Senior Australian Government Officials were in Honiara last week for a second round of discussions with the Solomon Islands Government Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on the 'Solomon Islands-Australia Partnership for Development.'

The talks took place on 27 and 28 October and focused on how the Solomon Islands Government and Australia can work together to meet common challenges. These included measures to advance towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Solomon Islands Government's own development goals.

Following the talks, Australian High Commissioner Peter Hooton said that Pacific Partnerships for Development are central to Australia's engagement with the region, and give effect to principles outlined in Prime Minister Rudd's Port Moresby Declaration.

"A Partnership for Development between Australia and Solomon Islands will underline the Australian Government's commitment to increased and more effective development assistance," said Mr Hooton.

The Partnership would also recognise the commitment of the Government of Solomon Islands to improved governance, sustained macroeconomic stability, public sector capacity development, enhanced private sector development, investment in economic infrastructure and improved access to quality health and education

The talks were co-chaired by Ms Jane Waetara, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination, and Mr Scott Dawson, Deputy Director General, Pacific and PNG Division, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Officials agreed to work towards a finalised Partnership document for signature by Prime Ministers before the end of 2008.

The first round of officials' talks in September identified four initial priority areas; improving service delivery, increasing economic opportunities, improving critical infrastructure such as, roads, electricity and telecommunications, and addressing key economic and fiscal challenges.

Following Monday's officials talks, the Australian delegation briefed Solomon Islands Ministers. Mr Dawson said the Partnership would be reviewed annually to monitor progress against mutual commitments and to identify additional priority areas and targets. "Under the Partnership, Australia would make long term, predictable and increased commitments of development assistance, affirmed on an annual basis, taking into account progress against Partnership for Development commitments and targets," he said.

In 2008-09 Australia expanded its bilateral assistance program by A$10 million to almost A$40 million. Australia has agreed to support SIG priorities on infrastructure and economic development in Malaita, including by funding a feasibility study to assess the potential commercial viability of a proposed palm oil project in Malaita.

Source: National Express