18 February 2020
Solomon Islands: Aiding community development by manufacturing, marketing and selling local products
I learned today that views have been raised about the Honiara Craft Centre not having a marketing strategy and this prompted me to mention the situation in Thailand in the hope it will be of some help.
Over the years I have written many times, and the letters published by Solomon Times, about an entrepreneurship programme that operates in Thailand known as the One Tambon One Product (OPTOP) programme.
The programme supports locally made and marketed products of each of Thailand’s 7255 tambons (sub districts).
The idea for the OTOP programme originated in Japan where the same programme is called One Village One Product (OVOP).
The One Tambon One Product movement is a self-help effort wherein rural communities participate in the creation of a product that can be sold locally and internationally.
OTOP includes a large array of local craft products, including traditional handicrafts, cotton and silk garments, pottery, fashion accessories, household items, and foods.
The Japan External Trade Organization, (JETRO) a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world has helped Thailand to market and sell OTOP products in Japan.
If something similar to the Thai programme could be arranged in the Solomon Islands and JETRO assist in marketing locally made craft products in Japan then rural communities could benefit substantially with the sale of their products.
An alternative suggestion would be selling locally made craft items on line, especially since broadband services will soon be available and make on-line trading very much easier than it has been in the past.
Of course there would need to be a specially designed website for the purpose, very much like the one I introduced (www.solomonislandsinfocus.com) some 6 years ago to help focus world attention on the Solomon Islands and the very many beautiful and skillfully crafted shell inlaid wooden bowls.
My website has top ranking and “hits” exceeded over 1 million recently.
Another alternative would be to advertise and market local craft products through Itsy (www.itsy.com) where craft products are featured.
I looked at the wooden bowls displayed on that trading website today and, frankly, I saw none that matched the wooden bowls made by the talented wood carvers in the Solomon Islands.
Japan has proved to be a supportive partner of the Solomon Islands especially in developments in road infrastructure, water supplies and education facilities and I feel sure, for the want of asking the Government of Japan (and JETRO) could advise on a local OTOP) scheme to aid village communities make and sell their crafts.
With the advance of broadband services, the Solomon Islands government will no doubt promote business development and perhaps the time is right to see the skilled crafts people at home are provided with a government created website to display and sell their quality products.
17 February 2020
Youth aspirations in relation to national development
In 2003 an off-shore consultancy firm, Hassell and Associates, carried out a study of the issues, needs and priorities of Solomon Islands youths. The findings of the study were later released in a comprehensive final report.
The research work was provided by AusAID.
I read the report over the weekend with a view to judging whether the then (2003) assessment of the issues, needs and priorities of Solomon Islands youths had improved in 2020.
I was mindful that in 2003, the then population of the Solomon Islands had been identified as being 446,769 whereas today in 2020, the population has increased by another 240, 115 and stands at 686, 884 people.
I came to the conclusion after finishing reading the study that many of the identified points mentioned in 2003 remain in respect of the collective aspirations of today’s youth.
Commonplace being the lack of jobs and work opportunities, especially for rural based young people, both boys and girls.
The Solomon Islands government realizes that good quality jobs matter for development and is working to ensure infrastructure takes place to provide better roads and communications that could facilitate employment prospects.
In the short term, however, given the many identified issues raised in the 2003 report on youth needs and aspirations, coupled with the increased population figures I have quoted, I cannot see the youth’s expectations being satisfied.
In some small way, I contributed to aid youth interests and activities with help in having the UK based Dionysus Ensemble visit the Solomons where the talented music professionals gave music education and instrument instruction to the young members of the Piano Association.
Participation in music was one of the matters mentioned as a need in the youth report I have cited.
I feel sure the Solomon Islands government has very much in mind the many youth concerns that hinder their individual aspirations and attainments. Given the increased attention to national development it would seem imperative; however, that the consultancy report’s findings and conclusions be looked at afresh to see what more can be done to stem the burgeoning employment gap.
