St Helena Online


£75k economy chief ‘needs to get people talking’

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

Read the full aid mission report for St Helena

The aide memoire signed at the end of the annual visit of advisers from the UK serves as a state-of-the-island report for St Helena. The Development Aid Planning Mission 2014 report covers key aspects of life such as health, education, social services and shipping, as well as progress on the economic transformation of the island. Read the full text here.

SEE ALSO: Hospital and child safety highlighted as aid talks end

St Helena needs ‘new hospital and new health service,’ says Ian

Health leaders have been given six months to make a case for building a new hospital on St Helena.

But Ian Rummery, chairman of the island’s public health committee, has called for wholesale reform.

“The case we have to make is not just about a new hospital – it is about a new health service.”

He spoke at a press conference on the island’s annual aid talks, two days after a large number of patients left for medical treatment overseas.

UK negotiators toured the hospital in Upper Jamestown soon after arriving for the week-long Development Aid Planning Mission (DAPM).

The aide memoire signed at the end of the week encouraged St Helena Government to “develop an initial longer-term hospital plan within six months”.

It also supported planned renovations to the hospital.

“We had a full and frank look at the hospital infrastructure,” said Councillor Rummery.

“The hospital needs a new operating theatre. One of the reasons there’s been a spike in medical referrals is we are having to send people offshore because we can’t do a lot of operations here.

“It is clear that the new operating theatre and diagnostic suite is a priority.

“But in the longer term we really need to be working towards a new hospital. 

“Let’s be clear: it is not the green light for a new hospital but it is, ‘Let’s talk about it – ‘you present the business case and we will start to discuss it.’

“That is very good because the discussions a few months ago were that the door was pretty much closed on a new hospital.”

Mike Olsson of the St Helena Independent asked whether work on a new hospital plan might mean improvements to the existing building would be put on hold for six months.

Ian Rummery replied: “We can do two things at the same time. We need to upgrade the hospital.

“A new hospital can’t be built overnight. You are talking years.”

Maintenance had become an issue, he said.

“We are being driven out of the hospital building. In the next six months we make a business case, concentrating on the hospital now but then going forward by ten years to having a new hospital and a health service.”

He said there was no truth in a suggestion that a new facility was needed to meet the requirements of the island’s new airport, due to open in 2016.

Overseas care is straining family fund, says Indy editor

The St Helena Independent noted on 17 January 2014 that there was an usually large number of doctors on the island – “it must be six or seven”.

Editor Mike Olsson wrote: “We apparently do not have the facilities to enable our doctors to perform their skills in a safe way. Therefore we are sending more patients to Cape Town than ever.

“I know that the enormous number of referrals have put huge pressure on the Family Trust Support Fund. Many people on their way to Cape Town have no spare funds for these kind of eventualities.

“The funds of the Family Trust are depleted and they need urgent funds to be able to help people in a desperate situation.”

Hospital and child safety highlighted as aid talks end
The Risk Assessment: hospital team does ‘an amazing job’

St Helena Independent, 17 January 2014 (see Editorial, page 2)

Aid mission talks begin on 11 January 2014

Annual talks to agree St Helena’s settlement of aid from Britain are scheduled for 11 to 18 January 2014 – though an economist will arrive a week early for preliminary discussions. The Development Aid Planning Mission, usually referred to as “Dap’m” in speech, is the most critical event of the year for the island. Governor Mark Capes chose to call the 2013 general election for July, rather than waiting until November, to give time for new councillors to prepare for the talks. In the past, the visiting officials have offered public criticisms and advice on the conduct of island affairs.

Read the full press release here

One in ten jobs affected as Castle sheds services, says report

The number of government workers on St Helena is set to be cut by nearly a tenth over the next year, according to the report on the island’s annual aid negotiations.

It says the headcount is to be reduced from 820 to 749 as the island public service is slimmed down.

But it appears many of those jobs will move over to the private sector as The Castle continues “divesting” services such as electricity and water.

The report says the aid mission noted progress in creating a leaner public service. “Most notably, this has included reducing the number of directorates from 9 to 5, as well as reducing headcount from 924 in 2011 to 820 in 2013, towards the target of 749 next year.”

In November 2012, 58 finance staff were told their jobs were “under review” and some might be made redundant.

A new limited company, St Helena Connect, is due to take over electricity and water supplies on 1 April 2013.

The health directorate is set to hand its cleaning services to a private company at the same time.

