BY ALFRED PAGEPITU & IRWIN ANGIKI
The US Embassy in PNG has assured that the SCALE Project is continuing.
This follows reports that SCALE has been “shelved” by the new government of US, under President Joe Biden.
The Port Moresby-based Embassy told Island Sun last week: “[We] can assure you the SCALE project continues to move forward.
“Again, discussions continue between the U.S. and Solomon Islands regarding SCALE.”
Last month, a report circulated which warned that Malaita and other implicated provinces may be riding on false hopes driven by the notion of a continued SCALE programme since the Biden Administration has shelved the project.
The report warns that what is at play now is other US interests in Solomon Islands are pushing to lobby other provinces to show support and interest in SCALE. The more provinces hooked will strengthen the case to push for SCALE to be reactivated by the new Administration.
A search on the US State Department website will show that online SCALE materials have been archived.
On this, the US Embassy in PNG simply shrugs that it is “not sure about the website issue”.
Meanwhile, speaking with the paper this week, Mr Celsius Talifilu, former political advisor to the Malaita provincial government, brushed these reports aside as “propaganda”.
“From those of us close to the programme to the very top have not being informed of such rumours. We suspect that there are those who would like to cause confusing amongst the public.
“But the programmes here in Solo especially Malaita is going on as expected and that is the same right up to the top.
“This is nothing but propaganda.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAET) when asked on the matter this week said MFAET is “not aware of such”.
SCALE (Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods and Environment) is an American USD25million programme which was initially set up, focused on Malaita province, in October last year.
Since then, it has evolved with the offer extended to other provinces. Renbel and Guadalcanal provinces have each undergone orientation and introduction to the programme.
Premier Willie Tuhagega of Renbel province told Island Sun early this week they are yet to sign up after having had talks with Bernard Link, Second Chief in Charge, US Embassy (PNG) in March this year. However, Mr Tuhagega says Renbel is interested.
Premier Willie Sade of Guadalcanal says his province is all in with SCALE, adding that they expect a roll-out in one or two years’ time, after the programme is piloted in Malaita province.
Mr Sade says he has been told that Guadalcanal is “in the pipeline to be part of the SCALE programme and also other provinces as well”.
According to the archived US State of Department “U.S. Engagement in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Pacific Pledge”:
“The SCALE Program will strengthen the enabling environment to unlock economic opportunity and increase trade; improve natural resource management, including forest governance; promote agribusiness and small enterprise development; and expand critical small-scale infrastructure and essential services.”