My dream for a better Solomon Islands
To the New Governments and good people of Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands economy revolves around the export of raw materials. We still export our minerals like (gold and nickels), Agriculture cash crops, timber products and fish. We cannot indefinitely rely on this structure and these exhaustible resources to grow our economy and modernize our country. Transforming the economy is about adding value for higher revenue by industrializing. By industrializing our economy we will facilitate significant job creation in the private sector. Above all, we must ensure that the private sector is the real engine of growth that would create opportunities and jobs for all, whilst the government provides strategic leadership and the enabling environment to make this transformation happen.
In the next two decades, the population of the Solomon Island is estimated to expand well beyond our control. Are we fully committed to the integration of the Solomon Islands? This is because Solomon Islands has the potential to be at the Centre of economic activities for this vast regional market.
Our leaders must strive to implement a trade policy that creates jobs. We have a tariff regime designed to maximize profit but it in fact damages local industry and Solomon Island economy. The short-term revenue gains from such taxes are attained at the expense of long-term production and jobs. Consequently many of our small medium entrepreneurs are not in production and industry, where they can and should be. There should be a review of tax laws with a view to reducing the cost of equipment and imported raw materials for manufacturing, health, ICT, real estate, etc. In fact it is better to implement a trade policy that works for Solomon Island in creating jobs whilst being attractive and reassuring to the investor.
Our leaders should increase agricultural production and add value to our products through agro processing. This will support and promote our industries, especially small and medium scale entrepreneurs and businesses, to be competitive in import substitution and exports.
The implementation of policies for developing and adding value to our natural resources, including, minerals (gold and nickels), fish, forest, and our agricultural products should be a key priority. They must support and promote high-value services, including the penetration of ICT services, financial services, education, health and tourism, all for which Solomon Island is competitive. They must encourage and support pharmaceutical manufacturing in Solomon Island to make it the Centre for the region and beyond.
The agriculture sector lacks sophistication and is dominated by subsistence farmers. Solomon Island may face increasing food security challenges in the near future. This may be due to the pervasively fragmented value chain, inefficiency and obsolete farming techniques and equipment. We must target the development of all Solomon Islands breadbaskets to enhance productivity and production in selected food crops (rice) and high value cash crops (horticultural products).
We must adopt the integrated approach to the agricultural sector that was proposed and was executed under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) project in other developing countries. This integrated approach recognizes that the transversal interventions or key constraints affecting the sector will have to be tackled simultaneously to produce a sustained result.
However, to modernize agriculture within the framework of the structural transformation of the economy, we should undertake the following specific measures:
Small Scale Farmers: encourage our small scale farmers to adopt new and improved agricultural technologies and seeds, mitigate their over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture through irrigation, provide them with quality and affordable advice on importance of organic fertilizer and improve land tenure and acquisition.
Commercial Agriculture: we should encourage private sector investments into large-scale commercial agriculture.
Access to Land for Agriculture: commit to complete the restructuring of the Land Title Registration and the Land Administration Program to facilitate the efficient transfer of land title and use of agricultural land.
Finance: reform security in title to land to make it possible to extend the benefits of micro-lending and other forms of finance to ordinary farmers with limited capital and resources.
Infrastructure: create more access roads to our farms and market center’s to mitigate post-harvest losses and ensure availability of food to consumers in the urban centers around the country.
Research and Extension services: build on our current and earlier effort to encourage the modernization of agriculture through education, research and mechanization.
Irrigation: expand irrigation coverage nationwide, especially in the highlands.
Develop and facilitate community-owned and managed facilities like dams, boreholes, and dugouts to expand irrigation.
Mechanization: encourage the establishment of mechanization centers across the country to provide mechanization services to farmers at competitive prices.
Education, Research and Technology Development: established agricultural research institutions to build on the high yielding crop varieties and technologies already developed and provide greater support to farmers.
Input support: the use of fertilizers is low and less than 5% of farms currently in Solomon Islands, therefore, use any added nutrients of any kind, owing to cost and lack of easy availability.
Agro processing: encourage and support agro-processing so that domestic production will compete with imports, with the aim of replacing imports over time and promote exports.
Support local enterprises to be competitive regionally and globally. Reduce the overall cost of doing business and make Solomon Islands attractive as an investment destination by streamlining bureaucracy, and achieving macroeconomic stability. Implement fiscal and monetary policies to bring down interest rates and improve access to credit. Also implement measures to stabilize the exchange rate of the Solomon island dollar and have in place reliable infrastructure and a sound regulatory framework.
The value of the minerals in our country – there should be plans to add value to them and attract the necessary capital to mine our bauxite to build a multi-billion dollar integrated mineral industry. Use a similar model to exploit our nickel deposits and urgently build a new nickel industry.
Presently, the government is willfully starving it only to import finished products. Change this. Use others useful resources find to build a strong petrochemical industry in Solomon Islands, use both private and public financing, and create linkages with other local businesses to turn Solomon Islands into a center for light industry in our region and Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world.
Public Financial management
Implement reforms to address corruption and enhance efficiency in management of public finances. Close the loopholes in the public administration to ensure value for money and transparency in the awarding of contracts. Strengthen the Auditor General’s Department to make them more efficient for governance and accountability.
Strengthen the financial sector by implementing reforms aimed at encouraging savings, deepening the capital markets to make affordable long-term finance available to businesses, and bringing efficiency in the way we make business.
Strengthening and improving the setting up of new and current credit unions for teachers, health workers, security agencies, public servants, etc. as an alternative to established banking institutions.
Strengthening and encourage more people of the current unbanked by the use of ICT that currently implement by all three commercial Banks in Solomon Island by mobile banking and growing online and telephone banking services.
Increase the intensity in reforms to transform Solomon Island from a cash-only economy to an electronic payments-based economy.
Now this is my dream for a better Solomon Island let’s make it happen!
Written by: Michael Bilau Qwanafia
Faculty of Agriculture Economics
Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Science
Kyungpook National University
My dream to be better Solomon Islands
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Michael Bilau Qwanafia and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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