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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 30) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inter-island sea transport services in Solomon Islands through a technical assistance grant approved for approximately SB$3.7 million (US$495,000).

A statement issued from the Bank’s headquarters in Manila, Philippines, this week said the grant would promote institutional and financial reforms, support private sector development and train stakeholders to facilitate participation.

ADB said the poor state of inter-island transport services - characterized by long distances, infrequent and unreliable schedules, and unsafe vessels - poses considerable barriers to market access and impede the growth of rural production.

"This contributes to Solomon Islands being one of the least developed among ADB’s Pacific developing member countries, with wide social and economic disparities between the capital of Honiara and the provinces.

"Yet, the vast majority of the population lives on rural subsistence and the national economy relies on forestry, fisheries, and cocoa and copra production - industries that are all conducted in rural areas," the bank said.

Director for ADB’s Pacific Operations Division, Indu Bhushan, said: "Improved inter-island transport is key to restarting and building rural economics, reducing the demand for migration to the capital, and addressing the challenge of restoring basic social services in rural areas."

The grant will review policies and regulations governing the sector to remove constraints to its development.

It will also help improve the financial viability of operators and regulatory agencies by, among other things, providing demand data to assist commercial planning and reviewing maritime fees.

Targeted support will be provided for existing and new operations in the shipping sector in order to support private sector development. Privatization of selected public sector operators will also be supported.

The bank said training would be given to transport operators and relevant government staff to enable them to work effectively within a reformed and liberalized environment.

"By supporting rural economic growth and access to health and education, this TA will make a positive contribution to moving Solomon Islands closer to meeting the Millennium Development Goal on poverty," added Bhushan.

The Solomon Islands Government will contribute about $802,000 (US$105,000) toward the grant’s total cost of $4.5 million (US$600,000).

The Ministry of Finance, National Reform and Planning is the executing agency for the TA, which is due for completion in April 2006.

The Asian Development Bank is a multilateral development finance institution dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific region.

Established in 1966, ABD now owned by 63 members, mostly from the region. It has 27 other offices around the world.

July 1, 2005

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