Solomon Islands PM emphasises governance reforms
Solomon Islands Prime Minister identifies governance reforms as integral to the development of his country, particularly the rural communities.
The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands says governance reforms his government is pushing will underpin human and economic development in the country.
Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is currently on a visit to New Zealand, says that the efforts of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands over ten years have laid a foundation for these reforms.
Mr Lilo told Johnny Blades that RAMSI enabled a significant improvement in the government's fiscal performance and the country's economic growth.
GORDON DARCY LILO: Law and order for instance, we have been able to see a good recruitment of officers now. Our public order management of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force have shown great work in controlling public disorder situations that could potentially put the whole country back again. But they have been able to manage that properly, they have a capacity of some 270 members of the public order management group. They have gone through a re-armament programme, starting off with lesser lethal re-armament to now a higher re-armanent standard - but that's going to come over the years but it's slowly showing that kind of improvement. The kind of environment that's been created now which we are moving into has better governance reform in developing legislative bills in the areas of managing and controlling political instability and the particular one that I am referring to is the Political Parties Integrity Bill which is coming into parliament next month. we have done the voter registration to be able to reduce then kind of election frauds, offences and violence. That has commenced and is taking shape - over the next 48 days we should be able to have a new voter registration based on the biometric voter registration system. That will guarantee one citizen one vote, and people to make a decision of their own rather than allowing themselves to be abused by candidates or political groupings. So these are the kind of reforms that are going on and I think all this points to the kind of environment that has been created by the Regional Assistance Mission to the country.
JOHNNY BLADES: Is it putting too much pressure on your MPs to be the ones responsible for administering the Constituency Development Funds?
GDL: Now there's a lot of people who have confused this whole thing. The resources aren't given to members of parliament. That is wrong. They've been given to constituency officers because of the problems that we have been having with the institutions of the government not being able to deliver efficiently, and there has been a lot of waste through government departments delivering to people in the rural areas. So if you're going to ask me which route should we follow: should we follow the old, traditional routes of going through the government departments to deliver or you go directly to the constituents? And how do you trigger rural and economic development because ultimately that is the focus of government, or any governing principles throughout the world, it is how can people see the real benefits, how can they make a difference to their lives through this development. But if you look at the way we've been structuring things in the past, it's all going through these institutions and people who have been part of these institutions are there and have become beneficiaries to themselves rather than to the delivery to people in the rural areas. Now a lot of people are now interpreting that in a different way to politicians. They're saying that it goes to politicians, that politicians are enriching themselves. I could not find that anywhere in the way that Solomon Islands is currently doing things. There has been some concern about potential risk of resources going down that path but I have not been able to see... the system that we are trying to do is to get the resources so it goes right down to the people in the constituency because they are the ones that we really want the resources to go to.
JB: The logging industry is having difficulties with some of the banks operating in your country. Can you do anything to help the difficulties that the logging industry is having with not being able to deposit money in some of these key banks?
GDL: Well, I'm aware of the decision of the commercial banks not to provide facilities to... or have decided to shift away from the extractive industries to something that is more sustainable. And this is something that is more so along the lines of a sustainable development agenda. We are sorting that out and we are inviting financial institutions to come into the country. One applicant has been granted an interim license and they're working towards putting the capital to be able to provide those services to the forest sector.
JB: And is forestry going to last a bit longer (in Solomon Islands)?
GDL: We have actually exceeded the previous deadlines that have been set up by certain people arbitrarily in the past, that the forest sector is going to reach a decline in that period - we have exceeded that period already. I don't know whether the non-cooperativeness of the banks to pull out from the forest sector was basically created intentionally to create a cliff for us to fall over. But that is not to say there aren't real sustainability issues that we need to address in the forestry sector. There are. And we are doing it in a more comprehensive way by putting in policies in the areas of working around the quota practices, determining the sustainable harvesting target, limiting the issuance of licenses, and concentrating more on the main operators to be able to allow them an improved capacity to venture into more value-added production.
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