By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE Government COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Package targets the export sector and key growth areas in services, agriculture, construction, tourism and communication.
Minister of Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma explained the proposal during his contribution in Parliament yesterday on the motion to extend the State of Public Emergency to four months.
The proposal is pending Cabinet deliberation after consultation done between Officials in the Ministry of Finance, Office of Prime Minister and Development partners.
Kuma said the four different level of support in the proposal are:
- Soft immediate relieve;
He said the first level looks at soft measures to ensure the economic machinery or vehicle continues to operate with the given relieve measures.
- Utilities relieve package from State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) like Solomon Power and Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA);
- Banks and financial institutions relieve on loan repayments and interests;
- NPF relieve on surcharges to employers;
- Possible tax relieve on specific sectors (this will be finalised with IRD input);
- Government payroll will generally continue to support public servants and maintain certain level of consumer demand.
- Injection into targeted investments into productive and resources sector.
This will include:
- Value added or production on target agriculture products, kava, noni, cassava, etc;
- Value added or production on targeted forestry, fisheries sectors;
- Targeted investments into tourism;
- The package will also propose a specific investment called COVID-19 product in DBSI. This product will promote specific investment in agriculture sector.
- Equity injection into Government’s portfolio companies for immediate recovery and continuation of their operations.
- Equity injections into airlines;
- Equity injection into Soltuna;
- Equity injection into KFPL;
- Equity injection into DBSI.
- Medium to long term support to growth.
Kuma said this part of the package will commit the government to bring forward key unfunded infrastructure under the National Transport Plan and the Development Programme of the Government.
He said pipeline investments under this package will include but not limited to projects such as:
- Two major wharves that links agriculture hub, include Kirakira wharf/rumps, and Malu’u wharf;
- Fiu bridge in Malaita
- Seghe and Taro airport upgrade project
Kuma said the road ahead to stimulate the economy will not be easy.
He said it is entangled with uncertainty, fear, and travel restrictions that have been established to contain the virus, but on the other hand are restrictive in the implementation of the stimulus package with the business sector.
“Unlike other disasters, such as cyclone and flood that are developed and physically seen in the country.
“The COVID-19 is unseen and is still a foreign virus,” he said.
Kuma said nonetheless, it has restricted people’s mobility, affect and reduce aviation and shipping services, hinders project implementation and reduce business and economic growth.
However, Kuma said the Government is committed to secure funding resources and identify targeted areas to be ramped up.
“Stimulating the economy (like protecting our citizen from COVID-19) is however, everybody’s business.
“We all need to see a goal together, plan together, and work together to reinvigorate the economy,” he said.