While businesses operating in Honiara City are required to comply with all obligatory rates and charges imposed by the Honiara City Council (HCC) especially during this time of economic hardship, the Council too must be more disciplined with its revenue expenditure and how it delivers its services.

This was the common concern raised by business representatives, mostly those operating in Honiara City, during an Information Session with HCC hosted by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) on Friday 17 July in Honiara.

City Clerk, Mr Rence Sore was the key presenter during the Information Session. In his presentation, the City Clerk highlighted that in the first quarter of 2020, the HCC has seen revenue of SBD$6.2 million mostly from Business License. However, their expenditure also increased by $5.8 million in the first quarter, this in addition to the budgeted of $9.7 million bringing it to $15.5m in total.

In a statement today (Thursday 23 July, 2020), SICCI said if the City Council wants to ensure that its revenue sources do not close their doors then it should be open and be more understanding of the plight of business now, and also reconsider all its expenses to be more disciplined.

“Business confidence is very low at the moment – our members are facing cashflow difficulties to meet their operational costs (wages and rental etc), and most of them do not have deep pockets to tide them through this time.

“Most are private capital, most are family-owned, and most are looking for financial aid to cope. The livelihoods of our communities are at stake – as wage earners, and as owners of small to medium sized businesses,” the SICCI statement said.

According to a recent survey conducted by SICCI, businesses continue to face the financial impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Ninety-seven percent (97%) of respondents reported COVID-19 having a financial impact on their business even though we don’t have a single case in the country yet.

In addition, the majority, do not have access to any funding (private or commercial-raised) to manage this impact.

The SICCI statement said the following:

“Around forty (40%) have had to take drastic measures with their workforce. The Chamber made a simple tally and found that close to six hundred workers have been impacted directly.”

“What this means is many people are losing their income and this is the income they use to support their families and their communities.”

From the presentation on the HCC 2020 Budget and implementation to date, it was apparent to businesses that HCC is servicing inherited arrears from utility bills with Solomon Water, Solomon Power and Telekom, all of which were incurred by the last executive.

Despite this, SICCI statement notes that there continues to be business as usual in regards to spending.

“The Chamber encourages that the HCC executive and administration be pragmatic.

“There should be evidence of plans for decreased revenue through its property rates, and business license fees in light of the very real cashflow stresses being faced right now,” the SICCI statement continued.

The businesses present at the Information Session expressed appreciation for the City Clerk, Mr Rence Sore and his team in presenting on budget priorities and pressures for HCC.

The ensuing discussions also raised some suggestions for HCC. Some topics covered HCC needing to maintain its essential basic services such as waste collection for businesses along feeder roads not only to those along public roads, as well as well-executed enforcement of its ordinances.

The Chamber looks forward to informing the Council in more concrete formal submissions, when it reviews its plans and priorities for 2020, as well as project for 2021 financial year.