Solomon Islands indigenous people are being urged to take ownership of their aspirations to develop the national economy thus improving their living standards and reducing the current high cost of living.
The sentiments were made Tuesday (March 22) by the Chief Executive Officer of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority, Colin Yow while presenting the Ports’ plans under its Reform Program to the Government Caucus.
He said while SIPA’s main focus under the its Reform Program is ensuring the state-owned company becomes profitable, it also wants to ascertain indigenous people will sustain themselves in whatever business activities they are engaged in.
Mr Yow believes there are foreign-owned companies which take advantage of huge profits they yield annually to sustain their mother companies overseas.
He said these companies detest the new tariff and ports charges imposed by the Solomon Islands Ports Authority under its Reform Program because they will impact on their profits.
But Mr You explains these companies will continue to draw profits in millions of dollars even after meeting the Ports charges and other local expenses.
Recently, the Managers of GPPOL and the National Fisheries Developments Limited expressed their concern to the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare about the impacts the increased Ports charges have on their operations.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sogavare who is also President of the Government Caucus said the Democratic Coalition for Change Government supports the SIPA Reform Program, but the effects of the reform on other economic players, whether foreign or domestic, must be considered.
He said GPPOL and NFDL not only provide annual income to the Government, but they also employ many Solomon Islanders.
He said as SIPA is part of the Government, it must respect state interests, adding it must share the information of its plans under the reform program with the DCC Government.
Mr Sogavare said the Ports Authority is a big revenue earner for Solomon Islands as it facilitates trade (imports and exports) with other nations.
He warned the SIPA reform must not negatively impact on Solomon Islands Government’ revenue earning, therefore it must work through the government especially with its tariff and charges.
Mr Sogavare said the SIPA’s Reform Program must not place Government in an awkward position therefore, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Infrastructure Development must involve in discussing a way forward and must be guided.
But the Prime Minister said all in all, the presentations by the Ports Executives have cleared a lot of areas of doubt and misinformation.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Manasseh Maelanga suggested all CEOs of State-Owned-Enterprises should meet to discuss diversification of activities and to ensure wider understanding of their proposed commercial activities.
He said an open forum which will encourage participation by students, members of the civil society and business houses will be most ideal.
Meanwhile, Justice and Legal Affairs Minister and MP for Ulawa-Ugi, Willie Marau said SIPA’s push to involve indigenous Solomon Islanders in commercial undertakings is timely.
He believes the indigenous people have not been receiving maximum benefits from their resources.
But Deputy Speaker and MP for East Are’ Are, Andrew Manepora’a said proposals for commercial activities by State-Owned-Enterprises and the private sector must be harmonised and massaged.
And the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and MP for West Are’ Are, John Maneniaru described the presentations as the opportunity for information sharing between SIPA Executives and Caucus MPs.
He supported the SIPA reform and diversification of activities by other SOEs, adding Solomon Islands must take ownership of the reforms and their management.
Mr Maneniaru said while other players in the country’s economy must be considered in the reforms, monopoly of certain business activities has been here for decades and it is time that is changed.
He added the Solomon Islands Ports Authority has remained in the country in both good and bad times thus it must lead the way in economic development.
But, he added other SOEs need to get off their knees in their strife to make profits as they cannot depend on government subventions forever.
Mr Maneniaru said SIPA and the government must collectively manage the SIPA Reform Program so they won’t be accused of breaking the law.
And the Minister of Lands and Housing and MP for West Guadalcanal, Moses Gharu said he is contented with the changes SIPA has achieved so far in its reform.
He said the Point Cruz Harbour roads have been tarsealed, security has been beefed up, the harbour will soon light up and an additional wharf will soon be opened.
By George Atkin
Research Officer, Caucus Office (OPMC)