BY GEORGINA KEKEA
THE demand for ordinary Solomon Islands e-passport is increasing.
Currently there are 5200 e-passport books in stock but this will not be enough to meet the current demand.
Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, Permanent Secretary (PS) Ministry of Commerce, Immigration and Labor (MCIL), Riley Mesepitu says 5,200 will not cater for the demand of travelling citizens of Solomon Islands till 2019.
Mesepitu was making this comment when he brought before the Special Select Committee a request of $900,000 to cater for an additional 1000 copies of e-passport books.
He said since the Government of Solomon Islands had signed an agreement with a supplier in Malaysia, the Ministry have been experiencing blank passport shortages.
“The major reason being that we have not been allocated adequate budget for this very important item under the recurrent budget.”
Mesepitu said for instance in 2017 they applied for additional funding from 2017 supplementary budget while early this year, they have to vie money from other divisional heads within the Ministry to meet the increasing demand while waiting for the budget proper 2018 and this time again through the Supplementary budget 2018.
“And this is another application because we are still encountering this problem and the pressure.”
He said this year they are anticipating an increase towards the end of the year and it will continue to increase.
He said there are a number of reasons that will see the demand of e-passports especially the renewal of expired passports and the applications for new passports that kept flooding their department.
Meanwhile Mesepitu also said this is a revenue earning activity for the government, thus it should be prioritised.
On the whole, he said more than SBD$10m should be generated on passports alone annually as revenue for the government.
This is considering the increase of the price of passport from $400 to $1000.
However the Solomon Islands e-passport can only be used on departure and on arrival at Honiara International airport.
Currently the Solomon Islands e-passport system is not yet compatible with other border systems.