An article in today’s Solomon Star, which I read along with an Editorial piece in the Island Sun two days ago, both dealing with the subject of local unemployment, caused me to consider the English phrase ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.’
The proverbial saying ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ means don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift.
In the Solomon Stat this morning Alfred Sasako wrote saying the Solomon Islands has lost more than 5, 000 jobs in the formal sector in the year to March this year, the latest figures released by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, have shown.
The figures were contained in an article titled, Unemployment in the Solomon Islands, which Mr. Sasako said appears in today’s paper. The CBSI blamed the job losses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I should say I could not access on line the article Mr. Sasako referred to as ‘Unemployment in the Solomon Islands.’nevertheless I have no doubt that Covid-19 has contributed to local unemployment with many workers in the hospitality industry, including those in the travel and hotel trades having been laid off.
The Sun’s Editorial commented on the opportunities taken-up and on offer to Solomon Islanders to work in Australia under the Australian Seasonal Worker Programme SWP).
The Editorial said public reaction to the programme was mixed with some expressing negativity about the SWP programme, claiming the government should create more jobs at home.
In addressing the negativity, the article countered by saying, and I quote.
The critics may have a point.
But here’s the thing.
No matter how hard the Government tries to create more jobs at this time, not everyone will get a job.
It is just not possible at this time.
This is why we must not turn away possible job opportunities that are offered on our plates.
Working on a farm in Australia at this time is better than roaming the street of Honiara daily doing nothing.
One gets to earn an income and support his or her family back home.
The fact is the current SWP scheme has filled up an urgent void in our local labour market.
Those involved are earning an income that they would not have earned had it not been for such a scheme.
Besides experiencing a new way of life, they are also learning valuable skills and new attitude to work in a developed country like Australia.
Those who have previously participated in the scheme have a lot to say about it in terms of the lessons learned and the experiences gained.
Of course our participation in the scheme does not take away the Government’s obligation to facilitate and or create new job opportunities for our people.
The role will remain as long as we have a government and an economy.
This however, should not stop our people from participating in the work schemes Australia or New Zealand.
Those who say we shouldn’t be taking part in the work program need to think again!
End of quote
I believe the Editorial sums up the situation quite well and in my thinking the SWP scheme is the gift the old proverb adequately addresses.
Last May, the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr.Luke Forau, expressed the view that the Solomon Islands external and domestic environments would continue to be affected by the health containment measures and weak consumer demand.
At the time he wrote his comments (in 2020) Dr Forau also pointed out that sectors that had been affected would continue to be affected significantly include tourism, transport, wholesale & retail, manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry.
Furthermore, he said the uncertainty surrounding the duration and magnitude of the COVID-19, let alone the continuous preparedness and containment measures, would continue to have a negative impact on the economy.
The Central Bank’s predications have proved correct, albeit the fact that the construction industry has picked up somewhat, due to donor-funded projects related to the 2023 Pacific Games, which Solomon Islands is hosting.
The People’s Republic of China and Japan in particular have begun multi-million dollar infrastructure projects, including road expansion and the construction of the nation’s National Stadium being funded by the Beijing Government.
Job opportunities in the construction industry and in the other projects underway, including the upgrade of Honiara International Airport and in the building of the new SINU Campus will see an improvement in job prospects for some qualified and unskilled local workers, but, in my opinion, the SWP offers a chance not to be missed in the circumstances which still prevail at home.