The Solomon Islands needs to create a one product one community project guided by the success of such initiatives in Japan and Thailand.
Fulfilling a promise in the DCGA’s 100 day policy, the minimum wage in the Solomon Islands was lifted from 1 August 2019, to SBD$8 per hour, doubling the previous rate set more than five years previously.
The Minister of commerce, industries and employment the Hon, Clezy Rore, when making the announcement said that the new rate is important in that it now represents “a fair remuneration package for all employees, ensuring that they maintain a descent standard of living.”
It has been said of the wage increase compared to others in the region Solomon Islands currently has the lowest minimum wage, and by far the highest unemployment rate.
While that statement might be true in respect of the income level, I believe much could be done to assist communities to raise extra income if only the Japanese Government could help, as it did in Thailand, to evaluate and possibly set-up a ‘one community, one product project; in line with the Japanese Government’s own successful ‘one village one product scheme (OVOP)
The OVOP is a regional development programme which began in the Oita Prefecture in 1979.
The idea was for one village to produce one staple product as a business to gain income and to improve the standard of living of the residents of that village.
I guess the concept of Urban Growth Centres proposed for the rural parts of Thailand had a similar theme, but the idea for such developments faded and nothing eventuated.
The success of the Japanese OVOP enterprise was followed up in Thailand in 2001 with similar aims to support locally made and marketed products from each of Thailand’s 7,255 tambons (sub-districts).
The Thai equivalent of OVOP is known as the OTOP programme and encourages village communities to make, improve and market the local products.
Marketing of the products is arranged by the Thai government and gets help from Japan with overseas sales in the Japanese market via JETRO, the Japanese External Trade Organisation.
OTOP products include a wide array of traditional handicraft, wooden objects, food, honey, fruit, pottery, fashion accessories, household items, pottery and cotton and silk garments.
There is no shortage of artists in the Solomon Islands specializing in the carving of exquisite wooden bowls and artifacts. There are also talented women and girls able to make baskets and other items from shells and palm leaves.
On Malaita there is a mine producing beautiful gem stones that could easily be incorporated into a successful business enterprise which I am sure would attract strong buyer interest overseas,
The Solomon Islands Government is keen to develop ‘down- stream processing’ and a local initiative on the basis of the success being achieved in Thailand with its range of OTOP products could, I believe, be achieved in the Solomon Islands given the skilled craftsmen and women waiting for an opportunity to showcase and sell their products overseas.
I would urge the DCGA and the Japanese external trade organization, JETRO, to seriously look into the ideas I have put forward.