12 April 2019
Solomon Islands: Considering job creation with regional and global partners
The Kiribati parliament is to ask New Zealand and Australia to take more Kiribati workers in their seasonal worker schemes.
New Zealand and Australia have already recruited workers from Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and the regional labour scheme has resulted, to date, in some positive financial benefits for Solomon Islanders.
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce recently called for jobs to be created locally but international opinion expressed by organistions such the OECD and the World Bank has predicted growth in the local private sector is unlikely to provide jobs for the 10,000 Solomon Islanders entering the workforce each year. Opportunities for well-paid, productive employment will need to be pursued overseas.
Short-term regional labor schemes can lead to remittances and skills acquisition that benefit the local economy but the new administration will need to enhance the ‘Temporary Movement of National Persons’ program.
In the longer-run, closer integration of the Solomon Islands labor market with regional partners is will need to be a key objective.
Closer 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. Increasing labor market integration may be the most cost-effective way for donor partners to improve the standards of living of Solomon Islanders.
To make the most of this source of growth, policy action by the incoming administration will be needed to increase Solomon Islanders’ access to international labor markets, especially major Pacific neighbors but also other countries.
The land area of Solomon Islands is the second largest in the Pacific region and its exclusive economic zone sea area is fourth largest in the Pacific region. There were once very considerable timber resources, but due to unsustainable logging practices over several decades timber resources have dwindled and the extractive industry no longer can be said to dominate the economic development of the country and sustain the levels of employment as in past years.
The country has confirmed mineral stocks but the recent oil spill disaster in East Rennell will have cast doubt on regulation and control practices in the mining area and could well prejudice investment and reduce employment opportunities in the mining sector.
The governments will need to take public policy actions to create an enabling environment for job creation and focus on building a quality infrastructure to connect domestically and globally. And they will need to set up the right ecosystem for private investments, especially for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs.
This will mean working with partners, in the region and globally, to share lessons of job creation and economic transformation and use them to identify what the government will be able to do to generate incomes and create jobs locally, by engaging the private sector and unleashing people's energy and creativity.
Samoa planning waste tax on recyclables
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 12 April 2019
“Samoa is planning to bring in a waste tax on imported plastic bottles, packaging, tyres and cans as well as offering refunds for returned recyclable materials.
“A task force has been set up after lobbying on the issue by community groups and the new levy system is likely to mirror those used in other Pacific nations such as Palau and Kiribati.
“A principal waste management officer at Samoa's Environment Ministry said traditionally recycling businesses concentrated more on high value materials like scrap metals such as copper.
“Setoa Apo said huge changes in consumption had generated more low value waste streams.
"But we're having a lot of plastic bottles around and other packaging materials (which) are recyclable. But the problem is they are low value. And the idea behind introducing the levy on some of those packaging materials or containers is to have such a fund that can assist recyclers."
“Setoa Apo said the taskforce was still working out exactly which materials would be targeted but the changes were likely to be introduced in July and will be backed up by the plastic bag ban brought in earlier this year.”
Copyright @ 2019, Radio New Zealand
PNG to connect via Australia-China internet cable
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 11 April 2019
“The US cable company SubCom will lay an undersea internet cable connecting Papua New Guinea with Australia and Hong Kong.
“SubCom said last week it had been commissioned by Singapore's H2 Cable to build the cable, which is the most direct internet link yet between Australia and China.
“The connection includes possible branches to PNG's capital of Port Moresby and Honiara in the Solomon Islands.
“The $US380 million line is due for completion in 2022 and analysts say it will threaten future connections pushed by controversial firm Huawei.
“Jonathan Pryke of the Lowy Institute said the cable will greatly increase internet accessibility in PNG.
Copyright @ 2019, Radio New Zealand.
Kiribati wants more seasonal workers to Aust, NZ
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 11 April 2019
“The Kiribati parliament is to ask New Zealand and Australia to take more i-Kiribati workers in their seasonal worker schemes.
“The government voted unanimously to back an opposition motion calling for fair treatment under the schemes.
“The mover of the motion, MP Pinto Katia, says New Zealand and Australia have recruited more workers from Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, than they have from Kiribati.
“The Kiribati Minister of Labour, Iotebwa Redfern, welcomed the motion and said he would discuss the concerns with NZ and Australia.
“Mr Katia acknowledged the contribution the schemes make to the Kiribati economy but he said the opportunity must be fairly distributed among the participating Pacific nations.”
Copyright @ 2019, Radio New Zealand
11 April 2019
Solomon Islands: Unemployment at 80% deemed to be one of the biggest challenges for the new government to overcome.
Expectations of the new government are reportedly high but there are enormous challenges that lie ahead to be addressed and none more so than the ongoing and seemingly intractable problem of youth unemployment and the creation of job opportunities for the estimated 80% of young people without work.
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce has cited job creation is needed and the active pursuance of creating a business environment.
Simply put that is absolutely right, but how will the still low-key business environment be created?
