It really is an Easter surprise - Solomon Star News

It really is an Easter surprise

06 April 2015

NOT many of us realise this but everyone’s watching us. 

For example, the article which appeared in this newspaper last Wednesday is now beginning to catch the attention of some in the international community.

The article in question is the announcement of sorts by the Democratic Coalition for Change [DCC) Government that a raft of legislative changes is afoot in an effort to create free economic zones in strategic locations around the country.

Former Police Commissioner, Frank Short, is the first to acknowledge the timeliness of the proposal.

Frank calls it an “Easter Surprise.”

He wrote:

“The Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) Government announced on Wednesday, this week, a raft of proposed legislative changes to strengthen customary land ownership making tribal land available for development and promoting investment in the country by the creation of free economic zones in strategic areas of the country.

“The proposals are likely to be well received at home and by foreign investors. In an article published in the Solomon Star newspaper the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is quoted as saying, “The special free economic zone is the one-stop shop for investment in this country.”

“I have witnessed the success of special free economic zones in Thailand and seen how foreign investors have transferred technology and R&D facilities to the benefit of the Thai economy and its people.

“If the legislative proposals pass through Parliament later this year and the laws are structured with the investment promotion incentives already envisaged then we could see investors believing that they will be rewarded with lasting benefits in the Solomon Islands.  I very much hope that will be the case.

“A surprise Easter package indeed!”

I suppose we can expect quite a response from foreign investors in particular, those who see the potential in helping to develop this nation, through technology transfers and capital (money).

Several questions remain, though.

One of the things that has bedevilled or stunt our nation’s economic growth and progress is the fact that we hang on too tightly to our resources.

The raft of proposals being put forward by the DCC Government in creating free economic zones throughout the nation is, in my view a giant step in the right direction.

It calls for some flexibility on the part of resource owners.

Political stability will be critical in turning the proposal into reality. Stability coupled with the willingness of landowners in allowing their resource to be developed, are critical.

Political instability has dogged development in this country for a long time. The time has now come and is here to summon every pound of muscles we have to turn this country around. And we can.

As indicated in the 2015 Budget handed down by Finance Minister Snyder Rini yesterday, the DCC government is serious about spending big in the rural areas this year.

 No wonder he has called the Budget, the People’s Budget.

The proposal for the creation of free economic zones which would serve as one-stop shop for investors is not only timely but critically necessary. We simply don’t have time to just keep talking. The time for action is now.

As Minister Rini pointed out in his Budget Speech, the DCC Government “is committed to actions rather than just word,” adding Ministries and agencies now have the necessary policy directions and the strategies to achieve them have been identified.

The responsibility to make all these work is ours – all of us. If we want to see much-needed capital and technology transferred here, we must also be prepared to put something in.

Nothing comes out of nothing.

To reap, we must plant.

To gain, we must invest. The call is ours.

The DCC Government is ready, are you?

 By Alfred Sasako*

*     Alfred Sasako is a journalist and former politician. He is currently a media consultant for the Sogavare Government.