DEAR EDITOR, last week when speaking to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation the Hon Prime Minister Rick Hou reportedly said the fact that ordinary Solomon Islanders had not benefited from the economic growth the country had enjoyed over the last four decades since gaining independence from Britain posed serious questions.
The PM cited the lack of jobs, high inflation and population growth cancelling out any potential growth benefits.
Given that high inflation is greatly influenced by cost of imported goods, especially imported fuel, then a bright spot on the horizon to help lower inflation and add to job prospects in the tourism industry is the fact that in late July this year, the World Bank approved a $19.95 million renewable energy expansion scheme in the Solomon Islands.
Quoting from what I read of this scheme in a newsletter release by MercomIndia this is what it said.
“The project will support the Solomon Islands’ government to boost renewable energy generation and increase access to grid-supplied electricity, while reducing reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels.
“More than 9,300 Solomon Islanders will benefit from new or improved electricity services, including renewable energy sources such as solar. The Electricity Access and Renewable Energy Expansion Project will deliver renewable energy hybrid mini-grids, electricity connections in low-income areas, and new grid-connected solar power.
“The focus will be on providing electricity connections to households, small businesses, and community infrastructure such as schools and health centers, throughout Honiara and surrounding towns.
“The $19.95 million project will be funded through a $5.55 million credit and a $4.75 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the most in-need countries; a $7.1 million grant from the Strategic Climate Fund – Scaling-Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program; a $946,750 grant from the Global Environment Facility; and a $1.6 million grant from the Small Island Developing States Initiative.
“Access to energy is very important to increase the quality of life of Solomon Islanders and for the development of businesses,” said Bradley Tovosia, Solomon Islands’ Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification.
“The cost of electricity in Solomon Islands is among the highest in the world – almost double the average for the Pacific Islands region as a whole – placing a massive financial burden on families and businesses across the country,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands. “
“In Solomon Islands, less than 20 percent of the population has access to power supply, and when electricity is available, it is costly and unreliable. A stable supply of grid-based electricity has the potential to promote economic growth, including tourism industry development, and improve human capital, through better conditions for children to study, and reducing the burden of household work.”
Let us truly hope that the prospect of a stable supply of grid-based electricity will promote the economic growth and create better economic times and conditions for all in the Solomon Islands.