British citizens on the South Atlantic island of St Helena have suffered as a result of its remoteness, with the only access possible via a three week round trip boat journey via South Africa or Ascension Island. Over time, this has caused social and economic decline.
The island has an important history, with Napoleon spending his final days there, and unique wildlife. The new airport will open this up to tourism, which could bring up to 30,000 additional visitors every year.
Fittingly, the likely scheduled completion date is late-2015; the bi-centenary of Napoleon’s imprisonment on the island.
International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said the airport would get the go-ahead now an acceptable price had been achieved. In a Written Ministerial Statement today he said that in real terms the agreed contract for design and construction represented a saving of 20% on prices negotiated in 2008, when the project was put on hold. In the long term it will help to reduce the island’s dependency on annual British aid, which reached £26 million year last.
Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:
“St Helena is a British territory and so it is right that we find a way to secure its long-term future.
“A new airport will reverse decades of decline and reduce the island’s dependency on yearly handouts.
“We’re facing tough times at home and I was determined to negotiate a contract that represents better value for money for the UK taxpayer and gives St. Helena a real chance of economic growth and financial independence.
“This contract does just that, benefiting both the island and us here in Britain.
“St Helena’s residents are British citizens. We are right to stand by them.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague said:
“Through our new strategy for the Overseas Territories, we have been working with the Governments of the Territories, and with our partners across Whitehall, to reinvigorate our relationship with these important British territories. This development is another strong demonstration of this Government’s policy of partnership and support. It will not only help improve the well-being of the inhabitants of St Helena but could also help make the island financially self-sufficient.
We are currently carrying out a public consultation on how best to develop the UK Government’s relationship with the Overseas Territories. I would encourage everyone to have their say.”