It took just three days for years of hard work rebuilding the Solomon Islands 'brand' to be shattered.
Images of riots and looters beamed across TV screens around the World. It also dominated news feeds on social media for anyone that has an interest in the country. Major news networks spent considerable time covering the issue.
For any serious investor one of their key consideration is security. They can work through issues such as land or other indicators used to measure the ease of doing business, but protecting their investment is paramount for any business consideration.
Tourism has been touted as a potential money earner or economic savior for the Solomon Islands. What people are seeing on their TV screens will make it difficult for Solomon Islands to compete with other destinations, be it for tourists or investors. Seems likely they will stay away, at least in the short to medium term.
In other countries such as Thailand, or even Fiji, the tourism industry is well established, so much so that they are able to bounce back even after major political upheavals or crises. Investments and investors are protected, and confidence is high on these governments and their ability to guarantee security even in the worst of times.
For Solomon Islands, unfortunately, we are judged by what takes place in Honiara. When there is chaos or riots on the streets of Honiara it does translate to instability in Solomon Islands generally for anyone watching overseas. This is despite the fact that the majority of the Solomon Islands is safe, and more importantly, peaceful. This is true during the ethnic tensions and also true for the recent looting and riots.
Rebuilding and restoring Honiara has already started, thanks to good hearted Honiara residents. The economic impact of the riots however will last for many more years to come. Our economy is vulnerable to any internal shocks or disorder, it is not resilient, perhaps a proper classification is that most industries are in its infant stages. And like infants it must be given the right nourishment to grow and flourish.
We have, for too long, neglected the neccesary economic foundations needed for industries to grow and flourish in the country. We seem content with logging and other extractive industries to grow and 'flourish', and this has come at a cost. The cost is a compromised government executive and an ineffective legislature.
There is alot of work to do, but the job just got harder. We need visionary leaders, leaders that look beyond the management of development funds, merely seeking to please people in return for votes at the next elections.