The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $14 million grant to help improve shipping services in the Solomon Islands to spur rural development and provide poor residents with greater access to markets and public services.

The European Commission will provide a $5.25 million grant to be administered by ADB. The Government of the Solomon Islands will contribute $2.15 million as its counterpart contribution.

The Solomon Islands economy is reliant on agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Production generally takes place in remote rural areas with poor roads, bridges, and transportation services. Many areas lack suitable maritime infrastructure and do not receive regular shipping services. Revitalization of the rural economy is a key strategy in reducing poverty in Solomon Islands.

"The Domestic Maritime Support Project directly assists economically-disadvantaged people in rural areas," said Robert Guild, ADB Senior Transport Specialist. "The Project will also improve the safety, reliability, and frequency of interisland shipping services."

Key activities under the project include civil works to construct about 12 rural wharves, the establishment of a franchise shipping scheme to support remote communities, and the rehabilitation of wharves and jetties to improve safety and accessibility for economic and social activities. The project will also establish a new Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration to improve regulation and oversight.

Improved shipping services will reduce barriers to market access and promote the growth of rural production. A franchise shipping scheme will allow private sector operators to deliver shipping services to commercially-unviable destinations.

The Project will be implemented over 10 years, and direct benefits include more frequent and reliable shipping services at lower cost. Increased agriculture production and better terms of trade for rural areas are also expected. The main beneficiaries of the Project will be people in the poorest parts of Solomon Islands.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members - 48 from the region. In 2007, it approved $10.1 billion of loans, $673 million of grant projects, and technical assistance amounting to $243 million.

Source: Press Release