Sogavare aims to pull Solomons out of Least Developed status
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare speaks on his ambitious policy statement.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, launched his policy statement on Tuesday this week promising to stamp out corruption, initiate reforms to governance and make more customary land available for development.
He spoke with Koroi Hawkins about his policies and vision for the country which include the ambitious aim to grow the economy by five percent this year.
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Well yes that's going to be a very, very, very, very, very big challenge. And to do that is to drive it through the sectors that deal directly with growth and that is the private sector. Very little has been done on, for example, Tourism, Fisheries, Agriculture. And of the existing activities, to strengthen those of course is the first step. But aggressively of course look at new areas, opportunities that is always there in those very important sectors. We fully are conscious of the fact that Gold Ridge will not happen very quickly, that will come, you know much much later. But we are going to agressively address the existing sectors, chanelling of course the resources that we have on the sectors that deal directly with growth.
KOROI HAWKINS: You say you are adopting also, a zero tolerance approach for the mismanagement of public money and assets. How do you plan to enforce that given that this is a major problem in Solomon Islands?
MS: Yes, that will be a major challenge. Now there is enough laws in this country already to do that. Just a matter of getting the permanent secretaries and of course at all levels, even the political government. To, I guess to respect the decision of parliament. When parliament pass the budget it specifically allocates the funds to various heads. And I think that's the starting point, to have everybody respect, respect the budget. And of course to work very closely with permanent secretaries and accounting officers to be able to, to do that. And at cabinet level we need to get the understanding that we need to, you know let accounting officers implement the, the budget, the way it is passed in parliament under the financial management act.
KH: The planned reform programs that, that you have set up to focus you say on good governance. How or what does this involve?
MS: Good governance is a wide, touches all aspects and sectors. It is not only on the government sector, I mean the country is made up of various stakeholders and it is important that all of us I guess do our part to ensure that, you know the rules that govern the way we operate is adhered to. First of all it needs to start right at the parliament level. We pass legislation and of course ensure that even legislation that go through parliament are legislation that add to improving the governance of the country. Of course strengthen the various institutions of good governance, is another task. You look at the ombudsman's office the leadership code commission, the parliamentary entitlements commission that is to be looked at very closely. And of course the normal review of the various legislation that govern the operations of various sectors, like the provincial government act. So there's a wide, wide range of areas that need to be looked at in the strategy of strengthening governance.
KH: You say that you will be establishing an ICAC. This has brought a lot of excitement with the Civil Society that deal with these things. But there is also some criticisms that you already have institutions, why aren't those institutions just strengthened and given more powers. Why do you think an ICAC is important?
MS: Yes, I think we have said, we listened to so many things that were said by people. There's going to be an international workshop that is going to be organised and those issues that were raised by, you know concerned people in the country will be canvassed, will be pointed out by those that have expressed the views. You already have the Leadership Code Commission, you already have the Courts, you already have the Ombudsman to deal with these issues. Now the fact is that it is still not working. And that's the biggest question that we all need to ask.
KH: Going back, just back tracking to your other reform program which is opening up customary land, which has always been a challenge, how is it that you hope to achieve this very, difficult goal?
MS: It's a challenging one, big one for us. We need to come up with a reform that must continue to acknowledge and recognise the intricacies of our, of the various land tenure systems that already exist in the country, I think that will be the bottom line. We don't want to disturb what is already there but of course I think the, what we would like to get, and that is normal in any economy is to have land that is secured. Properly registered, so that investors are comfortable to go into them. So it is not an easy task, yes, but it's a challenge that we must face head on. Well, we're determined as always and the objective ultimately like any developing country is to pull this country out of the, least development, least developed country status, to a status more favourable. And you know, we would like to get the support of, of course every Solomon Islanders, our development partners and of course the region to work together to firstly develop Solomon Islands and ultimately make the region a peaceful region as it's always been.
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