A situation that must be addressed – a response in looking at unemployment in the Solomon Islands OR Unemployment in SI

DEAR EDITOR, in an Editorial piece in the Solomon Star yesterday, March 11, 2018, the writer referred to the country’s alarming rate of unemployment and had this to say (quote)

“The country’s rate of unemployment appeared to have gone through the roof.

“Just take a walk along the main Honiara streets during a day and you’ll realise this.

“Lots of people – both adults and youth – are roaming the streets doing nothing.

“You see them sitting along the pavements, around betel nut stalls, and in front of shops and offices telling endless stories.

“Some are university graduates, while most are school drop-outs.

“In the last two months, we’ve seen a lot of new faces in the city.

“These are young men and women who have just dropped out of schools.

“Over the past years, they’ve lived in their villages and attended their community schools.

“They became unplaced when their exam results came out early this year.

“Because there’s nothing to keep them engaged in the village, they quickly made their way to Honiara in search for jobs and other opportunities.

“But we know the jobs are few. So as the other opportunities!

“So people ended up on the streets; doing virtually nothing.

“Honiara is getting overcrowded.

“There are more people in the city now than last year.

“The situation gave rise to higher demand for accommodation, water, and electricity – the basic necessities city residents need to live a normal life.

“Already homes have been overcrowded as new members of the extended family moved into Honiara to take residence with relatives.

“Solomon Power and Solomon Water will need to keep up with the demand.

“Otherwise, the city may run low on both water and electricity.

“Leaders need to wake up to this reality and take the necessary steps to address it.

“Unemployment is a threat to law and order, as well as peace and stability.

“This is because unemployment is a recipe for criminal activities.

“Our leaders love to talk about rural development.

“They always promise our people that they’ll bring development to rural areas.

“And so they allocated themselves a huge chunk of the development budget in the name of Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

“This is money they promise to use to develop the rural areas.

“But how much of the funds are used to develop our rural areas?

“Very little!

“This is why people are coming in their droves to the city in search for economic opportunities.

“The situation is precarious so the government must take urgent steps to reverse it.

“Failure would result in serious consequences for this country.”

On 8 February 2014 writing to the Solomon Times I expressed very similar concerns and titled my article ‘No Time to Lose in Tackling Youth Unemployment.”

This is what I wrote (quote)

“The seemingly intractable problems associated with youth unemployment in Honiara and the resulting evidence of increased substance abuse, including the growing and use of marijuana, the consumption of kwaso (home brew), incidences of anti-social behaviour and criminal acts have featured significantly in Editorial columns of the local press and in other articles this past week.

“Honiara isn’t alone in facing the problems highlighted and, indeed, it can be said many of the Pacific states face the same, if not more serious, issues arising from the respective nation’s ability to manage development and provide for the rapidly growing population. The Solomon Islands is no exception.

“The various schemes implemented by the government, such as the rapid employment scheme and the offshore, seasonal work offered to young people engaged in fruit harvesting simply isn’t enough to meet the needs and expectations of the growing numbers of school drop outs and idle youth flooding into the national capital from the provinces.

“I am not alone in describing the current situation as a security challenge akin to a ticking time bomb, although I likened the situation of the unemployed youth in 2009 to a tinder box. (See my letter to the Pacific Islands Report entitled, ‘Idle Solomons Youth a Tinder Box’, published on 10 December 2009)

“I am detached from the local scene but I have repeatedly suggested ways in which help might be forthcoming for the youth in articles that I have contributed to the local Solomon Times online publication. In one article I forecast that help could possibly be sought from the Government of South Korea (‘South Korean Help in Training Solomon’s Youth,’ dated 4 December 2008) and in another (‘A possible solution for the rural poor, dated January 10, 2011)

“In the last article, I had mentioned how the Japanese Government’s External Trade Organization (JETRO) was helping to promote Thailand’s growing and successful “OTOP” products in Japan.

“I don’t know whether any of my suggestions were considered by the Solomon Islands Government.

“The challenges the nation faces in respect of its unemployed young people must be tackled before the situation does become the ‘time bomb’ others have referred to.

“A starting point, in this election year, I would suggest is that the government re-examine the findings and projected solutions to youth unemployment in the excellent report styled, ‘The State of Pacific Youth – 2005’ written under the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF Pacific) and funded by the New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID.

“Yes, 2005. I haven’t written the wrong date. The information in that report is just as relevant, if not more so, than when it was first compiled and issued.

“I understand copies of the report can be downloaded or obtained from the UN Children’s Fund Headquarters in Suva.

“I would even go so far to suggest to the Solomon Islands Government that the author of that report, if still available, Dr Chris McMurrary be consulted and to advise the government on measures that might be taken now.

“The report is very comprehensive and clearly argued that not enough had been done to address the underlying causes of the youth unemployment problem and indicates how youths have become disempowered in the process of often being ignored and not listened to.”

The Star Editorial piece once again draws readers attention to the Constitutional Development Funds (CDF) paid annually by the Government of Taiwan and distributed to local Members of Parliament for constituency development in the MP’s rural areas.

There is a comment, now all too familiar, about such funds when one reads (quote)

“Our leaders love to talk about rural development. They always promise our people that they’ll bring development to rural areas.

“And so they allocated themselves a huge chunk of the development budget in the name of Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

“This is money they promise to use to develop the rural areas. But how much of the funds are used to develop our rural areas? Very little!”

It is surely in the interests of the Solomon Islands Government to ensure CDF money translates soon to positive economic, rural development and jobs for the unemployed with better planning allocation, management and strict auditing.

As the Star’s Editorial piece has predicted failure to act on the spate of unemployment will likely have serious consequences and repeating my words expressed way back in 2008, 2009 and in 2014.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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