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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 12, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Solomon Islands cannot compete effectively in trade even with its Melanesian Spearhead Group partners because of the high cost of production, a meeting was told.

Acting Director of Trade Heinz Vaikesa said the high cost of electricity, water and telecommunications contributed to the failure of businesses to trade effectively.

He said even the cost of labor is expensive, compared to countries like Fiji where labor is being brought in from Asian countries at very low cost.

Mr. Vaikesa also alluded to the problem of high transportation costs and the non-receptiveness of public officers to local investors.

He was speaking at a debriefing session with senior public officials on the outcome of the recent Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade and Economic Officials meeting.

Mr. Vaikesa said sending goods to even closer countries like Vanuatu could cost $5,000 a shipment as goods had to go first through Australia.

Mr. Vaikesa said transport costs between the many Solomon Islands area also is costly, because of fuel and labor charges, and the fact that Honiara is the only center for imports and exports.

He said frequent changes in legislation and reshuffles of government officials are an obstacle to private sector investment.

* The Office of the Prime Minister confirms that the government is in the process of establishing a new Ministry of Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment.

The ministry will be formed later this month.



PORT VILA, Vanuatu (January 13, 2001 - Radio Vanuatu/PINA Nius Online)---Trade officials of the Melanesian Spearhead Group have organized a shipping conference to be held soon in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

Vanuatu Trade Department director Roy Mickey Joy said the conference will look at ways of improving shipping services between Melanesian Spearhead Group member countries.

Mr. Joy said it is important for shipping operators and agents in Vanuatu to take part to be able to put their views together with those of other Melanesian countries.

This would enable the Melanesian Spearhead Group members to develop a strategy to improve shipping services, he said.

The Papua New Guinea Chamber of Manufacturers, in consultation with the Solomon Islands government, will coordinate the conference, he said.

Mr. Joy also said the Melanesian Spearhead Group customs sub-committee will meet in Port Moresby during the first week of March.

He said this meeting would finalize trade listings before top Melanesian Spearhead Group trade officials meet again in June.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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