Catching up with Governor Lisa Phillips
Lisa Phillips was sworn in as the 65th Governor of St Helena on 25 April, the first woman to be appointed to the role. A couple of months into the new job we ask her what she thinks of St Helena so far…
Your last posting was in Kenya for the Department for International Development (DIFD), how does this compare?
It’s very different. In Kenya, half the population (about 20 million+ people) live below the poverty line, which is about 70p a day. My role was to try to spend UK taxpayer’s money in the way that would most effectively help to lift those people out of poverty. Two million children didn’t go to school. One third of children under five were stunted because of under nutrition. Fortunately the same grinding poverty doesn’t exist on St Helena, children go to school, life expectancy is 78 years as opposed to 61 years in Kenya. Relatively speaking it’s much better.
What were you most looking forward to about moving to St Helena?
I applied for the job because I was interested in having a more immediate impact on peoples’ lives. With a small population, you can be a little bit more sure of the impact of policies. Plus I liked the idea of actually getting to know and to meet the people I was trying to help. It all becomes more personal and more rewarding.
What was your first impression?
My first impression was the RMS St Helena. Everyone says it’s an extension of the island and that’s absolutely right. The friendships you make on the RMS stay with you. The evening before we arrived the Captain said he would go past the airport before getting to Jamestown just so I could see it. Don’t tell him, but I missed the whole thing and woke up when we were in the bay! I looked out of the porthole and the island was looking straight back.
Your dog, Dusty, has just recently arrived on the RMS St Helena, have the two of you got a favourite walk yet?
Not yet…though I have bought the Post Box Walks book so that’s a start. When Dusty first arrived she just ran round and round the paddock where the tortoises live. She loved stretching her legs after two weeks on the RMS. I also took her swimming to Ruperts. All Labradors love the water.
You’ve been busy getting to know everyone and everywhere on the Island, where has been your favourite place to date?
I suppose my favourite place at the moment is Plantation House. It is such a beautiful house surrounded by lovely forest. I am really enjoying my Sunday afternoon teas at the house too, which are recognizing those who work behind the scenes so hard. I have had carers, medical staff, public works and roads staff all up for tea. It’s great to hear everyone’s views and it’s a great way to meet lots of people.
How do you see tourism contributing to the welfare and economic prosperity of St Helena?
An injection of money into St Helena from tourism should mean that the private sector can earn more profit and afford to pay higher salaries for their staff. And the same should be true for SHG in that we will bring in more revenue and afford higher salaries. This is how most people should see a benefit. Wages have already risen by 20% over the last couple of years so we are going in the right direction. But it won’t necessarily happen quickly. And it’s government’s role to make sure all parts of society benefit. But I certainly feel the future’s bright and air access will make it brighter.