Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare delivering his official Independence speech.

The Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) under the leadership of Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare is working to achieve an ambitious plan of linking Solomon Islands’ scattered population by the end of its four-year term in office.

As part of its comprehensive policy agenda over the next four years, the DCGA is working on an innovative initiative that will link up to 74 % of the country’s population and 37 constituencies in its first phase and all 50 constituencies and 100 percent of our population at the completion of its second phase.

This initiative is currently known as the Solomon Islands Sea and Road Initiative or the National Transport Core.

Prime Minister Hon Sogavare announced this initiative when giving his official address on the occasion of Solomon Islands’ 41st Independence Anniversary celebrations on Monday 8th July 2019 at Lawson Tama stadium.

Phase 1 of this initiative will focus on extending roads and bridges in Guadalcanal, Malaita Provinces and the Noro-Seghe road in Western Province and includes the development of the Bina Harbour International Seaport and Fish Processing Facility.

According to the Prime Minister, Seghe and Bina Harbour will be connected to Honiara via dedicated daily ‘roll-on-roll-off ferries’ that will have capacity to transport vehicles including trucks loaded with cargo to be delivered to Honiara and Vice-versa.

Phase two of this infrastructure development in particular includes the development of proper wharfs in all provinces to accommodate the expansion of this service.

“As I have already indicated, the geographical distribution of our Islands’ calls for innovative approaches to infrastructure planning and development that not only address social and economic constraints but one that demonstrates inclusivity and a whole of country focus so that no single province is left behind,” Prime Minister, Hon Sogavare, said.

Hon Sogavare said as a country Solomon Islands need to invest in infrastructure that can link our people in remote areas to urban centres in provinces, and to Honiara.

“We need to invest in a network of roads, bridges, wharves and airports to link all provinces to markets and drive our economy as stated in the Townsville Peace Agreement that was signed almost 20 years ago but as yet unfulfilled.

“Putting in place a policy platform aimed at addressing the unmet development aspirations of our provinces over a defined period is a top priority for the DCGA,” he said.

The Prime Minister assured the nation that this is not another empty promise.

“My Government has already secured commitment to conduct an economic and feasibility study of the concept within the 100-day programme of the government.

“Following the study, we will develop a strategy to mobilise the resources needed to realise this innovative and transformational initiative for our country,” he said.

Solomon Islands’ growing population is putting a lot of pressure on this country’s service delivery.

And Hon Sogavare said if we do not decentralise development to our provinces, we will have a repeat of what happened in 1998 except it will be much larger, and the scale of what might occur will make what occurred in 1998 appear insignificant.

Current statistics show the dependency ratio is about 85, which means that for every 100 people of working-age, 85 of them are dependent, or we can simply say only 1 out of every 5 people is gainfully employed or 4 in 5 people is dependent (inclusive of people with disability). This dependency ratio is extremely high.

Current population projections indicate Solomon Islands will surpass the 1 million people mark by 2031, making Solomon Islands the second most populated country in the Pacific at that point.

It is also projected that at current population growth rate, Solomon Islands’ population will reach 1.37 million people by 2050, roughly double our current estimated population.

These population figures mean that in the next 31 years to 2050, Solomon Islands will produce another 600,000 to 700,000 people. We currently produce 50 births every day, equivalent to 2 classrooms every day, or 1 new primary school every week (350 births) or one new primary and secondary school every 2 weeks (700 births). Our current annual births of 18,000 is more than the total population of Cook Islands and Niue put together.

If Solomon Islands as a country is struggling with the current population of below 700,000 people today, how will the country support a population that is double our current population in 30 years’ time? How can we prepare a development platform that will support this future population?

To answer these questions, Prime Minister Hon Sogavare said it requires a participatory and collective approach involving all sectors of our communities including our customary landowners, provincial governments, government ministries, and importantly our bilateral and multilateral partners.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our customary landowners to be part of the solution going forward. Please do not let land disputes stand in the way of major national and provincial projects that will benefit all especially you the land and resource owners. Please help us help you,” Prime Minister, Hon Sogavare, said.

About the author

Philip Lilomo is the Chamber's Media & Communications Officer. Philip writes most of the Chamber's media releases. He also manages the website contents, designs the Chamber's monthly newsletter, brochures and maintains the organisation's visual branding. 

Philip can be contacted on email: media@solomonchamber.com.sb 

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