By Alfred Sasako
FORMER Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Rick Houenipwela, was yesterday voted in as the nation’s 17th Prime Minister in a race which kept pundits guessing until the result was announced.
His election was greeted with mixed reactions by businesses and others.
One offshore businessman said Mr Houenipwela is a World Bank boy and unless he is careful, he could ruin the nation’s economy in the same way former New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, had done to the New Zealand economy.
The 59-year-old Houenipwela who represents Small Malaita in Parliament since 2010 polled 33 in the vote yesterday morning.
His only opponent, Central Honiara MP, Hon Dr John Moffat Fugui polled 16.
There was one spoilt vote, according to Parliament.
The wives of both men are said to be related.
There were predictions prior to the result being announced that support for Mr Houenipwela could be as high as 36 MPs.
“In fact, the government side should have had 34 votes but one MP put a tick outside the box provided in the secret ballot paper.
It was decided that one vote was considered spoilt,” Clerk to Parliament, Clezy Rore told Island Sun after the result was declared.
The Prime Minister elect who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting was due to be sworn yesterday afternoon.
He also has in his quiver a Diploma of Commerce as well as a Graduate Diploma in Development Administration.
Mr Houenipwela has a colourful background, having successfully contested the Small Malaita seat in 2010.
He took up the Ministry of Finance and Treasury on November 21, 2011, a portfolio he held until September 8, 2014.
Prior to that, he held the Public Service portfolio from April 18, 2011 to November 10 of the same year.
The former Governor of the Central Bank also held Parliamentary Committee Appointments as a Member of the Public Accounts Committee from September 10, 2010 to April 18, 2011.
He was also a Member of the Bills and Legislation Committee between September 2010 and April 2011.
Prime Minister Houenipwela hails from Riverside Village of Small Malaita.
He is a strong adherent of the South Sea Evangelical Church (SSEC).
Prior to entering Parliament in 2010, Houenipwela was a Senior Advisor, Executive Director of the World Bank based in Washington DC.
Interestingly, there was no mention of his engagement as former Governor of the CBSI, a position held twice prior to joining the World Bank in early 2010.