Fiu Bridge construction and Auki Township Road tar-sealing projects back on the agenda following the installation of the new Fini Government
THE re-design and construction of Fiu Bridge near Auki and tar-sealing of Auki township roads – long rejected by the MARA administration – are back on the agenda of Premier Martin Fini’s new government.
“Fiu Bridge and tar-sealing of Auki township roads are back on track,” sources within the new administration told Solomon Star yesterday.
These are important projects for Malaita’s economic development. Not only are they back, they are our priority to kick start a new Malaita approach to development,” the sources said.
In May 2021, government officials said China Harbour Engineering – a Chinese state-owned enterprise – was the only company to bid for the US$5m project to redesign and rebuild Fiu Bridge as part of a World Bank-funded national infrastructure project.
But Suidani’s MARA government had rejected China Harbour’s proposal based on restriction imposed by the Auki Communique, which banned Chinese companies from doing any work in the Province.
“The Malaita Provincial government stands by its decision, and will not accept any company linked to CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to make any development in Malaita Province,” then deputy premier Randal Sifoni, was quoted as saying.
Mr. Sifoni is now with Premier Fini’s government. He is due to be sworn in as the new Provincial Minister of Finance, sources told Solomon Star.
It is not clear whether the projects would be re-advertised.
The Permanent Secretary of Infrastructure Development, Stephen Maesiola, said at the time Fiu Bridge Project might be re-advertised because of opposition from Malaita Province.
“The Fiu Bridge is just one of the components of the work that needs to be done in Malaita … we need to upgrade to change the face of Auki town,” he said.
But Malaita’s Deputy Premier said the provincial government won’t back down and won’t issue a business licence to any company associated with Beijing.
The World Bank told the ABC at the time the Solomon Islands government is responsible for the procurement of all contracts. It confirmed that a final recommendation on the awarding of a contract for Fiu Bridge is yet to be made,” the World Bank said then.
By Alfred Sasako