The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) believes that there are many new growth sectors in Solomon Islands and with the right investment can generate positive economic growth and social development for the country.
Board Chairman, Jay Bartlett made these remarks during a video conference on Monday 16th November between SICCI Board members, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and counterparts from the Chinese Chamber of International Commerce.
Some key trade and investment sectors were highlighted including infrastructure, agriculture, agribusiness, tourism, mining and fisheries.
Mr. Bartlett emphasized that there is a large pipeline of infrastructure projects that are planned for investment in the Solomon Islands in the next decade.
“Many of these are with our development partners and I would like to acknowledge the commitment that China has made in supporting the upcoming Pacific Games in 2023,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett said agriculture has the potential to become Solomon Islands’ most important sector.
“With a large growing domestic population, a rising middle class and urbanisation in many of Asia’s economies there is large opportunity for growth in commodities demand and prices. Solomon Islands is well placed to develop on the back of trade and export to many of these large economies such as China with agricultural products,” he said.
In terms of tourism, Solomon Islands is one if the least visited countries in the world with only around 26 thousand visitors a year, however, its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage should leave this sector high up on the development agenda for Government.
Solomon Islands has existing natural minerals such as Gold, Bauxite and Nickle.
“We also have a large Exclusive Economic Zone with an abundance of Tuna stocks. Fisheries and Mining are also two key sectors that have the scope for further foreign investment,” SICCI Chair, Mr Bartlett, said.
The video conference was made possible following a courtesy visit in October SICCI made to the Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to Solomon Islands, His Excellency (H.E) Li Ming as part of the two business Chambers’ effort to play a leading role in this new and developing business relationship between the two countries.
As a Chamber, SICCI believes there is scope for further meaningful engagement and welcomes the opportunity to do so.
“We are interested in seeing that there is a partnership approach to investment, we want to see trade and investment inflows but not to the detriment of our local businesses and jobs,” Mr Bartlett said.
“We believe that investment can be done in a manner that is win win for both parties.
“We want to encourage local participation, Joint Ventures and local job creation.
“With a large unemployment rate and fast population growth we have an uncompromising position on ensuring local content is a large consideration in delivery and investment across our nation,” he added.
Mr Bartlett reiterates PRC has been an important trading partner for many decades, but the long existing trade is one that has based on a single export commodity, round logs.
“Now that we have this bilateral relationship between our two countries, we can explore some other sectors that will be beneficial for our economies,” he said.
SICCI looks forward to working closely with the Chinese Chamber of International Commerce, and its members and Chinese business partners to further strengthen the business and economic relationship between the two countries.
SICCI has a broad and diverse membership base covering almost every sector – from Construction, Manufacturing, Tourism, Agribusiness, Fisheries ICT, Exporters and Importers. And its membership base also covers a range of business sizes from Small and Medium to the country’s largest employers.
SICCI also wishes to reiterate its stand that it is important that we maintain meaningful engagement and communication with all our development partners.
Especially during this time when the impacts of COVID-19 are posing both a health and economic crisis, collaboration is the way to go in balancing risks and opportunities for our country. And this is the basis of the SICCI’s engagement going forward.