‘Calls to reform Forestry Regulations’
By Gary Hatigeva
MEMBER of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga and member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Matthew Wale has described Solomon Islands’ situation in the forestry-logging industry as a daylight robbery, having been robbed off its resources for less benefits.
The Aoke/Langalanga MP made this statement following presentations of reports before the PAC in the Committee’s hearings by officials from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury arguing their case in the 2018 National Budget.
Wale expressed and stressed that it is sad to see that a comparisons of national and global determined prices of resources and minerals have huge variations.
He said based on global prices of resources and used log as an example, the prices out there are twice higher than so-called increases being announced and reported on.
He added that from these findings and seeing things first hand, it had cautioned one to question the credibility of laws and regulations governing the functions of the ministries responsible regarding resources and how much landowners and the country have been losing out on for so many years.
“We are being robbed,” Wale said.
Also sharing similar sentiments, Former Minister of Forestry and Member of Parliament for Shortland Islands, also member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Chris Laore raised concerns over the quality of the existing regulations within the Ministry of Forestry, question their effectiveness as to how much they protect and made for the country in terms of revenue.
Laore highlighted an “alarming lack of attention to details of what he suggested to have affected the industry and its returns to the national economy.
He also said that the regulations have “struggled to override the influence of manipulations and other areas said to have been main factors to the low returns having compared to what goes out.
In addition, the Shortland MP called on the government to respond more quickly to what he also felt is now becoming a public concern, particularly whistle-blowers as regulations in place to ensure revenue collections shine, are being bypassed as a matter of foul play.
He further added that being one of the key players in the growth of the country’s economy as compared to the global, there is need for quick reforms to strengthen the regulations, ensuring the country gets maximum benefits from its resources.
The MPs also shared that the issues are raised and directed at the Finance Ministry officials because the customs division within its wings is pretty much the last responsible government entity to deal with the resources and dealers before they are shipped out.
They warned that officers in charge need to demonstrate how they would cope with “substantial” potentials and benefits the country has been missing out on, taking duly care of duty into account for the country’s economic sake.
Meanwhile, both leaders suggested that these things they raised are areas the government need to seriously consider and take actions on.