Honiara : 19 November 2016
Letter to the Editor, Solomon Star Newspaper.
A whole mixed bag of local news this week initially focused my mind on what the Deputy Commissioner of the RSIPF, Ms. Juanita Matanga, said about what she saw as new crime trends in the country and how the RSIPF was working hard to combat the challenges of changing criminal behavior.
Ms. Matanga cited increases in family violence and cyber space crimes. It was noticeable that Ms Matanga did not mention incidences of robbery, alcohol related offences, housebreaking, theft and road related motoring offences, including driving under the influence of drink.
I do not have access to crime statistics so my inclusion of offences other, than what Ms. Matanga mentioned, is merely based on regular news stories in the two main newspapers, but today’s news of an attack on two Chinese shopkeepers cannot be ignored and recent incidences of criminal damage and theft of money from ATM’s, tends to suggest the pattern of crime reaches beyond domestic violence and computer crimes.
That being said, it is reassuring that the Deputy Commissioner is confident in the RSIPF’s ability to “execute a successful policing service.”
The issue raised by Ms. Matanga of unemployment being high is an unfortunate fact and there are no short-term remedies but it is noted that Youth@ Work continues with its work programmes and is successful in providing many students of the scheme with the necessary tools to enable them to improve their options in getting a decent job or self-employment in the future.
The problem, in simple terms, is jobs are not necessarily available and how frustrating must it be to be qualified for vocational work with newly acquired skills when no work is around? The same can be said for many school leavers and even graduates.
I claimed at the onset of this piece that the news this week had been a mixed bag, including political talk, and a matter I have no wish to be really discussing but, for this once, I would ask to be excused.
The Solomon Islands Government is keen to create Free Economic Zones (FEZ’s) which could be one answer to the unemployment situation and what conditions or incentives would induce or entice a business investor to want to become involved in a (FEZ) in the Solomons?
Well, for a start, an available local labour force, an array of government incentives including infrastructure, tax and custom exemptions offering respite from normal import-export tax regimes and regulations in return for a steady stream of much needed revenue for the public purse and less than complex administrative procedures, a deep shipping port, and an airport.
Here in Thailand, as I have mentioned before, the Taiwanese have a major stake in one major industrial factory complex in the eastern part of Bangkok employing more than 10,000 young workers, men and women, producing electronic switch gear for the export market. The Taiwanese see the factory as a deliberate tool of economic development in its favour. The factory also gives steady employment to local Thai people who might otherwise be unemployed.
The political aspect I have hinted upon, therefore, concerns allegations during the week which centered on the regular payment of the Republic of China (ROC) Millennium Development Fund.
Allegations regarding the use of such fund are not new and I can recall the late Fred Fono as a Minister, several years ago, having to defend how the money was being allocated and accounted for by MP’s.
To come to the point, however, could the ROC Government be encouraged to set up the kind of factory enterprise I have mentioned operates so well in Thailand in the Solomons and thereby defuse much of the allegations so often repeated over the allocation and use of the money so generously given by Taiwan?
The regulatory incentives I have described about investing in a (FEZ) operation in the Solomons are in hand, or could soon be with the passing of enabling legislation. The problem with major unemployment could then be mitigated and some of the social factors having a bearing on current crime trends also eased.
Having gone so far in mentioning a political ‘hot potato’ topic, I would like to cite a programme initiated most recently in India where the government has introduced a scheme requiring MP’s to use the funds allocated to them to fully develop their constitutional areas evolving from a shared people’s vision of the needs.
MP’s are tasked, initially, with broadly indentifying the important requirements and activities, to include
Basic amenities & services, and
The adoption and adaption of technology and introduction of innovation are critical to the program. These broadly include -
Mobile based technology
Agriculture related technology and innovations
Livelihood related technologies and innovations
Appropriate building construction technologies, and
Road construction technologies.
Promoting transparency and accountability is essential when accounting for the government funds allocated to the MP’s.
This new initiative promoted by the Indian Government has seen a remarkable change in its development paradigm and perhaps, this kind of initiative could serve in the whole, or in part, as an example for the Solomon Islands to follow.