LOOKING AT THE ACCOUNTABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF CHEQUEBOOK DIPLOMACY IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

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DEAR EDITOR,

In the last two weeks the SIBC reported in one of its daily news broadcasts (quote)

“A $29.3 million payment from the Republic of China on Taiwan to Solomon Islands will support the Rural Constituency Development Fund.

“The money was wired yesterday to the Solomon Islands Government to cover a series of outstanding rural development projects during the 2016-2017 period.

“Of the total, $13.5 million was released as the second tranche payment for this year’s rural development projects for 45 constituencies.

“Another $4.4 million was paid for rural social and economic development projects this year for 11 constituencies, while $300,000 was released as the first tranche payment for one constituency for the same period.

“For the 2016 period, $10 million was released as the third tranche payment for 25 constituencies, while $800,000 was a third tranche payment for two constituencies. A second tranche payment of $300,000 for one constituency was made for the same period.

“Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela signed documents to formally receive the funds on behalf of the Government in the presence of ROC Ambassador to Solomon Islands Roger Luo and senior officials from both the Taiwanese embassy and the office of the Prime Minister.

“Prime Minister Houenipwela assured the ROC Government that the Solomon Islands Government will strive to ensure individual Members of Parliament keep proper acquittal records of how the funds are spent on development projects in their constituencies.”

During the same period last week, Tonga and China signed a $US30 million dollar aid package.

Much of the money being for the construction of the Tonga High School sports complex.

Tonga’s National Planning Minister, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, said Tonga appreciated the assistance.

The sports complex includes an indoor stadium, outdoor netball courts, two swimming pools, one rolling ball court and a parking area.

Radio Tonga reported construction is expected to start next month and be completed by January 2019.

Last January Tonga reported announced it was ‘overwhelmed’ with Chinese (PRC) development assistance.

The Solomon Islands new PM’s assurances to Taiwan that the SIG will strive to ensure individual Members of Parliament keep proper acquittal records of how the latest funds are spent on development projects in their constituencies may have gone some way in satisfying Taiwan but, based on recent factual reporting by TSI and public comments, the CDF money has not always been acquitted properly and there must be the need for very strict supervision and correct auditing of all the latest CDF funds.

In the longer term one might ask is chequebook diplomacy sustainable whether by Taiwan or China?

“Continuing to gain political concessions through expanding outbound investment may not be sustainable, experts have warned and claimedchequebook diplomacy might not remain effective if China failed to complement its economic influence by building trust and expanding its soft power.

 “It’s not unreasonable for any country to use its economic advantage to gain political weight,” said Xie Tao, a professor of political science and expert on international relations at Beijing Foreign Language University. “But in the long term, I keep a critical view on this approach.

 “A lot of projects China is investing in overseas at the moment are not really making any profits,” he said. “It’s not worth it, particularly when China’s own economy is slowing, and is not going to be sustainable.”

 Quoting:  China Policies and Politics.

 Could the same be said in respect of Taiwan?

I recall a statement made by a former Taiwanese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands, when leaving the country, said he had seen no developments for the money his country had given.

 Perhaps the time might come when both the Chinese government and the one in Taiwan will also have to manage the expectations of their domestic audiences and avoid giving their people the impression that all diplomatic difficulties can be solved with money.

 Yours sincerely

 Frank Short

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