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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 31, 2006)—The Cabinet has approved a Strategic Framework for Rural Development.

Minister of National Planning and Aid Coordination Gordon Darcy Lilo, in announcing the strategic framework said, "the Government has placed rural development and a bottom-up approach at the centre of its policy agenda and as such it is important that the Government takes leadership in coordinating rural development activities".

Mr Darcy said rural development depends upon a number of coordinated activities in different areas of economic and public policy.

"The Government’s Strategic Framework for Rural Development has three parts," said the Minister.

He said the first part if the constituency based model of policy development, which aimed at mobilising local community in the planning, and development processes of the constituencies.

"This will require government officers to work with rural communities," Mr Darcy said when referring to the first part of the framework.

He added that the constituency model should provide a basis for better targeting of government and donor partners support to rural communities.

The second part covers a range of sector based strategies designed to improve economic opportunities for rural people.

These include strategies for developing the finance, transport and agricultural sectors," said the Minister.

"The government is currently working with key donors to develop strategies in these areas."

According to Mr Darcy improving access to financial services is the first of these sector strategies.

"Access to financial services will enable rural people to open bank accounts, save money and access finance to start or expand a business."

The Minister further stressed that improved performance in agriculture will also be critical to rural livelihoods.

"The government is working jointly with key aid donors in the preparation on an Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy (ARDS) said the Minister.

"The objective of ARDS is to improve the conditions for agriculture led development in rural areas. This will involve improving access to markets, finance, health services, education and training and will deal with other constraints that impede the largely indigenous agricultural business sector."

Mr Darcy also emphasised the importance of transport in the strategic framework.

"Without relevant transport services our rural people cannot get their valued products to markets, banks cannot provide efficient financial services to rural communities, and children and parents cannot access schools and essential health services," Mr Darcy said.

The Minister highlighted that the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development has developed a National Transport Plan through consultation with various stakeholders.

"The transport plan considers transport needs across the country and maps out the most vital routes," the Minister said.

The third part of the strategic framework is focused on improving provincial capacity to deliver essential services in rural areas", said the Minister.

The Minister explained that a program to improve provincial governance is very important for rural development.

"The government initiative to partner with key donors on provincial capacity development programs provides an excellent opportunity to ensure better service deliver to our rural areas.

"This requires all stake holders and donors to harmonise their strategies and approaches with the strategic framework and to align their efforts towards the Government’s vision for rural development," the minister said.

July 31, 2006

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