DEAR EDITOR, against the backdrop of recent talks to establish a long-term vision for the future with a functional national security policy I believe an elderly mother from Malaita Province had some words to say over the weekend which, to me, highlighted one of the most neglected security concerns at the core of national unity and economic prosperity, the lack of rural development and job creation that has beset the country for the last 21 years to my knowledge.
Indeed the analysis of the current security threats facing the nation, as outlined at the workshop to consider a national security policy for the future, were no different to the threats that I spoke about in 1998 and threats that were later highlighted in a Security Review undertaken by the Australian Government, at the request of the Solomon Island Government, at my urging in mid-1998.
Rural development and trickle down job creation has been left behind by successive governments for far too long
Speaking to the media from Auki on the eve of the 40th independence celebrations, Maria Teikui, used words which I believe are words most people would want to say to the government of the day.
She reportedly said (quote)
“The government needs to redirect much needed economic development activities to rural centres in Solomon Islands.
“To me, the country’s 40th year of independence is another time for current leaders to remember past achievements.
“I believe that if the government concentrated on redirecting economic development down to rural centres in Solomon Islands, government services will reach every Solomon Islanders equally,”
She reportedly went on to add that the lack of economic development in the rural areas in Solomon Islands had forced young people to leave their communities to search for jobs in Honiara.
Mrs Teikui added –
“This is a pull -factor that the government needs to redirect and consider, by creating strategies that rightly targets the interest of young people.
“Nowadays, I see most young people are interested in going to Honiara, where they think they can find a decent job.
“This has caused less participation of youths in the development of rural communities nationwide.
“Leaders should take up full responsibility to providing equal government services to all citizens.
There was no talk in the past of a “Bottoms Up” approach to rural development but nothing materialized and if national security is to be reviewed then rural development and localised job creation must no longer be sidelined.
I would like to suggest that the SIG consider Community Based Integrated Rural Development Centres to confront the challenges of low economic infrastructure, development, job creation and biodiversity loss through the participation of rural communities in a variety of sustainable livelihood activities.
Rural communities in the Solomon Islands have endured too many decades of economic marginalization and lack of basic social services.
Thailand has offered help to the Solomon Islands Government in the past and I would encourage the SIG to seek the help of the Royal Thai Government to learn about the success of Thailand’s Population and Community Development Association which created many Community Based Integrated Rural Development Centres since the 1980s to deal with the concerns and needs of the rural population and obtained much success to the satisfaction of many communities.