Dear Editor – 2014 is the year of the horse according to the Chinese zodiac and the spirit of the horse is recognised by the Chinese as a year for making unremitting efforts to improve themselves.
It is forecast that, in general,’ fortune’ in all aspects, will fluctuate so care is advised and people should have the strength to face and overcome difficulties and behave righteously.
I would like to think that the people of the Solomon Islands will have the strength and the courage to face the fluctuations of the year before them and to heed the words of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, who, in his Christmas time sermon, called on the people to respect their culture and traditions in their daily lives.
There have been some positive indicators to begin the year with the Prime Minister announcing the NCRA Government’s 2014 top 10 priorities and his announced commitment to the broader development agenda to progress national growth and policies aimed at keeping leaders in constant check.
The announcement that members of Parliament will now have to provide Constituency Development Plans and Constituency Profiles before they can access Constituency Development Funds (CDF) this year is another welcome step.
Coupled with the introduction of the Public Finance Management Act these measures should, if properly adhered to, allow for an improved management mechanism for public finances and public resources.
Some 22 constituencies are still to release their acquittals reports before the Republic of China Government (ROC) will release SB$8 million, but last week Solomon’s government received the third tranche of the ROC’s 2013 constituency development funds, totaling SB$11.2 million.
28 rural constituencies are now expected to benefit from local projects.
The Prime Minister, in thanking the ROC Government, promised to ensure the funds will be put to good use in aiding the rural people.
The new voter registration process has already begun and, hopefully, the system when fully functional will allow for eligible voters to participate with greater confidence in the upcoming general election.
Time is short, however, before the election and the registration process will need close attention and a good deal of work if the new voting procedures will prove to be successful.
Money matters and unexpected costs figure as downsides in the foretelling of the year of the horse and it is not too difficult to anticipate, from what the Finance Minister said most recently, how the decline in the round log trade will affect the economy and the sale and export of logs will no longer be the main source of generating foreign revenue by 2015.
The substantial financial support from Australia, the World Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for Agricultural Development it is hoped will be distributed and spent wisely to help raise the living standards of the still 84 percent of the islanders living in the rural areas.
It is claimed 370 villages will benefit from infrastructure projects to help over 300,000 people.
Obligation is another requirement of the year of the horse and it is to be hoped that the government will meet its obligations when it comes to meeting the COLA adjustments, the salaries of the nurses, teachers, students and former long-serving, but retired, government servants, including former police retirees who are still awaiting their long outstanding benefits.
Pessimism features, too, in the zodiac sign, but I am hopeful that this Lunar New Year will see less of it and that the spirit of reconciliation and national unity will make for a better and peaceful year for all in the Solomons.
By FRANK SHORT
Former police commissioner