His Excellency the Governor General, Sir David Vunagi, GCMG, in his new year’s address to the nation reportedly said the country continues to face the problems of unemployment and urban drift because it has not properly managed the formal and informal sectors.
The Governor-General added:
“I think a lot of emphasis has been placed on the formal sector where only about 20% of the population live and we neglected the informal sector where about 80% of the population live and where the natural resources are.”
“Our education system has also not able to define how to meet our manpower needs. I think we have not recognized the importance of vocational training which is appropriate in both the Formal and Informal sectors.”
“Real development cannot be attained just by concentrating on the formal sector. “One major task that we need to work on is to change the attitude of those who live in the informal sector.”
Sir David touched upon some relevant facts in his speech and it is a fact that the informal sector has been undervalued for many years in the Pacific Island developing countries, not just in the Solomon Islands, and this sector has seen the continuous growth of unemployed men, women and youths.
In 2004, Papua New Guinea became the first Pacific Island developing country to bring in legislation recognizing the contribution the informal sector to employment growth when it adopted the Informal Sector Development Control Act.
The Act, which was especially designed to promote employment opportunities and employment generation, give legitimacy to those involved in the informal sector and provide avenues for improving labour efficiency in business operations.
I agree that more vocational skills training is needed for all those living in the informal areas of the country and that the vast majority would be willing to take up other income earning, other than subsistence farming, if opportunities existed, but the present day reality is the required infrastructure and services are not available and urgently required.
The SIG has forecast major developments and infrastructure plans for the country and it is hoped that major developers, including those from the private sector, will soon create businesses in the rural areas once the infrastructure is in place, including water, electricity facilities and housing, and then take on unemployed people and give them the requisite on- the- job skills training to ensure the success of the businesses and enhance the workers capabilities and their earning capacity.
Once the infrastructure has taken place, businesses set- up and running and a paid local work force, with adequate training support then, I believe, as Sir David said:
“I am sure we can reduce unemployment, reduce inequality in social and economic areas and reverse urban drift and help our young people to realize that there are plenty of useful things to do in the informal sector.”