No major changes after decade of RAMSI says academic
An Australian academic says in 10 years RAMSI has produced little noticeable change for the average Solomon Islander.
An Australian academic says a decade of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, or RAMSI, has not changed much for the average Solomon Islander.
Clive Moore's comment comes as RAMSI prepares to mark its 10th anniversary along with its transition to a policing-only operation.
The mission, which has been led by Australia and has cost that country more than US$2 billion, followed five years of tensions from 1998 thought to have killed about 200 people and displaced more than 20,000.
Professor Moore told Annell Husband RAMSI's static focus over the 10 years may have been at the expense of a wider, more effective agenda.
CLIVE MOORE: Solomon Islanders vastly would say that they appreciate RAMSI having been there and what RAMSI has done in ten years. But RAMSI has also worked its own agenda in that time. It decided to reform bureaucracy, reform the judiciary, fix up the police, which was needed - things like that. And RAMSI didn't put resources into infrastructure development because it said that was really beyond the capacity some governments should be doing. But many of my criticisms relate, really, to infrastructure development, if you're taking about development on other areas of Guadalcanal and Malaita, in particular. Maybe the agenda should have been wider, however RAMSI doesn't have never-ending pockets. Their money is large, but they're not a government. One of the criticisms, and it's a typical criticism in the Pacific, is that governments don't necessarily develop rural areas in the way we would expect in Australia or New Zealand in terms of sanitation, in terms of roads, hospitals and things like that.
ANNELL HUSBAND: But even urban areas?
CM: Well, yes. The money is not put into... Well, it's put into the main areas, but if you go to the areas in Honiara which are sort of village suburbs...
AH: You don't have to go far.
CM: You don't have to go very far to find people that are still washing under a tap.
AH: Or in the river.
CM: Or in the river, and even if the electricity goes past their door can't afford it, and really don't have adequate sanitation, water, electricity. So the way the government has always worked there is exploiting large-scale exploitation of natural resources like fish, timber and minerals, and not really trying to develop any sort of grassroots economic development or rural development. And I think that's a criticism which you could use much more widely in the Pacific, that governments have chosen almost the easy way out of going for the larger resources, rather than developing from the base up. So it means that urban areas come out of it all right, unless you live in the village extensions of urban areas, and then it's a hard life. Look, it's a hard life in Honiara for people who have 10 or 15 people living in their house who don't really know at the end of a pay period how they're going to find enough rice or cassava to feed people. And knowing that there might only be one or two breadwinners to support a group of 10 or 15 people - to pay school fees, to buy the clothes, everything like that. I don't know how they manage.
AH: So in a decade that's the same as it ever was, isn't it?
CM: Nothing much has changed. If you stand back and look at the major things that caused the problem, it was growing discontent in Honiara. Now, Honiara has increased in size. They tell me it's getting very close to 100,000 people now, the wider Honiara area. One tenth of the country is tied up in Honiara and that is... That's pretty frightening, I think, in a Pacific nation. But the heart of the Solomons...
AH: Why do you say it's frightening?
CM: Well, 'cause Honiara will grow. I used to live in Port Moresby. I can see Honiara becoming Port Moresby. It's a far way off yet, but when you have an unemployed underclass of youths who really have no hope of getting jobs they can become quite explosive and they can be led very easily. And eventually all you can do, as a middle class, is fortify yourself and live behind barbed wire. Now, that's not what has happened so far in Honiara. But as squatters move in to areas and as people become more disenchanted, it has the potential to become another Port Moresby.
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