SOLOMON Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) this week bid farewell to one of its senior staff, Charles Persson, who has been with the Chamber for the past three years.
Since May 2016 Mr Persson worked with SICCI as a Business Analyst working closely with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Board on strategy and planning.
He was initially in Honiara on assignment with Australian Volunteers International, funded by the Australian Government.
The SICCI Board approved extending Mr Persson’s role with the Chamber and he continued to support the team and advise the CEO since 2017 until his departure this week.
“Over the last three years the Chamber has been reshaped. The SICCI brand has value. The SICCI brand has visibility. The SICCI brand is associated with advocacy, membership services, youth programs, and respect for women.
“And I am proud to have been part of that, and in particular to be there in support of the past CEO Dennis Meone, the new CEO Atenasi Ata, the Board and the team,” Mr Persson said before leaving for Sydney on Tuesday earlier this week.
“I have enjoyed immense collegiality not only with the Board and the SICCI team but also with our members and the greater community,” he said.
Before coming to the Solomon Islands, Mr Persson lived and worked in a number of locations in Australia, with his career taking him to Italy, South Africa, Taiwan and Malaysia. His background includes working in the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building and construction industries in project, operations and general management.
In the Solomon Islands, he found the business environment challenging.
“It is not easy doing business in Solomon Islands and there are a number of obstacles to owning and operating a business, including uncertainty around land ownership, burdensome tax regime, slow pace of reform, lack of skilled labour and connectivity with the outside world.
“There is the added overlay of remoteness from markets, market size impacting costs of production and delivery of public services,” he said.
He said a challenge for SICCI is the diversity of membership where every industry sector is represented.
“Sixty percent of SICCI members have less than 20 employees, almost all large companies are members as are the state-owned enterprises.
“Recently the strategy for 2019-2023 was completed addressing how to effectively represent all members under these circumstances.
“There is an unambiguous link between the rule of law in a nation and growth in foreign direct investment which underpins private sector development and job growth. It is so good to see the ongoing stability post-RAMSI due to the efforts of the RSIPF,” Mr Persson said.
“The government is engaging with the private sector. There exists a real entrepreneurial spirit. These are positive indicators for the future,” he added.
Mr Persson acknowledges some of the highlights during his time with SICCI.
“I can list many highlights that have come from working at SICCI, and I will list some. SICCI’s visibility, last Wednesday’s AGM held under a new Constitution, consistently achieving the objectives set under the Australian Government’s funding agreement, signing the MOU with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and establishing the Young Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands. It is encouraging to see the enthusiasm and skill of young people here.
“And by no means last on the list, this May a third directorship programme will be held together with the Institute of Directors in New Zealand. This represents 75 directors, CEOs and senior managers having been educated in international best practice governance,” he said.
SICC Chairman, Jay Bartlett during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) expressed the Chamber and its members’ deep gratitude to Mr Persson.
“He initially came in on a 12-month volunteer program and has since become an indispensable member of the Chamber Family. On behalf of our board, office team and everyone here thank you very much and you will be missed.”
Mr Persson was farewelled by the Board and Secretariat staff on 21st March. Mr Joseph Huta of SP Oil who was SICCI Treasurer was present as were Mr Frank Wickham, Mr David Rupokets, Mr Jeremy Bartlett, Sir Bruce Saunders and his wife, US Consular Agent to Solomon Islands Ms Keithie Saunders. Board members and staff took the opportunity to wish him well in his next job.