The inaugural Infrastructure Symposium with the theme “Prioritising Local Content for road to Recovery” attended by more than 100 delegates was held in Honiara on 21 and 22 October 2021.
The Symposium, which brought together key stakeholders in the infrastructure development sector in Solomon Islands, was organised by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI).
Delivering the keynote address the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, the Hon Manasseh Sogavare said Government remains committed to infrastructure development in Solomon Islands and will continue supporting the infrastructure development initiatives that are undertaken by our various development partners and implementing agencies, especially during this global pandemic.
“The intent to prioritise local content in infrastructure development in Solomon Islands is not only important but very timely as well given the impacts faced by the economy due to the global pandemic. Looking forward, we must also bear in mind the urgent need to focus on the recovery of our economy to ensure that a we have vibrant economy that can adequately support our people and country in the next two to five years,” the Prime Minister said.
Board Chairman of SICCI, Mr. Ricky Fuo’o in delivering the opening remarks noted that Solomon Islands’ unprecedented infrastructure pipeline will deliver development outcomes to the community and business alike, improving their ability to produce and consume goods and services more efficiently which will increase employment in the near and medium term.
The SICCI Chairman acknowledges the actions taken by the Government and development partners for their commitment to increasing economic opportunities and improving productivity via infrastructure spending.
SICCI understands that the total amount of infrastructure spending is around SBD10 Billion over the next five years and this is expected to increase.
“We cannot fully maximize the benefits of these infrastructures unless there is local content or local participation. If we don’t, then there is a risk that Solomon Islanders will be spectators rather than active participants in the nation’s development,” Mr. Fuo’o said.
As such, for the Symposium SICCI has asked for information from key stakeholders on their infrastructure development projects and programs. The key focus of the Symposium was to discover together the elements of local content being implemented, planned or piloted in the many infrastructure projects that will support Solomon Islands economic recovery.
Session one focused on the overview of infrastructure priorities for the Solomon Islands Government and the presenters were Dr Derick Mane, Deputy Secretary to Prime Minister, Ms. Susan Sulu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and Development Coordination (MNPDC) and Mr. Francis Waleanisia, representative of the subcommittee working with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) to legislate the country’s proposed National Building Code.
Andrew Schoeffel, Economic Counsellor at the Australian High Commission in Honiara delivered a presentation on the Solomon Islands Infrastructure Program (SIIP) funded by the Australian Government to start session two on Development Partners and Infrastructure projects.
SIIP focuses on economic infrastructure and over the next decade will look to deliver improved planning and policy frameworks, greater access to infrastructure finance, deliver, high-quality, inclusive priority infrastructure and build capacity of government and industry.
Other presenters during this session included H.E Georgina Roberts, New Zealand High Commissioner, Uegaki Motoyuki representing the Japanese Government, William Pryor, Country Director USAID, H.E Brian Jones, British High Commissioner and representatives from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Mr. Motoyuki, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Resident Representative, says JICA is currently conducting two Aid Cooperation Project in Transportation sector in Solomon Islands which is expected to promote flow of people and logistics and that one of JICA’s policy for conducting the Aid Cooperation Project is to procure “Products and Services” in local market.
Session three featured three of the major infrastructure projects currently underway in the Solomon Islands including presentations from the National Hosting Authority (NHA) responsible infrastructure development for the 2023 Pacific Games, Tina River Hydro Project and the Kukum Highway Upgrade Project Phase 2.
For the Tina Hydro River Project, Deputy Project Manager, Fred Conning told delegates at the Symposium that appropriate strategies will have to be developed to align the interest of the different parties so they remain focus on the objective of the project for example Government (Cheaper Electricity Tarif and Encouraging Infrastructure investment in SI, Local employment), Donor Partners/ Financiers (Climate Change Mitigation), Investors (Profit and Business Expansion) and the communities and landowners (Community Benefit and Royalties).
Soleana Visiama Gagahe a project engineer representing NHA highlighted that local workers, consultants, contractors and sub-contractor are being engaged and will be engaged in the construction process of some of the big infrastructure projects for the 2023 Games including the National Stadium and Games Village.
Delegates at the Symposium were also informed that the Kukum Highway Upgrade Project Phase 2 will benefit approximately 240,000 residents of the project area (Honiara City and Guadalcanal Province).
Kengo Hoshina, JICA’s Project Formulation Advisor in Honiara, says the project will improve disaster resilience by increasing drainage capacity and eliminate the disruption of the highway network due to flooding and economy enhancement brought from traffic congestion mitigation and reduction in transportation costs by improvement of road condition.
JICA in response to the Infrastructure Symposium is working on a plan to increase more participation for Rural Training Centres (RTCs) in the country.
Day one of the Symposium wrapped up with a session from the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of State-owned Enterprises (SEOs) Solomon Water, Solomon Power and Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company (SISCC).
Solomon Water CEO, Mr. Ian Gooden says Solomon Water has about USD50m (SBD 400 m) of donor funded infrastructure projects currently being tendered or ready to go to market by quarter one 2022, some of which remain subject to increased donor funding.
“In my opinion there will always be requirement for specialist contractor skills is essential. There is probably greater opportunity in the short term for local contractors in the maintenance and operations areas of our activities,” he said.
Day two of the Symposium started with a key presentation from the Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI), Dr Luke Forau.
The Governor’s presentation explored the importance of infrastructure development for economic recovery in Solomon Islands, following the COVID19 pandemic, which led to economic recession in 2020.
“The investment into new infrastructures will certainly see a spike in economic growth in the short term – the biggest winner will be the construction sector, with some spill-overs being felt in other related industries,” he said.
The Governor’s presentation focused to what extent that construction contributes to economic growth and argues for increased utilization of local capacity (in partnership with foreign investors) to increase the domestic absorption capacity of future foreign investments/assistance.
Also presenting on the opening session of day 2 were Lands Commissioner, Mr. Allan McNeil, Labour Commissioner, Mr. Josiah Manehia and Accountant General, Mr. Bruce Philips.
Delegates at the Symposium also heard from speakers representing local suppliers, local contractors, the Economics Association of Solomon Islands (EASI).
The two-day Infrastructure Symposium concluded with an introduction of SICCI’s Local Content Paper presented by Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Natalina Hong and a summary of the outcome of the Symposium.
Ms. Hong acknowledges the Prime Minister for again demonstrating the Government’s willingness to collaborate and his personal support to the Private Sector by attending the first ever infrastructure symposium hosted by SICCI in partnership with the Solomon Islands Government and development partners.
Presentations and papers from contributors and panellists will be compiled and made available to the public on line or as SICCI infrastructure document and mapping of all infrastructure projects next five years. This in turn will provide opportunities for local contractors or consultancy to gather information on opportunities on how they can be involved in major projects.
Key messages from the symposium outcome are fundamental to developing the proposals for local content to key stakeholders.
Source: Press Release, Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce