DEAR EDITOR, when Solomon Islands Finance Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, handed down this year’s $4.068 billion budget in parliament last week he said the government expected to collect more money during 2018 with 3.5 billion of the total budget being sourced locally from import duty on fuels and from withholding tax.
Mr. Sogavare also said “Given our current situation and the limited availability of information on the progress of many ongoing projects, the Government has made a concerted effort to defer and delay several non-performing projects, which realistically won’t be executed or completed successfully in the remaining 8 months of the year.
“We are trying to deliver a credible and realistic budget for 2018; therefore all budgetary allocations have to be supported with some assurance that the resources that have been targeted will be delivered successfully.”
It seems unrealistic to expect the Solomon Islands government, having reduced its development budget by 52 percent or S639 million in 2018, to give any real attention to the situation prevailing in the rural health sector where the 80 or more percent of rural community dwellers are bereft of essential healthcare access and where nearly all of the rural health clinics are in very poor repair and some already totally collapsed and beyond repair.
The rural health clinics, numbering more than 130 in Colonial times, have been allowed to rot because of decades of under-investment in rural health care and where the heath care of the rural population is supposed to be guaranteed by law.
The Solomon Islands government needs to address the missing rights and to adopt a comprehensive and systematic approach to rural health care.
Given the shortage of money what can the government do?
What about help from the World Bank and Britain’s International Development Agency, DFID? Why these two one might ask?
Well, Britain with its past links with the Solomon Islands and with the soon to be officially opened Solomon Islands diplomatic mission in London might be willing to help through its UK Direct Aid Programme.
The 5 year one hundred and fifty million Direct Aid Programme was launched by the UK Government in 2014 and has reportedly changed the lives of over 3 million of the world’s poorest people since that time in 31 countries.
I query, however, what help the Solomon Islands has had from DFID in terms of helping the most vulnerable in the country’s rural outreaches.
I know, too, that DFID provided five million pounds in 2008 towards a Rural Health Project in China. Yes, China!
The China Rural Health Project was supported by the World Bank and DFID which focused on developing the rural health services and facilities in 40 of China’s provinces.
The World Bank provided a loan of $50 million. It was the 11th health-lending project that the World Bank had supported in China since 1984. Those projects, with total World Bank financing of $973 million, as well as policy studies, have contributed significantly to China’s health service delivery capacity development, major diseases control as well as the health system reforms.
The World Bank is also working closely with the Chinese government in preparing a new lending operation on health reform with the focus being to pilot and establish a people-centered health care delivery system in China. Built on the experiences and lessons of the Rural Health project, the new project will adopt the World Bank’s innovative lending approach, the so-called “Program for Results” instrument.
The World Bank has assisted the Solomon Islands in several ways but not to the extent, as far as I am aware, in directly aiding the rural health needs of the communities suffering from proper health care and facilities.
DFID essentially aims to fund small-and medium sized national and international civil society organizations to reduce poverty and work towards achieving Global Goals. Specifically, UK Aid reaches the most marginalized and vulnerable populations.
DID’s agenda is to ‘leave no one behind.’
With that agenda, I would respectfully ask the UK Government not to leave the marginalized rural communities in the Solomon Islands (denied of their legal rights to health care) behind and to favourably help the Solomon Islands with a Rural Health Service Project, similar to the one supported in China in the past.
I appeal to the World Bank, also, to aid such a project accordingly.