Waiting for $6M

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Alibusu from Malaita Province perfoming their items during the Macfest.
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$3M for MACFest outstanding bills, $3M for Tourism rebranding

By Gary Hatigeva

WITH the huge cut on its Appropriation Budget early this year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is amongst government line ministries that are seeking parliament’s approval for additional funding to support its ongoing implementation and completion of its 2018 priority programs.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to elaborate on its bid under the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2018, Ministry officials revealed that the total supplement will go towards two areas under their programs.

In his presentation, the Ministry’s Under Secretary, Moses Tepai who appeared on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, explained that from the total, $3 Million has been subjected to go towards outstanding bills incurred in the recent Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival (MACFest).

The team did not give any specific details to the MACFest outstanding bills, but pointed out that it has been a successful event and a lot of locals especially, artists, performers and music entertainers have benefited hugely in terms of financials, with Solomon Islands being host.

But before the tourism team elaborated on its case for additional funds, PAC member and MP for West Kwaio who is also Chair of the Committee of the Whole House, Peter Tom questioned the benefits Solomon Islands received from hosting Festivals like the recent MACFest and the Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) in 2012.

Also questioning along the same line, the MP for East Honiara and Chair of PAC asked if the ministry or body responsible has done financial analysis and reports on the benefits for hosting events like FOPA and MACFest.

In his response, the Under Secretary said these are questions that have been commonly asked, as many suggested it to be a waste of money, but pointed out that the objectives are based on three Ps, which are to promote, protect and preserve.

“And in this case, the festivals are where we promote the preservation and protection of our diverse cultures and arts”.

He added that apart from the social benefits, in terms of finance, it should be noted that no money goes out, as the events hosted have created small incomes for the locals especially, those in the entertainment, artist, “which is not like those other events where we go out to spend money on, and the money circles within the Honiara economy”.

He further added that the Ministry through the National Organising Committee is currently putting together its report on the recently hosted event and the issue of economic benefits is noted and highlighted in the report.

In terms of state driven projects and tourism development, the Under Secretary added that the ministry is currently working under the guideline of its strategies and action plans, which are based on government policies.

“We want to develop our market for our cultures, our dives, our world war relics but then it depends very much on the budget,” Under Secretary Tepai said.

The other $3 Million will however go towards the final implementation stage of the Tourism division’s marketing and promotion programmes under its Marketing arms, the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB).

The programs included a rebranding exercise that was partly funded in the main budget, but the Under Secretary explained that with more work to be done to see its realisation, an additional funding was required.

“The ministry had originally requested for $5 Million for the implementation of the Rebranding programme in the Appropriation Budget 2018 but only $3 Million was approved,” the Under Secretary added.

Tepai further explained that the rebranding follows an audit from the old branding, and the recommendation was that there was need to rebrand the country’s tourism “and hence we need the financial support to do that”.

The new Tourism brand name is highlighted as “Solomon Is (is)” and the Member for Aoke/Langalanga and Chair of the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC), Matthew Wale questioned the purpose of rebranding and the essence behind the new brand name.

“I just wanted to know the rebranding; I don’t get it, what does it involve in it especially with the naming?”

“Let’s just put it this way,” the Under Secretary explained. “We have tried a bait to fish and once it does not attract fish, then we change the bait,” he added.

He then stressed that the rebranding is not something that the ministry and its stakeholders just decided upon and change it, as “it is changed after a nationwide consultation”.

While he expressed his impressiveness into the amount of work put into boosting the country’s tourism market, the Aoke/Langalanga MP said the government needs to see the bigger picture in all these and make deliberate choices on ensuring that the tourism ministry’s outlined programmes are looked into thoroughly and adequately funded

“I think it’s about time the government takes a very strong stance and put in all its efforts to develop all the products that we have,” the BLC Chairman further stressed.

Parliament will resume this Wednesday to begin its debate into the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2018 and the ministry is hoping to hear a yes to its request.

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