The aid report says: “We look forward to hearing about divestment plans for other areas such as crown estates maintenance, ICT support, vehicle maintenance and pest control.”

In the health directorate, it says: “We note the successful divestment of laundry (since 2010) and look forward to discussing further efficiency gains, in particular catering, cleaning and home help, pest control and garbage disposal.”

It says advisers want clarity on the full implication for staffing, costs and standards. “Such information should be provided to the public through clear and transparent progress documentation,” it says.

Fragile school improvements ‘must be treated with care’

Massive improvements in St Helena’s primary schools have beaten ambitious targets – but the figures must be treated with caution because of the small number of children involved, warns the island’s 2013 aid report.

Exam results for 16-year-olds have also seen radical improvement, though performance is still well below the minimum standard expected in the UK.

The report, issued at the end of the annual visit by UK aid negotiators, says: “Data indicates good progress in education this year, though we have to be careful about sample size and the fragility of the improvement suggested.

“Primary education results have exceeded targets, with over 60% of children reaching Key Stage II targets in English and science and a dramatic improvement in maths, from 26% to 55%.

“Improvements are also apparent at secondary level with 19% of students attaining a minimum of 5 GCSEs (A-C) in 2012, up from a zero rate in 2011, but with much work still to do.”

The previous aid mission agreed three years’ funding to improve education because of its role boosting economic development.

The latest report says: “We are pleased to note that this investment already appears to be showing positive results at both primary and secondary levels, though further improvements are required and boys’ attainment continues to be a concern, especially in literacy.

“More technical assistance across a range of educational areas has been agreed this year, including modern languages, science, early years and raising attainment, with additional special educational needs assistance being considered.

“Meanwhile, SHG has lowered the age at which young children can access nursery school and agreement has been reached with Basil Read [the airport contractor] to enable school leavers to continue to pursue exams whilst working.”

Further talks are expected on a proposals to reorganise schools, a new funding formula for staffing, and teacher training.

SHAPE praised as advisers cite unknown scale of disability

The role of St Helena’s disability charity, SHAPE, has been singled out for praise by UK aid advisers.

But they say help for disabled people is “fragmented”, with too little knowledge about the problems people are coping with.

The success of SHAPE – short for St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise – shows the role civil society groups can play, says the report on the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission, which looks at the challenges facing the island.

SHAPE trains disabled people in craft skills at the old school building in Sandy Bay, and provides them with work such as making and selling jewellery. It has also set up a recycling service.

The aid advisers’ report, agreed with St Helena Government negotiators, notes a need for “a thorough analysis of the number of disabled people on island and types of disability/capability issues, linked to levels of disadvantage and vulnerability.”

The findings “will undoubtedly impact” on health and social services planning, it says.

It also says a contract for SHAPE’s services should be continued.

It adds: “Whilst provision for disabled people remains fragmented, we welcome SHG’s recognition of SHAPE as a front-line service delivery agency.”

The government also needs to consult on concerns in the community, it says.

SHG is set to policy on managing disability.

Diabetes target ‘unlikely to be met’

Mixed results have been reported on efforts to tackle St Helena’s massive diabetes problem – one of the worst in the world.

Health workers have succeeded in performing annual checks on registered diabetics, according to the aide memoire issued at the end of the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission from the UK.

But it adds: “The 51% target for patients with blood glucose levels under control is unlikely to be achieved.”

The last figures published – in 2011 – showed there were 570 diagnosed diabetics on the island, most with the type 2 version of the condition.

Hypertension was also a serious issue.

Diabetic clinics had been set up on the island, led by a specialist nurse, though at one point the service came under strain because of staff shortages.

The condition is linked to obesity and poor diet, as well as genetic factors.

The health service had seen “generally good” performance in dealing with non-communicable diseases.

Some UK funding from the Health Link 3 project, which ended in March 2012, had still not been spent. Agreement was needed on how it should be used, said the aide memoire.



Extra £1.4 million is proposed to boost health and schooling

Nearly one and a half million pounds of extra funding will pumped into St Helena to improve health care and education, if UK ministers accept proposals from the 2013 aid mission to the island.

That is on top of £12 million to cover the ongoing shortfall in St Helena Government’s annual budget.

The £12m amounts to a slight dip in funding – less than one per cent – but if the extra £1.4 million is approved, the island will actually see an increase in aid.

The proposal has emerged from the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission (DAPM) to the island, which has seen UK experts negotiating with a team of eight island councillors and officials.

