While the country is focusing much of its attention on the COVID-19 pandemic, our economy and the opportunities that come with it, are taking a dive.

One of the key economic indicators for the growth, or lack of it, of any country is employment. While the vast majority of those formally employed is in government, the private sector is often seen as the panacea for growth in employment, and the economy generally.

The Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA), in its attempt to convince the country to switch from Taipei to Beijing, promised that job opportunities will increase substantially for locals because of promised infrastructure development. Indeed, the town is now booming with infrastructure developments taking place east of Honiara.

But take a look at the workforce behind this infrastructure boom. No locals, even for jobs that could be done competently by locals. Skills transfer is an important aspect of such infrastructure projects, unfortunately for us, our engineers, plumbers, carpenters are also onlookers, none have been given the opportunity to further their skills.

So where are the jobs promised? Will we continue to look down on our local workforce, and allow foreign companies to reinforce their long-held view that locals are not skillful enough – even to operate a loader? Or drive a dump truck?

For now, what seems obvious is that China’s dominance in the construction sector will come at the cost of local contractors in partner countries. While the Belt and Road is touted as being open to global participation, what is unfolding so far suggests that the initiative is also motivated by factors other than trade, such as China’s need to combat excess capacity at home.

What about our excess capacity? What about capacity building our local workforce? What about our local contractors?

Building a stadium should involve local participation - meaning job creation. That was the promise, no? It is sad that we are already spectators even before the stadium is complete.