Solomon Islands has a price to pay for logging activities, says Dr Nishikawa
DESPITE the fact that logging is one of the main contributors to the Solomon Islands’ economy, the country has a heavy price to pay for logging activities.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Sustainable Resource Management (SFRM) Chief Advisor Dr Nishikawa said if communities in the country continue to sell their trees to logging companies, they are bound to face the negative impacts of their actions.
He said the forest eco-system is mainstay of rural Solomon Islanders and helps reduce the risk of natural disasters, adding that forest recovery from logging will take more than 20 years.
Dr Nishikawa said foreign receipts from logging accounts for around 20 percent of government revenue and around 66 percent of the total value of export income.
“The logging industry provides around 10,000 jobs, which represent 20 percent of the total employment in Solomon Islands.
“Payments of royalties to forest resource owners also provide a source of revenue to rural community where the majority of people lead subsistence lifestyles with limited access to basic infrastructures which are located far away in urban centres.
“As for general logging revenues, 60 percent may be distributed to logging companies, 25 percent goes to taxes, whilst the remaining 15 percent is given to the community”,” he said.
Dr Nishikawa said if most of these logging industries are foreign companies and their workers are also foreigners then sustainable forest resources’ management will be difficult.
“For example, the government revenue for 2019 was 2.62 billion Solomon dollars and the 20 percent revenue derived from the forest sector was 0.52 billion dollars.
“As per my calculation, about twice of tax revenue would have been gotten from the logging industry which means more than1 billion dollars per year have been flowing out of the country,” he said.
Solomon Islands high population growth rate provide a large pool of workforce but around 10,000 jobs within the logging industry are not available for Solomon Islands as they are held by foreign employees.
The government agency supposed to monitor the logging industry’s tax payment has been understaffed making it impossible to ascertain whether the logging companies have been paying the accurate amount of taxes to the national government and other relevant authorities.
The current status of the demographics and workforce of communities in Solomon Islands communities is that birthrates are increasing in all communities and the proportion of infants and youths in the communities is also increasing.
It is a challenge in all communities in the country for adolescents to get jobs.
Customary land in Solomon Islands is owned by communities and all plants that inhabit the customary land belongs to the communities and the national government.
“…the country currently relies on the forest sector as the key contributor to government receipts, exports and economic growth actually.
“And this economic aspect has a significant impact on sustainable forest resource management in Solomon Islands,” Dr Nishikawa warned.
By LACHLAN EDDIE
Solomon Star, Honiara