Solomons PM Announces 2013 Government Priorities

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Lilo says Solomons ‘a nation conceived, but not born’

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 30, 2013) – Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has launched the National Coalition for Rural Advancement (NCRA) government’s 2013 priorities at the Heritage Park Hotel yesterday.

NCRA’s theme for this year is ‘Building on the Gains for a Stable Solomon Islands: Doing Things Differently.’

Speaking during the occasion, Prime Minister Lilo highlighted some of the important aspects that Solomon Islands has evolved up to this present time.

The prime minister said it was important for us to understand our local context and dynamics if we were to create platforms that serve our best interest in the long term.

He added that since Solomon Islands gained independence many self-governing entities or what some called ‘semi-autonomous’ groups have exercised their own authority and rules over the country’s territories and constituents.

However, Prime Minister Lilo highlighted that the state’s attempt to exert positive control over the entire country has had only mixed success.

Lilo quoted the famous observation by one of the founding fathers of this nation the late Solomon Mamaloni that ‘Solomon Islands is a nation conceived but not born.’

Prime Minister Lilo said the observation by Mamaloni continues to carry some truth today and would be true for some time in the future.

Narrow economic base

The Prime Minister also emphasized that in 1893, when Charles Woodford made his assessment of the economic viability of the new British Solomon Islands Protectorate, he pegged the economy on copra production.

"Indeed, the Solomon Islands developed significant plantations such as the ones on Guadalcanal and Russell Islands formerly under Lever Solomons," he said.

However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Prime Minister said the economy turned to logging as its mainstay.

"Fish canning and processing also began as well as agriculture, tourism and some manufacturing. In the 1990s mining began with the establishment and operation of Gold Ridge Mining Ltd. The primary resources sector remains largely the backbone of the economy," he said.

But the Prime Minister said although the economic base has been expanded somewhat, the economy largely depends on a handful of export goods.

"As a result of this, there is high unemployment amongst the growing youthful population. This is partly responsible for the social crises experienced from 1998 to 2003," the Prime Minister said.

Misfit of institutions

He also highlighted what he described as the "seeming misfit" between the introduced West Minster system of Government administration and those that existed in Solomon Islands.

The prime minister said contestation exists between the formal institutions and informal institutions and between the power structure of these institutions.

Although arguably, he said the Constitution sets out the framework for governance and the relationships between the political structures in the country, the contestations that constantly occur are not insignificant.

Therefore, Mr. Lilo said they often lead to unnecessary tensions between groups and mistrust of the state by the community.

Customary land tenure

Speaking on this subject, the Prime Minister said that at least eighty percent of the nation’s land and resources are controlled under customary tenure.

He said these resources are controlled by chiefs and traditional landowning groups.

"Since independence, attempts to access customary land for development have not had much success. Consequently there are only a few large scale developments on customary land today," Mr. Lilo said.

However, he said last year, a significant amount of resources from the development budget had been allocated to projects based on customary land but at the end of last year, only a few projects saw progress.

"Much of the resources are wasted on good will payments and other such payments. Among the factors which slowed down progress were disputes over ownership and benefits coming from the projects," Mr. Lilo said.

The Prime Minister said this continues to be a major obstacle to progress of projects based on customary land.

Inefficiency of government mechanisms

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has attributed that the government is the largest employer in the economy.

He said this is crowding out growth in the private sector.

"Over the years, due to a laxity in the standards of the public service, corruption and inefficiency has weakened performance of the public service. Consequently, service delivery of the basic services had been severely undermined," Mr. Lilo said.

"I do not paint this background to discourage anyone or to lay blame on anyone. I simply paint this picture to inform us of the realities of our nation; realities which we must work with, whilst we chart our unique future, amongst the nations of the international community."

The launching was attended by government ministers, members of parliament, church leaders, premiers, members of the diplomatic corps and senior government officials.

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