THE nation’s provincial premiers are meeting at various locations in Honiara and Guadalcanal this week.
Guadalcanal and Honiara are co-hosting the summit, held every two years.
“Community Participation in Local Economic Development” is the theme for this year’s event.
The theme may be translated to mean how to get members of our communities to take part in economic activities that will help develop the country.
It may also mean empowering our people economically to become self-reliant.
But how do we ensure people participate in economic development? To put it in another way, what should the government do to ensure people participate in economic activities?
Most Solomon Islanders dream of running a business. But very few managed to do that.
One of the biggest impediments to starting a business here is capital. People don’t have enough money to kick start their businesses.
Although we have the commercial banks, strict lending requirements mean only a few can access loans.
Deputy Prime Minister Douglas Ete, when opening the summit, Monday, spoke of the government resurrecting the Development Bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI), supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), and establishing a Social Security Scheme.
These are good intentions.
But we don’t know how soon these promises will translate into action.
There is however, an already established fund that members of the community should access in their quest to start their own businesses.
It is called the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
About $300 million of CDF is available to our people each year – that is up to $6 million per constituency.
By our standard, that is a lot of money.
CDF is however, currently controlled by MPs. They decide on how it is going to be spent and who benefits from it.
Because it is used as a political slush fund, we saw very little impact of CDF in our communities.
This means, CDF, which was established to develop our 50 constituencies, is not achieving its purpose and intention under the current arrangement.
So we have to change the way we administer it.
The time has therefore come for the nation to remove CDF from MPs and lend them to those who are interested in starting up a small business.
Let’s stop the hand-out mentality and treat CDF as a source of income generating fund. We don’t hand it out to people left, right, and centre, but lend it out at a generous interest rate.
By doing that, we not only encourage enterprising minds, but also empower our people to become self-reliant.
The handing out of CDF is truly killing our people. They not only made our people become lazy, but caused them to depend on the MPs for almost everything.
Premiers should demand in their communique this week an urgent change to the administration of CDF.
If they want to see more people within their communities engage in economic activities, CDF should be removed from MPs and made accessible to the people.