By Gary Hatigeva
MINISTER of Foreign Affairs Milner Tozaka has revealed that the allocation of just over $3million in the budget to Solomon Islands’ London mission in the United Kingdom will be a one-off maximised costing that would enable the ministry in its preparations for its opening.
Foreign minister Mr Tozaka, Member of Parliament for South Vella, revealed this when questioned at the proceedings of the 2018 recurrent estimates in parliament during the committee stage of supplies.
He was questioned over what is seen as a significant gap in total allocations between the existing missions and the London one, which is yet to be fully operational.
But in his explanation, Tozaka said given that the mission is going to be a new establishment and being in one of the countries with a much stronger economy and currency, the amount is justifiable.
Tozaka said this factoring will include meeting costs of getting officials from this end to the UK who will be managing and running the office, and other related costs, which would also include purchasing of an official vehicle and other related necessities.
He said setting up a new mission, like any other new establishment will need big funds to ensure its opening occasion is official and done smoothly as in this case, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister will be the guest of honour to open the mission.
He added that it is for some of these reasons that the amount was projected at what has been included in the ministry’s allocation.
The Minister then clarified that the $3.309 million was only an estimated projection having seen the costing analysis for both the mission’s opening, officials’ salaries and other related matters that will be included in the events.
Tozaka assured parliament that not all the allocation will be used, because the projected figure was only used as a guide to ensure that any unforeseen circumstances can be catered for should they come up.
He further clarified to parliament that the $3 million allocation is just for the required events and establishment in this period, and assured that once the missions starts operating and in stable status, any future projected estimates will be normalised just like the rest.
But the minister reminded the members that the new London mission is a very important mission and it is the government’s priority concern to see that it is formally established.
Meanwhile, Tozaka highlighted that the arrangement came to an unfortunate situation, because the initial intention to establish a Solomon Islands mission in London, was for it become the country’s main hub to interact with the European Union, but that is now unlikely because of Brexit.
“However, we have already decided on that and so it will go ahead, and we need our presence felt there because we have already got some form of trade programmes with them, where our palm oils are being processed in Liverpool,” Tozaka explained.
He further explained and revealed that with the trade programmes, feedbacks have shown that the products coming out from Solomon Islands’ palm oil happens to produce some of the best oils in their market.
The government has this year, made a total allocation of over $8 million to all its 12 overseas missions, including the one in London.