CASH circulation in the economy is very important in any country like Solomon Islands because it helps keep businesses and trade going.
It also allows our people to have some form of cash in their possession, help sustain their lives and support their standard of living.
However, the higher rate of cash circulation there is, it always concentrates in the urban centres where most business activities and trade are happening daily as compared to our rural and isolated communities and regions.
And this is a huge challenge for our rural setting where close to 80 percent of our population are based and struggle to strive financially, earn an income and engage in economic activities.
But one of the issues our rural area always face is the limited availability of cash, especially coins and notes, that rural canteen owners and market vendors need to use as change during business transaction.
This is a long-time problem for many of our rural and isolated regions where very little business activities are going in.
For many of the isolated provinces and islands like Temotu, Malaita Outer Islands, Renbel, Shortlands and others, this is no exception.
In the Western Province, this has been a problem for so long and remains a challenge to this day.
In the past months, after taking several trips to some of the islands like Choiseul, Wagina, Kolombangara, Ranoggah and Vella, I realised it is an issue facing our struggling rural dwellers.
So often urban dwellers traveling into the villages do carry with them large amounts of cash but most especially, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
So, when a purchase is being made using these bigger cash notes, a market vendor is always faced with the problem of looking for change to give back to the customers.
At the village, cash transaction normally happens at a canteen, the markets and if there is a school nearby, during break times students buy things like drinks and cakes.
In the end in most cases, these coins and notes end up in the village canteens or trade stores.
And then the shop owners would bring these coins and notes to their nearest urban centres like Gizo, Noro, Munda, Seghe and Taro to buy their cargoes mostly from Chinese-owned shops.
I was at a shop in Gizo on Monday this week and a shop owner from a nearby island who arrived that morning brought with him more than $200 worth of coins.
The Chinese shop gladly received the coins in exchange for notes after the local shop owner requested to let go of the coins.
In the villages, during Sabbaths and Sundays, congregations often put their offerings.
But after worship each evening, I was told that some of the shop owners would quickly exchange their notes with coins from the offering boxes to use as change at their canteens.
Because of situation, there is a shortage in the circulation of coins and the $5 and $10 notes from in the villages and communities.
There are people, who before heading off to the village would change their $100 dollar notes into coins and $5 and $10 notes, knowing the situation they will face when they arrive in the village.
During my recent trips to Kolombangara and Ranoggah, I also faced the same problem when I went to the markets.
Whenever I handed over $50 note to buy something of a lesser amount, the vendor would have to scout around for change to give back to me.
This problem is also common when purchasing fuel and paying up someone for doing a job.
In Ranoggah more than a week ago, I also encountered the same problem at a canteen. The canteen experienced a shortage of coins and notes that it found it difficult to give back customers changes. This caused so much inconvenience to both the vendor and customer.
It is an issue which a lot of our rural dwellers have been faced with every now and then. And it is likely not going to be resolved very soon.
The longer-term solution to this problem is to allow our rural communities to engage in more business activities.
Our rural communities should open up their land and resources to engage in more income-generating activities in the fisheries and agriculture sectors.
To ensure economies activities, the National Government through the Members of Parliament (MP) need to have a vision to invest in infrastructure development first. It must build more wharves, roads and provide access to good water and electricity.
By having these vital infrastructures on the ground, investors can move in to do business on that particular island and province.
Also, with the availability of technology, our people can sign up with some of the commercial banks to use their mobile phones to make payments and transaction via their mobile phones.
This is much faster and convenient.
So, if you planning your next visit to a rural area, it is important to prepare coins and smaller notes because it will be handy when doing financial transaction.
Commentary by MOFFAT MAMU