The Chairman of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) has highlighted energy, communication and transportation as fundamental areas to redirect the country’s economy to improve the investment climate so businesses can grow to benefit the community.
Mr Jay Bartlett was speaking during the Prime Minister’s Breakfast event on Wednesday 27th June hosted by SICCI to allow the Prime Minister to formally engage with the private sector and business community.
“Our businesses still face a broad number of institutional constraint. Poor infrastructure, expensive utilities, cumbersome tax rates, the high cost of finance and an unskilled labour force are commonly identified challenges which make it difficult for business to grow,” he said.
“Issues such as corruption or land reform are so important to the business community that, while beyond the capacity of SICCI alone to secure a reform, we are keen to progress discussions,” the SICCI Chair added.
He said addressing land issues needs to be maintained as a policy focus.
Mr Bartlett said the Solomon Islands National Development Strategy 2016-2035 acknowledges that ‘private sector-led economic growth needs to be encouraged and facilitated’, however, government policies are not always consistent with stated government objectives.
“For example, actual infrastructure spending is not always directed to projects of maximum benefit to the private sector.
“This mismatch remains a critical challenge requiring a fundamental shift in how government and the private sector relate and must be a key focus of ongoing conversations at policy and operational levels,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Bartlett has welcomed some of the significant infrastructure developments the Government has overseen recently.
“Current developments of the Submarine Cable are welcomed developments and we must applaud the Australian Government for taking a lead on this.
“The current Kukum Highway upgrade Project and the recent commitments from JICA to Upgrade our International airport will improve efficiency in mobility and drastically give a much-needed facelift to our capital city,” he said.
Mr Bartlett said while the country’s energy costs remain some of the highest in the region, progress in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and energy costs in the development of the Tina Hydro Dam and renewables like solar farms and hybrid stations outside of Honiara and the provinces is welcomed by private sector.
“Like Solomon Power, SICCI is also very supportive of this national project, especially if it also translates to a significant reduction in the tariff, apart from the positive environmental considerations.
“Solomon Power and other stake-holders are undergoing commercial discussions and proper due diligence is undertaken to ensure that the governance process and arrangements are in the best interest of us as consumers over the life of this particular project,” he said.
Mr Bartlett added beyond investments in infrastructure the fastest way to progress a nation is to enable its people.
“To advance our education system, investments in institutions like our national university will ensure the sizable funds spent on scholarships remain in our economy not transferred to some of our regional economies in the Pacific and Asia,” he said.
Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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T: (+677) 39542
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