TCSI’S STANDON TOWERS

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Interim commissioner of TCSI Calvin Ziru.
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Supports project, but against borrowing

By EDDIE OSIFELO

TELECOMMUNICATION of Solomon Islands (TCSI) supports government’s policy to build the 161 towers so that people in the rural areas can access telecommunications.

However, TCSI was concern with the avenue taken by the Government to borrow money from China to build the towers.

Calvin Ziru, interim commissioner of TCSI, stated this when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee virtually this week.

“I think the key point to consider here from a regulator’s point of view is connectivity,” Ziru said.

“Having a project that seeks to expand and help Solomon Islands to access communication is the right one,” he added.

However, Ziru said the avenue to achieve that is “seriously needed to be looked at”.

“There needs to be in-depth discussion on this project rather than go into borrowings,” he stated.

Initially, the Government planned to build 200 towers, however, following an independent study carried out by auditing firm KPMG of New Zealand, it decided to reduce it to 161.

Ziru said KPMG suggested that government needs to re-examine the project because of the costs to run the project.

He said the report remains the position of the Commission as far as the original proposal is concerned.

The 161 towers are part of the Solomon Islands National Broadband Infrastructure Project (SINBIP).

It has been progressed with the recent signing of a contracting agreement with the vendor and contractor, Huawei/China Harbour Engineering Company Limited.

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-year 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.


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