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MOU and the implications for landholding
17 March 2011

The Department for International Development (DfID) unexpectedly revitalised St.Helena's prospects for an airport by announcing the "thawing" of the "freeze", shortly after the Conservative/Libdem coalition took office in 2010. The project was back on the agenda, but now had four conditions attached, three of which had to do with financing and risk apportionment, for which DfID was and is ultimately responsible. The fourth condition, however, was that St.Helena become more conducive to inward investment and a tourism industry.

In order for St.Helena to comply with this condition (known as Condition 4), SHG, SHDA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Commission and Tourist Association, as well as others from Civil Society, have worked together to draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which SHG and DfID signed in December of 2010.

The MOU covers many topics, but effectively commits SHG to revising many Ordinances (laws) and Regulations, and on an extremely tight timescale. Three particular areas of reform cover Investment, Landholding and Tax. SHG have been at pains to ensure that the revisions are self-consistent and part of an defined overall concept.

Although not finalised yet in detail, the likelihood is that the Approved Investor Status will be scrapped, so that all investors will effectively be considered as "approved", and concessions and incentives will apply to all. It is also likely that Islander or St.Helenian Status, and the linked restrictions on non-Saint landholding, will be totally revised and other ways will be sought to ensure that "thr Crown Jewels" are not sold off wholesale to foreigners. The upshot will be, nevertheless, that non-Saints will find it much easier to buy and lease land, both commercially and domestically.

The timescale for these revisions is June 2011. We will issue a new news items when details are finalised.


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