By Gary Hatigeva
THE Solomon Islands government through the Ministry of Commerce and Trade was yesterday urged to help push the affairs of local investors.
Top officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Trade were told to use available means to throw government support with anticipation to enhance and build local Solomon Islands business operators especially in their participations in the reserved business listing for indigenous.
Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga and also member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Matthew Wale made this strong statement during the presentation and witnessing of the Ministry’s case at the hearing yesterday.
In the hearing, the team of officials led by Permanent Secretary Riley Mesepitu, was reminded of the tasks and responsibilities bestowed on them over the interests of their people especially indigenous business men and women of the country including the potential ones.
In his remarks, the Aoke/Langalanga MP also stressed the need for responsible ministries and bodies to collaborate and ensure strong enforcement of laws governing the reserved businesses for local Solomon Islanders, being their only opportunities for investment.
He said it is unfortunate that some foreign investors are given the ‘ok’ when they come thousands of miles away just to run retail stores, something the MP felt can be done by locals.
He added that the government also needs to ensure foreigners intending to invest in the country must not be given what local Solomon Islanders can do, “rather, come in with more than what our people or local business people cannot afford”.
However, it was revealed during the hearing that even with the list of reserved businesses for locals, the ministry is not seeing any form of activities and it is worrying for the ministry who intends to add on some more reservations to the list.
Reports however, continue to point out that while the government has a lot of incentives and programmes to lend support to local entrepreneurships, the implementations are not felt at the least.
These reports suggested that focus is on the major investors and tend to forget the small scale operations. But, an expert interviewed stressed that small businesses are absolutely vital to the country and its economy.
“Remember, almost all businesses in Honiara are SMEs.”
Meanwhile, when responding to the point of less or no activities witnessed based on the list of reserves, Wale suggested that the Government should ensure local businesses are receiving their fair share of this support through implementation of various programmes and schemes by responsible authorities.
This is another big disappointment because not doing anything for the local business entrepreneurs is sending out a clear signal to small business in the country that they (authorities and responsible ministries) do not care about them or the employment opportunities they create.
Wale on the other hand, reiterated that the Ministry should move as quickly as possible to ensure that local businesses benefit fully from the Government support on offer to them and suggested that if there is need for collaborations, then it should be done.