In the past years one might have considered there was a lack of security in the country following the tragic happenings that one now refers to as the ‘tensions’ years and investors could have been put off my investing to create businesses.
RAMSI helped to restore confidence in the country and the peaceful general election last week can only add to the perception that there exists a better security environment.
In the past couple of years I was looking at the prospect of the creation of so-called Special Economic Zones being established throughout selected areas of the country that had been promoted in the much touted National Development Strategy (NDS 2016-2035) but it is not clear whether that policy initiative is still active.
When introduced, the NDS presented five broad objectives that were envisaged to contribute towards achieving an overall vision and long term objectives, including poverty alleviation and jobs.
In September last year, I wrote an article to the Solomon Star newspaper and said:
“The prospect of Special Economic Zones heralded the local belief that jobs would become available and especially when the former Taiwanese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands gave more than a hint of Taiwanese support for the creation of local Special Economic Zones on the model of those created in Taiwan.
“It might be recalled that in July 2016, former Prime Minister Manneseh Sogavare announced that his government would soon put in place legislation to guide the establishment of Special Economic Zones.
“On that occasion, Hon Sogavare said he had told the visiting Papua New Guinea-based Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy that Chinese investors should be interested in forming partnerships to invest in the SEZs.
“Mr. Sogavare said the idea was to zone the country into various economic areas so different provinces could enter into activities that would be specifically feasible for their people.
“He said the government would use the Public Private Partnership Development Concept when creating the SEZs.
“In his National Day speech in July the same year, Ambassador Victor Yu was quoted as having said:
“As for Taiwan’s development: Taiwan was an agriculture society like Solomon Islands, but we are on a mountainous island with limited arable land and no natural resources. What we have are 23 million people. Over a few decades, Taiwan has fostered its engineering competence, managerial know how, and ingenuity by developing human resources through education. By setting up special industrial zones, Taiwan attracted foreign investment and gradually established its own industrial base. Then through more investment in R&D, Taiwan managed to upgrade itself into a knowledge-based high-tech economy of today. This is Taiwan’s model of economic development to share with Solomon Islands. I am very glad to see one of the Solomon Islands’ government development strategies is to establish Special Economic Zones to attract foreign investment. This may be the way to Solomon Islands’ economic development. We are earnest to see its fruition.”
It could well be that Solomon Islands complex issues over land tenure and customary land practices, coupled with lingering security concerns might have been detracting factors in seeing the furthering of the envisaged Free Economic Zone ideas but there could have been other issues involving monetary incentives for would-be investors and industrial manufacturers.
For manufacturing industries to develop in a country, availability of adequate land is an essential precondition. Moreover, the land needs to be equipped with basic infrastructure, such as water, electricity, gas, transportation, and telecommunication. Although individual manufacturers can create infrastructure in some cases, the cost of doing so would be a heavy burden for most and would therefore discourage many potential companies from building factories.
While it might be argued that many young people in the Solomon Islands ought to change their mindset about farming as a source of employment and realize that farming work has the potential to create more income than paid employment in the formal work sector, there is also the fact that rural and customary land needs to be made available for commercial and agricultural development.
As I previously wrote, the Solomon Islands isn’t alone in facing the problems highlighted and, indeed, it can be said many of the Pacific states face the same, if not more serious, issues arising from the respective nation’s ability to manage development and provide for the rapidly growing population. The Solomon Islands is no exception.
The various schemes implemented by the government, such as the rapid employment scheme and the offshore, seasonal work offered to young people engaged in fruit harvesting simply isn’t enough to meet the needs and expectations of the growing numbers of school drop outs and idle youth flooding into the national capital from the provinces.
I am not alone in describing the current situation as a security challenge akin to a ticking time bomb, although I likened the situation of the unemployed youth in 2009 to a tinder box. (See my letter to the Pacific Islands Report entitled, ‘Idle Solomon’s Youth a Tinder Box’, published on 10 December 2009)
The challenges the nation faces in respect of its unemployed young people must be tackled before the situation does become the ‘time bomb’ others have referred to.
A starting point, I would suggest is that the new government re-examine the findings and projected solutions to youth unemployment in the excellent report styled, 'The State of Pacific Youth – 2005’ written under the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF Pacific) and funded by the New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID.
Yes, 2005. I haven’t written the wrong date. The information in that report is just as relevant, if not more so, than when it was first compiled and issued.
I understand copies of the report can be downloaded or obtained from the UN Children’s Fund Headquarters in Suva.
I would even go so far to suggest to the Solomon Islands Government that the author of that report, if still available, be consulted and to advise the government on measures that might be taken now.
The report is very comprehensive and clearly argued that not enough had been done to address the underlying causes of the youth unemployment problem and indicates how youths have become disempowered in the process of often being ignored and not listened to.
The time for talking about the ever-increasing problem of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment is over and action is needed to address the situation. I therefore encourage the incoming administration to do everything possible to bring about the change that has been absent for many years.
I wish the government success.