THE World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a new project in Solomon Islands focused on boosting economic development in rural communities. The Integrated Economic Development and Community Resilience Project also aims to improve citizen participation in provincial planning, and boost climate change and disaster risk resilience at provincial and community levels.
Solomon Islands faces major gaps in infrastructure and essential services, with access to clean water, roads, basic education and health services low, especially in rural communities, which account for over 75 per cent of the country’s population.
Only 16 percent of rural households have access to sanitation and less than five per cent of those living on the outer islands have access to electricity, for example. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened these challenges, with demand for services and food security in rural areas increasing.
The new project will enhance the Solomon Islands Government’s well-regarded Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) over the next five years. World Bank support will ensure PCDF investments in key economic sectors increase in number and size and are strengthened through more inclusive citizen engagement and the integration of climate change and disaster risk management planning in all projects.
“The World Bank’s assistance will ensure a greater emphasis on infrastructure and services that help to stimulate economic growth in rural areas, supporting new investments in the transport, commerce, and agriculture sectors,” noted Annette Leith, World Bank Resident Representative for Solomon Islands.
“Our support will ensure communities take the lead role in identifying their most critical needs. The PCDF has been successful in delivering meaningful change so far, which is why our support will build and strengthen the fund rather than establish something new.”
PCDF is a performance-based grant system that, since its inception in 2008, has supported more than 1,300 provincial and community-level projects across Solomon Islands, with a strong focus on health and education – such as upgrades to clinics, classrooms and libraries – and has created over 7,000 community jobs.
“Building on recently approved Government policies to increase citizen engagement and measures designed to minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this project provides a sustainable solution to improve community access to infrastructure and services in rural areas,” said Hon. Rex Ramofafia, Supervising Minister for Finance and Treasury.
“Implementing our new policy priorities through the PCDF ensures the alignment of national and provincial authorities when it comes to providing dedicated support to rural communities.”
This new assistance comes as the World Bank announces an historic increase in its support to Solomon Islands, with over US$130 million through four planned projects being approved throughout the month of June. The three other projects include support for fisheries management, aviation and roads, and supplemental assistance for reforms related to greater transparency and improved financial management.