By EDDIE OSIFELO
MINISTER of Communication and Aviation, Peter Shanel Agovaka has rejected the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) recommendation that the 161 towers are not ‘viable’.
PAC made the recommendation after the Telecommunication of Solomon Islands (TCSI) Interim Commissioner, Calvin Ziru told PAC recently that their position goes along with the KPMG report.
Experts of KPMG New Zealand came up with the report after the Government planned to borrow money from Exim bank in China to build 200 towers.
After the report came out, the Government downgraded it to 161 towers and signed a contracting agreement with the vendor and contractor, Huawei/China Harbour Engineering Company Limited.
Shanel said he got advice from Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI), some groups overseas and Ministry of Finance and Treasury which said this project is “viable”.
He said KPMG has different set of numbers because they did their calculation on 200 towers and not 161 towers.
“How they calculate in terms of interest rate, they calculate on different rate?
“We calculate on very modest interest rate. This is the reason why the figures do not match,” he said.
Shanel said CBSI helped them in the calculation which made him and Minister of Finance and Treasury to agree on the project.
Apart from that, Shanel said in the past, former Minister of Finance, late Columbus Abe made a loan to tar seal the main highway in Honiara.
“We work on numbers, CBSI helped us in the numbers, when I look at that, I and Ministry of Finance agree
“That time, I said, how can we repay the loan.
“Today we repaid the road,” he said.
Shanel said for the towers project, Government is expected to repay it in last than 20 years.
“It is for the good of the people of this country to bring people closer to the rest of the world.
“They use telecommunication for trade, information to gather, study and do anything in internet,” he added.
The 161 towers is part of the Solomon Islands National Broadband Infrastructure Project or SINBIP.
The SINBIP is one of the priority projects of the National Government.
The SINBIP is consistent not only with the DCGA Policy Statement, but is also in line with the Solomon Islands National Infrastructure Investment Plan (2013), National ICT Policy (2015), and Solomon Islands National Development Strategy, 2016-2035 (2016).
According to Ministry of Finance and Treasury, the SINBIP will be fully funded with a 20 years’ term concessional loan of approximately $66 million from the Exim Bank of China at one percent (1.0%) interest rate.
The government expects to complete the first 48 percent of the 161 towers before the Pacific Games in November 2023.
This should enable people, especially in the rural areas, to enjoy the games even if they do not come to Honiara.