The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) highlighted what Solomon Islands as a country has to offer in terms of potential for business to invest during the 2019 Papua New Guinea Investment Conference.

The conference was held in Sydney, Australia from 19-20 August 2019.

This is the second successive year SICCI has been invited to speak at the event, based on its experience as the peak body representing private sector in Solomon Islands.

The Chamber values the engagement at the Papua New Guinea Investment Conference as a means to attract attention of genuine investors to the Solomon Islands.

The conference is convened by the Business Advantage International to promote broad-based economic growth in PNG to the international business community, showcasing a wide range of industry sectors right across PNG’s economy.

SICCI is represented by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms Atenasi Ata at the Conference.

It was therefore an opportunity to give a brief overview of the Solomon Islands economy, the investment climate, business similarities between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, the economic outlook and the opportunities, and some challenges that could be faced in investing in the Solomon Islands.

Ms Ata agreed that Solomon Islands share similar characteristics with Papua New Guinea in that both countries are rich in natural resources, climate well suited for agriculture with huge potential, high population growth rate, culture and similarities in their land tenure systems.

“Being rich in fish, forest and minerals mean that the economies of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea for now are geared towards the extractive industry,” the SICCI CEO said.

Already Solomon Islands have a very good investment link with Papua New Guinea through companies like Kramer Ausenco, Credit Corp Solomon Islands, BSP Bank, Farmset Equipment and Ela Motors.

Ms Ata highlighted to the conference significant infrastructure projects in the Solomon Islands that are expected to boost economic activities including the Coral Sea Cable Project, Tina Hydro Project.

In terms of creating an enabling environment for doing business, Ms Ata informed conference delegates that the Chamber enjoys robust discussions with Government on its advocacy efforts on matters like infrastructure, corruption, industry workforce and security.

“From 2017 the Chamber has enjoyed structured discussions with Government bodies through its advocacy platforms of the Advisory Group consisting of Prime Minister’s Office, Finance, Development Planning and Commerce; as well as the Executive Group with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force,” Ms Ata shared.

"These platforms are giving the Chamber a good entry point to progress issues on behalf of our 220-strong businesses. And when you compare our advocacy agenda to the Business Impediments as identified by Business Advantage’s 100 CEO Survey, it is obvious that there are commonalities. We talk as well to Government on infrastructure, utilities reliability, skilled workforce.”

Ms Ata also provided an economic outlook stating the country’s economy will pick up with key projects expected to come online in 2020/2021.

“Airport infrastructure improvement and upgrade on the road in Honiara going eastwards funded by Japan was completed last year with the new phase to continue to the international terminal and the area around it to increase capacity for flights.

“The Western Province now hosts two important air and sea ports – in July the opening of Munda international airport will impact tourism around that, as well as fisheries, forestry plantation and agriculture. The continuous upgrades with the Noro International Port is also key,” Ms Ata said.

She said with the undersea cable project anticipated to commence at the end of this year, the country should see an upsurge in services sector and growth in the technology sector.

“In addition, in recent months the country fielded in-country consultations by the Government of Australia on its AUD2.5b infrastructure funding, as well as the MCC scoping for threshold programming.”

According to Ms Ata, these pose potential for win-win situations.

“For the Chamber, we are about working with Government to leverage the gains that these partner support can help realise. The Chamber is determined to work with Government to realise its goal of a vibrant private sector that grows and jobs are created,” SICCI CEO, Ms Ata, said.