Life on the outer islands is already difficult as it is, the ‘uneconomical zone’ classification speaks volumes of the business environment.
Jackson Roto comes from Anuta island, one of the outer islands east of the Solomon Islands. He is a hard-working father of three young children, and maintains his small canteen business to support their education.
"The struggle behind this business keeps me up everyday. The start was a struggle and it is still a struggle, but this is all for my children's future," Roto said.
“When I first started the business in 2017, I had to wait for six months before I was able to access the transport from Honiara to get my cargo here. And even today, we still wait for six months just to receive our cargos, even though orders were placed six months ago.”
Roto says the cost of transporting the goods to Anuta is very high, since he has to first travel to Santa Cruz just to wait for transport to get him over to Honiara to purchase goods.
"So, I have no choice but to raise the cost of goods sold, so it is not just a challenge for me but for my customers, but for me it is the only means of support for my family,” Roto explained.
Roto says that with the covid-19 crisis the situation has worsened, and he has not been able to stock up his canteen for almost a year now.
"I only have my garden to depend on, just to sustain my family – the hope for my family.
"The saddest thing for me is that I have two kids studying at the Nusalemba community high school in Santa Cruz, and to support them is quite challenging," Roto said.
Roto questions why such challenges continue to linger, even when there are now more boats in the country.
“I hear that there should be some service to outer islands that is paid for, so why are there no service? Why are we still waiting for months just for one ship to visit us?
“We have the same dream like any other parents, to see our children do well in school and make us proud at the end of the day.”
Roto says that there are many people with plans to start small businesses on the islands, but many cannot even start when there is no shipping service to the islands.
“When people say uneconomical it is because we keep it this way, government can do a lot to help us, make things economical for us.
“When it is uneconomical it means we should do more to help, and make sure that all of us can grow our small business. We all want our children to have a bright future.”