INFLATION ON ST HELENA
With fuel prices rising steadily and totals at the till creeping up with each weekly shop, millions of people worldwide are faced with increased costs and are having to make tough choices about their spending.
On St Helena we are already experiencing increased fuel costs with the last shipment of fuel, and it is likely that future shipments will also come at increasing costs. This is because of the global fuel crisis that has been driven by a rebound in fuel demand since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and because of supply disruptions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ministers are currently discussing options for measures which are designed to help cushion the impact of increased costs on the local community. Enabling these measures would mean reprioritising the budget and making tough decisions about what activities would need to stop in order to fund this unplanned expenditure.
The bulk of St Helena’s revenue comes from the UK Government contribution in the form of Financial Aid. This contribution has remained static for the last three years and, when coupled with the drop in locally raised revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic, this means that there is less money to go around.
The highest costs affecting the majority of our population are linked to energy production. St Helena Government is keen to push ahead with plans to generate more of our Island’s energy through renewable sources, but also recognises that something has to be done in the short term to mitigate inevitable impacts.
St Helena Government aims to do whatever possible to support the local community during the next few months, as we try to weather the global increases. Greater clarity around what this support may look like should be gained in the next few weeks, at which point St Helena Government will be able to make an announcement regarding the support mechanisms which will become available.
The options being considered by St Helena Government include:
- Increasing the subsidy to Connect St Helena Ltd in order to soften the impact of potential higher electricity prices (based on the current price of fuel, this could be as much as £810,000 for the remainder of this financial year alone)
- Reviewing how the current shipping subsidy is distributed, and whether this could be more focused on essential items such as food and animal feed
- Lowering Customs Duty on certain essential items
- Reviewing the Minimum Wage.
Going forward it will be important for us all to take stock of how we do things. Sustainability and resilience are key, and we all need to think more about how we can become more resilient as an Island and less reliant on imports like fuel, the prices of which will always be outside of our control. In the meantime, we know that the community will come together to help each other in the way we do so well on St Helena.