Fulfilling the need for economic well being of Solomon Islanders

When the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare launched the “EziPei” eWallet service at the Heritage Park Hotel last Wednesday morning he said the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) recognised the need for the improvement of the economic well-being of women, youth and the rural population.

 He stressed that,” Our people are marginalized by the long distance and rough weather that makes travel very difficult and at times risky.”

“Those contribute to the economic and social challenges that we encounter every day,” he stated.

Mr Sogavare also expressed the government’s continuous support of initiatives to ensure the lives of the people would be positively impacted.

A decade ago in 2010, the then Solomon Islands Government sought help from the World Bank in investigating future growth prospects at home in order to better achieve the very same objectives recently highlighted  by the Prime Minister.

In a subsequent report from the World Bank there was set out a strategic vision for future growth, equity and stability.  The report was written to align with the then policy objectives of the government and to appeal to donor partners.

It was significant in reading that report that the same geographical disadvantages, as mentioned last week by the Prime Minister, were raised and it was mentioned, along with several other factors, such as limited capacity for regulatory and economic reform, little could be expected in the medium term.

In the event, the medium time prediction from the World Bank have proven to be long term when it comes to alleviating the geographical barriers still marginalising the people in the rural areas of  the country.

The same World Bank report went on to comment on other aspects that was considered would best realise opportunities for Solomon Islanders.   I will quote just a few examples:

“Solomon Islands’ best prospects lie in realizing opportunities in areas where it has an existing advantage, and improving flows of people, resources, and ideas within the country and regionally.”

“Future economic growth in Solomon Islands will come from four primary sources: A vibrant smallholder agriculture sector. Most Solomon Islanders will continue to rely on smallholder agriculture for incomes and livelihoods. Improving productivity of smallholder agriculture is vital for food security and livelihoods. But even with the best policies, this growth will not be sufficient to provide economic opportunities for all, nor sufficient revenues to enable the Government to meet commitments for service delivery.”

“Solomon Islands is well endowed with natural resources, including world class tourism potential, forests and fisheries, gold and nickel. But good outcomes from exploiting these advantages are far from assured.”

“The chances of good outcomes will improve if the right policy and regulatory arrangements are in place to ensure that resource owners gain a fair share of benefits, and that Government is able to capture revenues and spend them equitably on public services. If natural resource industries are well integrated into local supply chains, they will also provide a major source of demand for local businesses.”

“Growth in the local private sector will not be sufficient to provide jobs for the rapidly growing labor force. For many Solomon Islanders the best prospects for well-paid, productive employment may lie overseas. Closer integration of the Solomon Islands labor market with regional partners is a key objective. Short-term regional labor schemes can lead to remittances and the acquisition of skills that benefit the local economy. In the longer-run, integration would allow Solomon Island workers to make the best use of their skills and partner countries to address growing labor shortages in key sectors.”

“The development and an increasingly international workforce is unlikely to be sufficient to deliver economic opportunities and Government revenues required to meet public expectations on income and service delivery. Aid will continue to play a vital role in addressing shortfalls in fiscal resources and capacity across public admini
stration, security, infrastructure, and social services. Aid in these areas will be necessary for the foreseeable future to realize the potential benefits from other sources of growth.”

“Recognizing the central and long-term role of aid, along with further innovations in approaches, will make it possible to more predictably and effectively promote better public administration and political accountability, and provide an added stimulus to the local private sector.”

“Improved power and water supply will both reduce the cost of business and better cope with growing populations.”

I sense the World Bank report and strategic guidelines still supports the SIG’s policy aims and plans and there is some evidence of this by citing the Tina River Hydro power project to ensure future power and water supplies; the first steps in creating an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with supportive legislation to see to accountability, the fostering of aid with a view to development and infrastructure improvements across the country and ongoing moves to address labour shortages and secure overseas work opportunities, albeit progress is slow in this regard to-date.

Recently nineteen (19) Solomon Islanders successfully completed a two-week Labour Mobility International Preparation course with the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC), aimed at preparing them to live and work in Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

This I viewed as a step in the right direction.

The soon to be introduced broadband internet services is seen as another step in improving communications and connectivity, which can only benefit opportunities for business and employment.

Once building efficient connections between centers of economic activity and surrounding populations occurs, benefits from sources of growth will be maximized if the cost of movement of people, goods and services are reduced. This could enable people to take up employment opportunities, or to set up businesses supplying ancillary goods and services to growth industries.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short


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