By ANDREW FANASIA
THE U.S Embassy in Port Moresby says the article published in the media from the Government Communication Unit contained several factual errors and unfounded speculation regarding the United States Agency for International Development’s Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods and Environment (SCALE) Program.
“USAID assistance is still to go through proper channels which also implicated the government ‘raises sovereignty concerns over US-Malaita funding’ published on 14 October 2020 in the Solomon Star.
“We would like to respond to the erroneous statement,” Chad Morris of the Public Affairs and Economic Officer at the U.S Embassy told this paper via email yesterday.
First, Mr. Morris said they held a virtual discussion with government representatives on Friday, 9 October, to discuss the status of the SCALE project.
“At no time were issues of sovereignty raised by the government. Further, the U.S. government has worked closely with the Solomon Islands national government, as well as provincial governments, for nearly two years to develop the SCALE project,” Morris added.
He further stressed that U.S investment in the Pacific and the Solomon Islands is nothing new – they have been providing development and security assistance to this region for decades.
He added that U.S. agencies invest more than $350 million annually in the region.
“In 2019, as part of our delivering on our Indo-Pacific Strategy, we added an additional $100 million and we have increased that by $200 million in 2020, of which SCALE is just one part.
“You can find the full announcement here: https://www.state.gov/u-s-engagement-in-the-pacific-islands-2020-pacific-pledge/,” Morris added.
He further added that USAID is very excited to expand and strengthen development programming in the Solomon Islands.
He stated that the support through the SCALE Project will be USAID's largest investment in the Solomon Islands to date and is in keeping with their long-standing commitment to helping the nation achieve prosperity, self-sufficiency, and success.
Morris said that USAID is currently consulting with the Solomon Islands Government regarding the launch of this program, and looks forward to partnerships with both the national and provincial stakeholders to make the program a success.
He also added that at the request of the Solomon Islands government, which made a strong case that long-term and resilient development should reach all corners of the country, SCALE will focus on local or provincial-level implementation, with a targeted focus on cascading national-level reforms to the local level.
“Assistance will initially focus on Malaita Province but assistance to additional provinces, such as Central, Choiseul, Isabel, Makira-Ulawa, Rennell and Bellona, and Temotu, will be considered as the work plan is developed,” he confirmed yesterday.