by 4 pence per litre – both lower than the price of fuel a year ago.
The second item was the Wharfage, Warehousing and Customs Miscellaneous Fees Amendment Proposal. The proposal was for an increase in charges relating to break-bulk cargo and its storage on the wharf after seven working days. At present, a daily charge is set at 10% of the value of the break-bulk cargo for it to remain on the wharf beyond seven working days. The proposed increase to 25% of the value of the goods was agreed by Executive Council – to encourage prompt collection of cargo.
The next item was the Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, 2014. Tax and Pensions are complex issues and Head of Pensions and Payroll, Enid Joshua, and Pensions Consultant Desmond Wade were invited to attend to help explain the proposed amendments to the tax regulations. The proposed regulation was to allow SHG staff, who retire through ill health (and are medically boarded), to be able to claim their pension benefits. As the Ordinance currently stands, only SHG staff over the age of 55 can claim their pension if they retire due to ill health. Executive Council recognised that the current system is unfair and was pleased to agree the recommendation.
An Amendment to Income Tax regulations was proposed to accommodate making the 25% of any lump sum payment tax free. While this is already available for people to claim on retirement, it sits outside the Tax Ordinance as an extra statutory concession. Executive Council agreed the Amendment to make it part of the Regulations, to come into effect on 1 April 2014.
The final item on the open agenda was to give permission to suspend the review on Phase 3 of the Pensions Reform process. The review was concerned with assessing the implications of a compulsory pension scheme for all employees on St Helena. Given the benefits that would accrue from a contributory pension scheme, the Financial Secretary agreed to explore ways that Government could support people to join such a scheme. It was further agreed that in anticipation of improved economic development, that this will be reviewed again in two years time.
The meeting ended at 10.55am.
11 March 2014