Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 3) – Opposition Member of Parliament Snyder Rini has raised a number of valid points about overseas trips by Solomon Islands officials.

It was quite astounding to notice Government ministers, backbenchers and officers taking trip after trip in recent weeks.

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with Government ministers and backbenchers going overseas.

By whole means, if the trip is absolutely necessary and will benefit the country, ministers, backbenchers and officials must take it.

Solomon Islands is part of the global community and our interaction with nations out there is vital.

However, of great concern is the size of Government delegations that normally go overseas.

It is almost becoming a practise that the Government loves to send large delegations overseas, often at great cost to tax payers of this country.

Mr Rini has just singled out the current trip of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare when he was accompanied by both his Special Secretary, Secretary to PM and Cabinet and deputy Secretary to PM and Cabinet.

As rightly pointed out by Mr Rini, either one of the three officials, would be enough to accompany the prime minister.

Overseas trips are hugely expensive.

When sending someone overseas, taxpayers meet airfares, per diem, accommodation, food and other related travelling costs.

A trip to Europe for instance would cost taxpayers between SB$50,000 to SB$60,000 [US$7,200 to US$8,600] .

This is enough money to build a school, clinic, bridge, or fix our depilating roads.

It is time the Government take a serious stand on overseas trips.

Decisions to undertake overseas trips should be measured against the benefits the country would derive from it.

Solomon Islands cannot afford to send people on overseas holiday trips all the time.

Another consideration to take when deciding on overseas trips is the composition of the delegation.

Time and again, we witness ministers going overseas and taking government backbenchers with them.

This was done purely to buy the backbenchers' loyalty to the Government.

But this normally comes at a great cost to taxpayers of this country.

Every year, we see millions of taxpayers' money spent on overseas trips, most of which were unnecessary.

The Sogavare Government has pledged to cut unnecessary Government costs and expenditure.

The Government should put the knife straight away onto overseas trips.

July 4, 2006

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