They have agreed an aide memoire that reveals concerns that health and social services targets were not being met.

The extra funding is “to fill critical capacity gaps in essential medical services and provide support for education.”

But the mission has warned that some savings plans looked unrealistic.

It said: “We were concerned that some directorates may have suggested savings that could not be realistically achieved.”

It did not say which departments caused concern – but alarm has been raised on the island about cuts in health spending.

Savings should be made through administrative costs, not front-line services, it said.

It also saw a big opportunity to save money through more efficient procurement – buying-in of goods and services – with no progress in the past year on adopting agreed guidelines. An adviser arrived in January 2013.

The aide memoire says the mission was pleased that it had not have to agree the Grant in Aid package, except on shipping.

The mission found a “mixed” picture on the island’s home-grown economy. Work on the airport had moved quicker than expected, pushing up employment and population, but it was unclear how much this had boosted wages in the rest of the economy.

Investment in tourism had been slower than expected.

Inflation had fallen to 4%, from 6% at the beginning of 2012, but this was partly due to the weakness of the South African Rand.

Domestic revenue was forecast to rise by a million pounds over the year, to £11.3 million in 2012/13, in line with predictions.

Growth of 13% is forecast in the next two years, dipping to 10% in 2015/16.

Income tax revenue had gone up by a third (35%), driven by airport activity.

Spending was also broadly in line with forecasts, “leaving a near-balanced budget.”

The mission welcome progress on supporting economic development and said Enterprise St Helena had built a good platform to move forward on its objectives.

The government’s budget planning had improved, to fit better with the priorities of improving health, education and economic growth.

Improvement in tax collection had been “modest”, but more substantial gains were expected in 2013/14. A new computer system should improve detection of tax evaders.

“A rigorous audit of taxation returns is planned,” says the aide memoire. Fees are to be reviewed.

The aid mission welcomed plans to publish meaningful information on the government’s performance. Information on the SHG website need to be easier to understand, it said.

Jobs for island contractors after years of under-spending

Island businesses are being asked to help with a backlog of “challenging” work to improve infrastructure on St Helena – such as roads and buildings.

It follows a rebuke in early 2012 by aid advisers over delays in spending several million pounds that was meant to be used for vital work.

Executive councillors have accepted that “capacity constraints” were partly to blame, according to Governor Mark Capes.

In the past, it has been reported that projects could not move forward because St Helena Government could not find contractors able to take on work on the island, including from overseas.

In his report of the executive council meeting of Tuesday, 10 June, Mr Capes said: “Councillors welcomed advice that discussions were under way with private sector interests to address this.”

Island contractors are expected to help clear a backlog of maintenance of buildings and other major infrastructure that has built up after years of inadequate spending.

A spokesman told St Helena Online: “The private sector will be engaged in the building and construction work of course, but over and above that we have need for a range of specialist technical work, such as construction design for some of the energy projects.”

An off-shore company is expected to be brought in “soon” to help manage projects from planning to completion.

Mr Capes said aid advisers from the Department for International Development had “registered some concern that progress was behind schedule on some projects and cautioned that we must aim to do better.”

In fact, the aide memoire signed at the end of the aid team’s visit in February 2012 voiced “deep concerns” over performance.

There had since been “limited and insufficient” progress, resulting in £4 million of aid money being stored up – which could have been spent in other needy countries.

That sum was due to shrink to around £1 million after payment for work to upgrade the power station.

The aide memoire – agreed with St Helena Government – said: “A surplus of funds is not allowed to build up again. DFID funds will not be paid in advance of need and will only be released if and when needed.”

An infrastructure adviser and a programme manager spent a week on the island in February to draw up a “more realistic” plan for work on areas such as roads, water and power, along with “other needed activity” on visitor attractions, housing, IT and construction.

The aid report also found annual spending on maintenance had not been adequate. “Work to address the maintenance backlog for much of the island’s heavy infrastructure and SHG’s stock of buildings has been prioritised under the plan,” it said.

Executive councillors are to be given monitoring reports every three months. St Helena Online has been told that Tuesday’s report by the director of infrastructure and utilities, David Thompson, is confidential and will not be made public.

However, Mr Capes’ report of the meeting said: “Councillors directed that more information should be made available, especially on the projects of most concern to the public, such as the roads programme.”

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Executive Council report – 10 July 2012
Development Assistance Planning Mission (DAPM) – aide memoire, February 2012