SOLOMON ISLANDS APPROVE FIRST TRANSIT PLAN

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, September 4) – The Solomon Islands Cabinet has approved the first ever National Transport Plan for Solomon Islands.

"Transport is at the centre of the Government’s strategic framework for rural development," Infrastructure and Development minister Stanley Sofu said in announcing the plan.

He said the finalisation of the National Transport Plan represents an important step for the Government in coordinating rural development activities.

Mr Sofu explained that the plan sets out the Government’s policy towards the development and maintenance of both the transport network and transport services.

"The plan identifies priorities for the development of transport links in the most remote areas of the country, whilst also placing the repair and maintenance of existing transport assets. It also provides the strategic framework for achieving the Government’s objective of providing an effective transport infrastructure and transport services to support sustained economic growth and social development," he said.

The National Transport Plan has been developed with the assistance of donors and the Transport Task Force, which is made of representatives from Government, transport users and transport service providers.

"The backbone of the national transport network will be provided by regular, reliable and cost effective shipping services to all areas of the country," the minister said.

He added the plan puts the development of privately operated shipping services at the heart of the Government’s approach.

"These services will be supported and augmented by a rehabilitated road infrastructure and improved air services to provide an integrated national transport system. The means of providing access for individual communities and services will be based on providing the most economically efficient and appropriate means of transport and service provision," Mr Sofu said.

He explained that during the early years of the plan, expenditure on transport sector infrastructure will be concentrated on the rehabilitation and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Maintenance funding is being substantially increased by Government from 2007, to meet these needs.

"At the same time, the Government agencies involved in the transport sector will be re-organised to form planning and regulatory agencies, with service delivery functions being outsourced to the private sector."

Mr Sogu said the plan included measures to strengthen the private sector, which will include the removal or streamlining of restrictive national and provincial Government policies and practices which relate to the transport sector.

He said the National Transport Plan also plays a vital role, in highlighting priorities for immediate investment in the transport network. "For example, the plan identifies those roads that will be considered by the Solomon Islands Road Improvement Project, which is being funded by Australia and New Zealand, and which will begin in 2007."

The minister explained that action to improve governance and management within the transport sector is a crucial element of the plan.

This includes the setting up of a National Transport Fund, together with an independent management board, and clarifying the role of Government with regard to service provision.

"Government has started work immediately to turn this plan into reality.

"We are already working with donors, to implement proposals for a scheme to provide financial support for shipping services to the more remote parts of the country.

"Combined with investments to bring the Solomon Islands maritime sector up to international safety and operating standards, this will greatly improve the situation faced by producers and residents of remote areas," Mr Sofu said.

September 5, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com

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