Government lags behind its multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects
By Alfred Sasako
THERE is growing concern the Government is lagging far behind its timetable for the construction of multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects in the country, prompting a call for an end to the 28-day quarantine requirements under the three-month-old State of Public Emergency.
Relaxing the 28-day quarantine restrictions would help speed up work on a number of important projects, including the construction of sporting facilities for the 2023 Games, sources told Island Sun 9th June.
To help the government, the People’s Republic of China has offered to pay for the cost of a direct flight between Honiara and Beijing as flights via Australia and Papua New Guinea are restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sources said.
“The purpose of the flight is to bring to Honiara technical advisors who will provide oversight on the construction of sporting facilities for the Pacific Games in 2023. Most importantly, Chinese diplomats who will advise on the five Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) signed by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare last October have been stuck in Beijing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the sources said.
As well, employees of the two Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) – China Harbour and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) resident in Honiara – are also stuck in China due to the global travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 virus.
Their absence is having a huge impact on the progress of their work in some projects.
Formalizing the appointment of Solomon Islands Ambassador-designate to China, John Moffat Fugui, is also being affected due to the travel restrictions.
“The longer we keep the 28-day quarantine, the less time there is to get anything done,” they said.
Concerned officials said while the need to remain vigilant is there, it is imperative that a balance is struck to ensure work on important infrastructure projects is not unnecessarily delayed.”
They are appealing to the Government to relax the restrictions so that those stuck in Beijing, including some local Chinese businessmen, could return to Honiara. It is understood Parliament is due to meet on 27th July.
It is understood that China has indicated paying for the Solomon Airlines Airbus A320 to undertake the direct return flight between Honiara and Beijing.
“Given the importance of this matter to the Honiara Government, China is willing to pay for the cost of the proposed flight,” sources said.