By Gary Hatigeva
THOUGH very little attention is shown in their $4billion Budget, the Solomon Islands government has been reminded to ensure the list of reserved businesses set aside for local Solomon Islanders is protected and closely monitored.
This reminder first came out from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, but was reiterated by most of the committee members including the Chairman and MP for East Honiara, Douglas Ete, and PAC member also Chairman of the Bills and Legislative Committee (BLC) and MP for Aoke/Langalanga, Matthew Wale.
Other PAC members including opposition and independent MPs have also shared similar sentiments on this issue, but the two chairs were more outspoken on the issue even up to their contributions into the debates of the Appropriation Bill 2018, which is currently underway in Parliament.
They have repeatedly been putting strong reminders to the government for what they describe as a scary pressure placed on the Indigenous Solomon Islanders who are continuously being suppressed of even the only avenues set out for them to participate in the local economy.
Yesterday, Mr Wale blasted the government again on the issue, reiterating worries in the high acceptance of foreigners now venturing into small scale business operations, which includes running small retail canteens/shops and other businesses set out in the reserved list.
Meanwhile, during the course of the PAC hearing, the BLC Chairman questioned officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Labour over the establishment of retail shops and small scale restaurants by a group of Bangladesh nationals who are evidently operating on the outskirts of Honiara.
Questions were also raised as to whether the responsible authorities are closely monitoring these establishments and if their operations and involvement in various businesses that are understandably in the reserved list, are actually in line with relevant regulations and laws governing these matters.
But PAC was also told that a good number of businesses set aside for the Solomon Islands people continue to witness gaps and little participation.
Director of the Investment Unit explained that the ministry was with the intention to increase the number of businesses in the reserved list, but clarified that the lack of active participation and activities in the reserved businesses does not justify the need for an expanded list.
However, the Aoke/Langalanga MP rubbished the analysis and said the government should create the stimulus for locals to start up in conjunction to his earlier call for the recognition to create job opportunities for locals.
He stressed that local Solomon Islanders are just as capable as those foreigners that come in from thousands of miles away just to establish retail operations.
He said the only issue faced by the indigenous people is the will power and establishment mechanisms, which includes access to capitals and other related matters.
Wale therefore suggested and called on the government to see that issues as such are budgeted for and ensure that what they talked about is translated down to the people governments oath to serve.
He added that if jobs are not enough, then the government steps up to create job opportunities, and if there is little participation from its people in the economy, the government should also step up and create the empowering and establishment opportunities.
“This is what empowering should be and the support we talked too much about,” the BLC Chair and Aoke/Langalanga MP emphasised.