Whoever gets the job of leading St Helena’s economic transformation will have to improve links with the island’s decision-makers – and its business people.
Concerns about dialogue between the government and its arms-length enterprise agency were pointed out at the end of the annual visit of UK aid negotiators.
Their final report said: “A closer working relationship between the St Helena Government and Enterprise St Helena is needed if the airport’s potential to transform the island’s economy is to be fully realised.
“More could be done to provide effective and coordinated business planning advice and to ensure that there is an appropriate supply of credit to the private sector.”
The deadline to apply for the job of Chief Executive, Economic Development (CEED) passed while the aid advisers were on the island, on 17 January 2014.
The salary was advertised at £75-90,000 – or more for an “exceptional candidate”. Interviews were scheduled for 5-6 February 2014.
The advertisement said that the successful candidate would work “hand-in-hand with the private sector and St Helena Government”, and “articulate a shared vision of change”.
The new chief executive “must show strong pragmatic leadership” and have high-level experience of packaging investment opportunities, among other skills, it said.
“Experience of working closely with or for government organisations would be desirable.”
The advert added that the island must have the beginnings of a tourist industry in place by the time the island’s airport opens in early 2016.
Island councillor Ian Rummery – expressing a personal view – told St Helena Online: “We have raised issues with ESH about working more closely with local investors and there has been more dialogue on this.
“As Legislative Council (LegCo) we would plan to meet the new CEED once appointed to highlight the need to work together on local development.
“The recent investment in an offshore fishing vessel is a real success story and proof that this closer cooperation is working.”
The aide memoire published at the end of the UK advisers’ visit also warned that the island’s home-grown economy would dip once construction work on the airport tailed off after 2016.
But Ian said: “The expectation is that economic development will absorb many of these jobs as other projects – the wharf, possible hotel construction, etc – will pick up the slack.”
There was a backlog of construction jobs waiting to be done, he said, because there were simply not enough people on the island to carry them out.
“My concern is that while there are potential job opportunities with economic development, the move from a construction-based economy to a tourist, service-based economy requires a different skill set.
“This is going to require re-training for some people.
“The fact is that we have full employment (there are on average five people unemployed) so there are vacancies to be filled.”
He said St Helena Government was working with construction firm Basil Read to minimise the impact of work ending on the airport.
Read the full Development Aid Planning Mission report here