Standing by the Solomon Islands in the past, today and tomorrow.

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DEAR EDITOR, in recent days the Prime Minister, the Hon. Rick Hou, reportedly said the Solomon Islands had been in the wilderness for the past forty years.

Of course he was speaking metaphorically and not literally of the past for, indeed, the Solomon Islands was never left in the wilderness by it partners and is continuing to get the support it still needs to bring about desired changes in governance, health, education, security, fisheries and agriculture.

New Zealand has raised its ODA Budget to $US1.5 billion in its four-year funding cycle and dedicated its strategic development assistance to help, along with other small Pacific states, climate change, education and issues of pollution and waste management.

It should be remembered, also, that Australia spent an estimated $A2.8 billion on leading its 14-year Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) to restore law and order to the Solomon Islands.

Last week the Republic of China Government (ROC) made another substantial gift of medical supplies to the National Referral Hospital (NRH) and reminded us all that Taiwan had been a good friend of the Solomon Islands for the past 30 years and during that time had contributed greatly to the local health sector, teaching assistance, water sanitation, solar lighting and infrastructure projects.

Currently, through the local Taiwan Health Centre, efforts are being made to give nutritional advice to give all communities a better understanding of the need for a proper, balanced diet, to prevent diabetes, the reported main cause of death in the Solomon Islands.

I have mentioned just a few of the friends that have stood by the Solomon Islands during the years since independence in 1978, but we should not overlook all the aid and assistance provided by the USA, the UK, Canada the EU, Japan, Korea, Israel, Germany, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji the UAR, the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and all the numerous aid and charitable agencies, large and small, including in most recent years, Lions Clubs and Take My Hands Charitable Trust, both from New Zealand.

During the Prime Minister’s visit to New Zealand in June he said the Solomon Islands needed to replace aid with trade and these are his (quoted) words:

“It is politically and economically prudent that Solomon Islands gradually replace aid with trade, which will in turn stimulate a strong economy driven by the private sector and not the government, as the case is at the present time.”

 To bring about such a change, the PM explained that the Solomon Islands was looking to review its bilateral aid assistance programs, with a view to incorporating commercial trade activities tied with manufacturing technology; so the Government could bring the technology to transform local agriculture, fisheries, and agro-forestry sector into the manufacturing sectors as well.

In bringing about “trade for aid.” a desirability that I would encourage, I believe there should be more emphasis on the value of public-private partnership and stronger encouragement for development partners to lend their expertise and give important contextual knowledge and guidance.

Finally, I would thoroughly recommend to the Solomon Islands government make a full study of the excellent paper written about the prospects for the private sector development – post RAMSI – submitted in June 2013 by Kings College, London, with the title ‘The Private Sector, the Solomon’s and the Peace-Economic Dividends.’   The paper is available to read on-line.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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