Disquiet over the funding of St Helena’s new enterprise agency has prompted the island government to release the text of a statement by Financial Secretary Paul Blessington.
Enterprise St Helena (ESH) was set up at a cost of nearly three million pounds – but most of that was coming from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
That investment was vital to giving Saints a brighter future when the island has an airport, said Paul.
The statement was delivered at a meeting of the island’s legislative council after Councillor Cyril Gunnell asked for the finances to be explained.
Paul said: “Public debate has shown a lack of understanding about how and why Enterprise St Helena is being funded. I therefore welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.”
He said the agency was set up “to help private enterprise flourish on the island” as work began on its first airport.
Total funding for ESH in 2012-13 is £2,763,863. DFID is providing 76% and the remaining £460,000 is being put in by St Helena Government. That’s about 1.6% of SHG’s budget.
“Just under half (49%) of the £2.76m is existing funding from the old SHDA and tourism projects, whilst just over half represents new funding for additional activities.”
New funding includes:
- £112k for seeking new investors
- £140k to develop commercial sites
- £89k to provide extra help to businesses
- £105k for skills training
- £14k for support to the fishing industry.
Paul said economic development was the top priority in the island’s new Sustainable Development Plan.
“Unless St Helena successfully grows its private sector economy, on the back of the opportunity provided by the airport, there can be no long-term improvement in living standards for current and future generations of Saints.
“There are many competing demands out there for scarce public funds, but this government has wisely agreed that some of those funds must go towards economic development, if progress is to be achieved.
“An extra commitment of 1.6% of the budget is a relatively small price to pay in relation to the potential long-term return to the island. This is about investing now to ensure a brighter future – a future with more money to invest in essential services such as education, health and social welfare.”