‘We are not your ATM’

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Taiwanese legislators react to Solomon Islands’ endless financial requests

 

BY ALFRED SASAKO

TIRED of Honiara’s never-ending requests for financial assistance, Taiwanese legislators have reacted angrily to news that Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela has secured NT$900 million from Taiwan in support of Solomon Islands hosting the 2023 South Pacific Games.

“Solomon Islands should not be treating Taiwan like an ATM [Automatic Teller Machine],” the angry legislators reportedly said.

The Presidential Office has agreed to the request, according to Taiwan’s Formosa EnglishNews.

The agreement allegedly triggered an avalanche of protests from legislators who said Solomon Islands should not treat Taiwan like an ATM.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the agreement, saying the payment should not be seen as “monetary aid, but rather a part of the two countries’ long-term, mutually beneficial alliance”.

The Ministry pointed out that as a faithful ally, Taiwan has already been contributing to the Games’ planning, design and location scouting.

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It is not clear whether the new funding is additional to Taipei’s budgetary aid assistance to Solomon Islands.

It is also not clear whether it could impact on Taiwan’s current aid programme which stands at more than SBD100 million in untied aid a year.

Many have blamed Taiwan’s free funding as a source of corruption in Solomon Islands, particularly the use of the money by politicians.

Taiwan has recently taken steps to address the concern by withholding payments of the infamous RCDF grants to constituencies that do not acquit their shares.

In Taipei last week, Prime Minister Hou told a lunchtime banquet held in his honour that Taiwan’s aid to Solomon Islands over the last 40 years has led to new technological innovations in agriculture and other sectors.

“We are pleased that development aid to Solomon Islands over the last four decades has led to new technological innovations in our agriculture fruit trees, vegetables, crop and poultry and pig-farming; and introduction of green energy to rural villages.

“Other assistance programmes in strengthening health and medical services delivery capacity, tertiary education; cooperation in meteorology data system management, climate change and disaster prediction systems installation and training continue to be implemented.

“The benefits these different programmes created for the people and the country can be seen across the different sectors, and their impact felt with varying intensity within individual households, communities and the wider government circles,” Prime Minister Hou said.

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