There are claims that Malaita Province may have been targeted in the distribution of benefits from the Government’s $320 million Economic Stimulus Package (ESP).
“I have been told by the ESP Screening Committee that local cocoa and copra producers from Malaita Province who applied for assistance will receive only between $40, 000 and $50, 000 for their project,” Community leader Charles Karaori has told Solomon Star.
Mr. Karaori said he visited the Committee at the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday last week.
“The head of the Committee simply told me that funding for agricultural and fisheries projects from Malaita Province would be cut back to between $40, 000 and $50, 000 per project.
“Given the fact that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had put a lot of emphasis in strengthening local producers to help grow back the economy; what the officials told me is disappointingly discouraging.
“What can a farmer do with $50, 000, given the costs associated with production,” Mr. Karaori asked.
He said he had helped prepare funding proposals for some 30 local producers.
“To hear that each of these people will get the kind of money that was mentioned to me is simply numbing. What can you do with this kind of money?”
Mr. Karaori gave an example of one of the local producers who had applied for assistance to set up a copra production centre at Lord Howe in the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI).
“Because of the distance, the cost of materials and so on to set up the centre and the purchase of an Outboard Motor to collect copra from growers, the proposal was costed at $3.5 million.
“Can you imagine how the man feels, when he was told that he could be expecting just $50, 000.”
Mr. Karaori said it would appear the Economic Stimulus Package is all about buying political support rather than its publicly-intended purpose.
He cited recent payments of more than $5 million to kava exporting companies largely from Isabel Province as well as an equal amount to Soltuna in Western Province.
“What does Malaita Province get? Is the Province being punished for what Premier Suidani is doing? “ he asked.
Meanwhile the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury McKinne Dentana assured the nation in a news conference last week that good projects would be looked after the ESP has wound up at the end of this month.
Mr. Dentana said there were insufficient funds to address the more than 10, 000 applications now before the committee.
“Good projects can be looked at once funding for the current ESP is exhausted,” he said.
Screening of project submissions is due to be completed by the end of the month. Payments of the successful applications would follow.
By Alfred Sasako