THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of doing very little to protect businesses activities reserved for locals in the country.
This was expressed by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Aoke-Langalanga and Chairman of Bills and Legislation Committee Matthew Wale.
He was speaking during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing into the 2018 estimates of the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration (MCILI) recently.
“There is nothing done to protect certain business activities reserved for locals.”
Mr Wale uttered this sentiment after MP for East Honiara Douglas Ete questioned the Director of Foreign Investment Derrick Aihari on the work to review 2016 investment regulation, because it appears on the schedule of the regulation that it was not expanded to legal interpretation.
Ete said, “schedule says protections not specific to elaborations, which means indigenous business needs to be protected.”
Therefore, Ete stressed that work has to be done to improve the regulation so that when it goes to court it helps the people right now, but currently it is ambiguous.
In response director Aihari explained:
“Reserve list to understand well, is not to protect interest of indigenous people for business activities. Its only to guide registrar to make his decision, but indirectly it gives chance for our local people to do those business.”
The director added, “Before 2004 we have a list that reach 60 to 70 business activities reserved for locals, but history tells us that local people hardly participate on these things, which means we reserve but they never do anything. And I don’t’ know why?”
“So when theres no participation, economy is stagnant. I want to increase the list but I’m afraid because locals may not able to participate and we remain the same,” said Mr. Aihari.
Furthermore, the director added bus and taxi services are reserve business for locals as well, but the department don’t know why some Chinese own buses that operate transport services on the road.
“They might use some locals to register the business,” he uttered in suspicion.
However, he said if anyone knows any Chinese owned vehicle is running taxi or bus service along the road they have to officially lodge a report to his office.
Despite of the director’s clarifications Mr Wale interrupted by slamming the explanation made by Mr Aihari, saying; “many things connect to you director and it is not right Bangladesh and Muslim are here with the Chinese to run shops, canteen and restaurants at every corner of Honiara.
“Our people are left out,” said Mr. Wale.
“The role of your ministry is to do things quick and it is not good enough in your justification to say history of not participate in economy,” he continued.
“You squeeze out our people from business,” he pointed out.
The outspoken PAC member further highlighted, whether foreigner runs store because they marry a local girl here or use other locals to register business, those business activities must be on the reserve list.
Thus, he urged the permanent secretary (PS) to ensure Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) under his ministry support locals to participate in those reserved businesses.
Mr. Wale also cautioned that hardware and canteens owned by locals has closed down because of the pressure from Chinese and Bangladesh in terms of competition.
“If you have to implement things then brought them quick to parliament for us to pass,” he stressed.
Adding, “These go beyond economics and it has social implications. So if you not worry then I’m worried about the fact that you not worry.
“Our own government makes it easy for foreigners and make it hard for own people, so we represents who?” questioned Mr. Wale.
“We must not allow foreigners to come with empty hands to run shops and restaurants through support of their relatives here.
“What we don‘t have technical capacity and no money to invest in we let them but not things we can run,” he said.
He said even logging local people can do it themselves with their company and machines.
“We also squeeze local people out of urban land driven by foreigners. Local people are unable to afford houses, land and office spaces because you entertain foreigners into business locals can do,” Wale argued.
He concluded that situation went out of control in the last three to four years now.
“So you (director) have to bring something to parliament so that it passes to protect the reserve businesses for the indigenous people.”
By AATAI JOHN LAUNGI