17 February 2020
Already a front-runner in infrastructure development, Japan’s Ambassador reaffirms his country’s commitment to further infrastructure development in the Solomon Islands.
According to a press release from the Solomon Islands government last week, the Japanese Ambassador to Solomon Islands, H.E Shigeru Toyama, reaffirmed Japan’s support in infrastructure development when he met Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare last Friday.
His Excellency Ambassador Toyama paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Sogavare to update him on Japan’s ongoing development programs in the country.
H.E. Toyama said Japan’s commitment in the infrastructure sector remained a top priority.
The Japanese Ambassador also briefed the Prime Minister on Japan’s programs under the technical sector and grant aid funding and told the Prime Minister that the Government of Japan remained committed to the extension of the Kukum Highway Project.
Prime Minister Sogavare reportedly thanked and welcomed Japan’s reaffirmation and partnership in the infrastructure sector.
Prime Minister Sogavare said road infrastructure developments in the country were important and commented that the SIG had redirected plans and efforts in that regard.
The PM also said discussions on the road improvement project with other development partners on the west side of Honiara was also in progress.
Prime Minister Sogavare stressed, during the meeting with the Japanese Ambassador, the need for strategic infrastructure development in the country seeing it being vital to linking up with people in the scattered urban centres.
Two Solomons MPs found guilty of bribing voters
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 17 February 2020
“Two government MPs in Solomon Islands have lost their seats after being found guilty of bribing voters.
“Education minister Moffat Fugui and backbencher Jamie Vokia have both had election petitions brought against them upheld in the High Court.
“Mr Fugui, who was re-elected for his third consecutive term as the MP for Central Honiara, was found guilty of giving $SBD500 ($US182) to a voter on the eve of the 3 April election.
“The election petition against him was filed by Alfred Efona, who lost to Mr Fugui by 1088 votes.
“Mr Efona's legal counsel David Lidimani said the ruling had lifted the public perception of an independent, functioning judiciary which had been low after the first few petition cases were thrown out.
“Another other MP, Jamie Vokia, was found guilty of three counts of bribery.”
Copyright @ 2020, Radio New Zealand.
16 February 2020
Solomon Islands: The need for greater acceleration in tourism, accommodation and holiday packages.
Towards the end of January this year, the Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) Andrew Nihopara, reportedly said, “Many of our tourism facilities (accommodation) are well below standard.”
Mr.Nihopara said based on the 2025-2019 Tourism development strategy the Minimum Standard Roll Out is one of the key highlights the ministry is working on to improve tourism accommodation.
Similar views to that expressed by the PS have been mentioned in articles featuring in the on-line publication Solomon SB Herald in recent days.
Wood exports from the Solomon Islands in 2018 were valued at US$426.7 million and equated to 75 percent of total exports.
The export trade in round logs cannot continue for very much longer and tourism must be given priority if government revenue is not to suffer once the trade in wood and wood products does reduce substantially.
In 2018, the leading decliner among Solomon Islands’ top 10 export categories was fish via a -55.6% drop year over year.
In the same year, meat or seafood preparations were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 811.1% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was cocoa which rose 95.7%.
According to data published by Forbes Global rankings, the following export product groups represented the highest dollar value in Solomon Islander global shipments during 2018 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represented in terms of overall exports from Solomon Islands.
- Wood: US$426.7 million (75% of total exports)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $40.8 million (7.2%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $32.5 million (5.7%)
- Fish: $22.6 million (4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $21.3 million (3.7%)
- Cocoa: $8.6 million (1.5%)
- Oil seeds: $6.9 million (1.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $3.2 million (0.6%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $2.5 million (0.4%)
10. Machinery including computers: $1.1 million (0.2%)
A loss of US$500 million or more when wood exports cease will put the Solomon Islands economy in great difficulty and why the move to improve facilities and services for tourists must be accelerated, coupled with effective marketing and holiday package incentives.
Equally, the heralded infrastructure and developments promised must not be much further delayed, given the likely help from the USA, New Zealand, Japan and China.