11 June 2019
Solomon Islands: Broad challenges lie ahead for the DCGA
The newly formed DCGA faces some tough challenges ahead in regard to foreign policy, climate change, unemployment, development, tourism, health care and revenue generation, to express things generally.
Here are a few observations:
The former Prime Minister, the Hon Danny Philip, highlighted the important geo-political dynamics in the Pacific when he contributed to the sine die motion in Parliament recently.
His concern arose due to China’s growing influence in the Pacific and the government has said it is considering its relationship with Taiwan but it will not be pressured and will make a decision on the matter within 100 days.
His Excellency the Governor General used his speech at the Queen’s Birthday Ceremony last Friday, to express his concerns over climate change and the way global warming, despite sound scientific evidence, including in the United States, is being ignored to the detriment of the Solomon Islands and its neighbouring smaller Pacific States.
Today, one reads that the MP for the Vatud Constituency, Freda Tuki, has called for more attention from the government to the plight of her constituents in the Temotu, Vatud Constituency.
She said the effects of climate change and sea level rise on our islands is a concern.
She added that the islands of Tikopia, Anuta, Duff and Lord Howe and Sikaiana are already badly affected with one quarters of the islands beginning to be covered by the sea.
“The threat of sea level rise is real. It has threatened our clean, safe water and food security.”
The CITREC programme is continuing to help women from Guadalcanal Province gain work in Canada but not to the extent that it is having a major impact on the local unemployment situation and clearly labour mobility needs to be stepped-up to allow far more Solomon Islanders to become gainfully employed overseas, including in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Some years ago I remember reading a piece by a Solomon Islander, David Gegeo from Malaita on the subject of development and I’ll quote his remarks.
“A common complaint of some outside developers and other business entrepreneurs working in Melanesia is that Solomon Islanders, like many other groups in the Pacific, are very difficult to deal with when it comes to the issue of land. This difficulty, they argue, has to do with the fact that land is owned not by one person only but by clans or by people who believe they belong to the same genealogy. More often than not, the developers complain, the outcomes are negative, and time is wasted on what outsiders perceive to be meaningless genealogical talk. There is no doubt that to those unaccustomed to traditional ways of negotiating, Solomon Islanders are increasingly becoming a hat kes ("hard case"), in the parlance of the national lingua franca. They may seem more this way to employees of transnational corporations who, in addition to being driven by the incentive to make a quick profit, operate at an aggressively fast pace: anything that stands in their way of getting down to "business as usual" must either be expeditiously dealt with as soon as possible or abandoned. Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on your stand - removing the "obstacles" has been relatively easy for the transnational corporations. In the rural areas, for instance, where cultural and linguistic barriers tend to be more daunting than in urban areas, most businesses, international or otherwise, expeditiously make business deals with local landowners less through the logic and ethics of party negotiation than through bribery. One bribery strategy that some transnational corporations have reportedly used is to co-opt a landowner and his family by showing them bundles of dollars even before any negotiation is under way.”
The Solomon Islands PM has recently praised the landowners for their support with the Tina River project and similar words of appreciation over the Bina Harbour project and with landowners in respect of the Gold Ridge Mine.
Land ownership remains a major issue to be overcome if the country is to see major development and respect for land rights and ownership will be really put to the test in any future political relationship that could also impinge on sovereign rights.
The DCGA has announced it will be giving priority to the most pressing needs of the NRH and health care shortcomings in its first 100 days and I have welcomed such assurances, albeit like the TSI I have concerns as to how the much needed reforms can be effectively funded.
With dwindling revenue returns expected from the diminishing log exports and reducing fish resources, tourism has the potential to aid the economy but more work needs to be done to market the Solomon Islands, more beds are needed and better infrastructure provided to see a real growth in tourist numbers.
The latest tourism figures show arrivals dropped by 23% during the first quarters of 2019, compared to the 4th quarter a year ago
According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) Arrivals by country of residence for the first quarter 2019 showed that Australians (37.9%) remain the largest group of visitors to the Solomon Islands. There was a 14.0% decrease to 2,279 in Australian visitors compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.
The next largest group of visitors were from Asia (12.4%), followed by New Zealand (7.4%), Other Pacific (7.1%), Fiji (6.3%), United States of America (5.8%), and China (5.0%).