27 Sep 2013

Solomon Islands encourages more foreign investors to upskill locals

4:34 pm on 27 September 2013

The Head of Investment in Solomon Islands says more foreign investors are needed to help upskill indigenous business people.

The Director for Investment with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, Derek Aihari, is encouraging more overseas businessmen to the country.

He spoke with Beverley Tse about the role of foreign investors and the challenges faced by indigenous business people.

DEREK AIHARI: People come here basically because they see the opportunity here to do business. About 80% of the economic drive here is driven by foreign investment through employment - people paying taxes and all this stuff.

BEVERLEY TSE: There's been some suggestion that the growing number of number of foreign investors is making competition too hard for the indigenous Solomon Islanders. What do you think of that?

DA: Yeah, people say that it makes it difficult, but the onus is on us. Nobody stops our locals from going into business, but I haven't seen people trying to do it. We complain a lot about 'This will kill us', but if we want to succeed in business then we can do it. There's nothing stopping us from doing that. I think competition is not a good reason for us not doing business.

BT: But there are many challenges that come with doing business, such as start-up capital and training and education. How can indigenous Solomon Islanders be helped to overcome these challenges?

DA: These challenges are noticeable. A lot of locals need to be trained. I think government has initiated with some donor partners in trying to build the capacity of our people in terms of special skills. We have a number of training institutions that specifically look at different areas in terms of training. In terms of direct funding for things like capital for start-ups, it's been a challenge for the government, as well. A lot of people blame banks for not providing the services, but it depends on them because the banks have different policies.

BT: Do you think foreign investors can help indigenous Solomon Islanders with business?

DA: I think they can. That is why we want to encourage foreigners, so they come here and do business. They can transfer the skills to our local people, as well as knowledge. It's up to us to learn from them. We haven't enough resources, but with the help of our investors we can create different skills, train our local people here to utilise all these resources.