The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board Chairman, Mr. Jay Bartlett, in elaborating on why the Chamber decided on the theme for this year’s Business Excellence Awards, said, “Now more than ever, the country needs all the decision-makers from the private sector, from Government and its partners working together to realise stronger economic growth.”
“The Solomon Islands has a rapidly growing population that will demand more resourcing of services; thus, any investment today should be for sustained growth,” Mr Bartlett said.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Hon Manasseh Sogavare, agrees with the sentiments shared by the SICCI Chairman.
“Our rapidly growing population is a cause for concern,” the PM has said.
“It is, therefore, imperative that substantial and sustained private sector development is vigilantly pursued in order to address our pressing issues of servicing our growing population,”
Few will disagree with the sentiments of Mr Bartlett and the Prime Minister.
According to the Australian Government, Australia is working together with Solomon Islands to enhance economic growth and development in Solomon Islands. Australian assistance will address constraints to growth in Solomon Islands’ economy.
“As announced during Prime Minister Morrison’s visit to Solomon Islands in June 2019, Australia soon afterwards said it would establish a bilateral infrastructure program, worth up to $250 million in grant financing over 10 years. The program will support key national and economic infrastructure and will complement the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
“The Solomon Islands Growth Program is the flagship for Australian support to increase private sector investment in a more inclusive economy. It aims to catalyse private sector investment and increase opportunities for inclusive growth by targeting industries with the highest potential. Particular focus will be given to promoting women’s participation and reducing costs to business.
“Through regional programs, Australia will provide support for fisheries management – including effective regional cooperation with the Forum Fisheries “Agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community – and improved market access for Solomon Islands’ exports.
“Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), led by the Department of Employment, connects Pacific island and Solomon Islands workers with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages, typically in rural and remote areas. This benefits both parties and the average worker remits around $5,000-$6,000 during a six-month placement. Solomon Islands participation in the SWP doubled to 175 in 2017-18 and increased to 314 in 2018-2019, supported by ongoing work to train, prepare and support increased numbers of future workers.
“In September 2018, Solomon Islands joined the Pacific Labour Scheme. The scheme will enable Solomon Islanders to undertake low and semi-skilled work in rural and regional Australia for up to three years. Participation numbers for 2018-19 was 2.”
Looking for independent commentary on the Solomon’s private sector investment and business potential, I came across a well written guide published last year in Air Niugini’s in-flight magazine for July-August 2018. In that magazine David Kirkland portrayed a positive economic outlook for the Solomon Islands in words and pictures. I believe it is well worth reading in what I have perceived to be a lack of a SIG or SICCI publication as an informative Guide to doing business in the Solomon Islands.
The World Bank has such a publication in the form of an Institutional Document published in May 2016.
If that publication has not been replaced with a new one, the World Bank then commented that more needed to be done to improve the quality of the country’s investment climate.
The publication went on to add, quote:
“A business environment that supports private sector-led growth is the key to long-term sustainable poverty reduction. This has been recognized by successive Solomon Islands’ governments who have implemented fundamental reforms that have modernized the environment for doing business in the country with some far-reaching reforms. This private sector assessment (PSA) analyzes the reforms to date and suggests further policy actions and priorities in the areas of:
· Business law reform,
· Promoting economic opportunities for women,
· State-owned enterprises,
· The tax system, and
· The financial system.
“The policy recommendations in that PSA provided the basis for discussions between the Government of Solomon Islands, the private sector, and other stakeholders regarding future reform priorities that would contribute to the country’s resources being used most productively.”
It is assumed the proposed discussions did eventuate and the Solomon Islands, in partnership with the private sector is now fully open for business.