SICCI Chairman, Jay Bartlett.

Hon. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare
Other Honorable Ministers and Members of Parliament
Representatives our Diplomatic corps
Senior Government officials
Representatives of Statutory Authorities
Representatives of Civil Society
Representatives of Media
Representatives from NGOs
Heads of SOEs
To Friends & Members of the Chamber,
My fellow Solomon Islanders

It is an honor & privilege to welcome you all this morning and to say a few short remarks. I
will keep them fairly short as we have quite a big program ahead of us.
This PM’s Business breakfast is an initiative from the MoU and has become one of the most
important events for the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce (SICCI) and the business
community. It is an opportunity for you to engage directly with our leadership and also
creates a platform for the Hon Prime Minister to engage directly with businesses - tax
payers and employers. Today presents a special opportunity for 100 day key policy priority
launch which will set the foundation for future discourse and action. I hope our program of
merging the breakfast & launch hasn’t been too confusing for you all here today.
I believe the 2012019 PM’s Business Breakfast is timely and relevant in the context of current events.

It is timely as earlier this year as a nation we have gone through the democratic cycle of our
National General Election, our people have spoken, our leadership has been elected and a
new Government is now in place & operational.

On that note I would like to congratulate the new Democratic Coalition Government for
Advancement on your success. As a Chamber we look forward to building on interactions
and platforms that we have developed over the years and seek to further strengthen the
relationship that is shared between both Government & Business. Our relationship is one I
believe needs to function beyond political & commercial interests and underpinned by our
collective commitment in building this great nation, to provide opportunities for our people
and to fully realize our growth potential.

It is timely as the Government is now in a position to outline its 100 day policy priority plan
and we welcome & look forward to this launch. It’s also timely as on regional scale we also
look forward to welcoming high level visits from our friends and partners in Australia & New
Zealand. You may have seen in the press that we have recently signed a funding agreement
with the Australian high-commission for the next 3 years of financial support. This financial
support will enable us to deliver our work and programs to our members. This support is
acknowledged and much appreciated so thank you High Commissioner.

Since the last breakfast just under 12 months ago a lot has progressed, and I will touch on
these briefly.

State of the Economy
In terms of Macro-economic performance for our economic growth and activity overall was
positive with 3.7 percent growth in 2018 and a projected 3.7% growth for 2019. I am not
well versed in economics but as a business operator I sometimes feel these figures aren’t
truly reflective of the sometimes grim realities our business currently are facing on the
ground today.

Some of the major infrastructure projects such as the Coral Sea Cable System, Tina Hydro &
Pacific Games will push growth up over the medium term to 4.5%. We eagerly look forward
to these infrastructure projects and the positive impacts they will have on private sector and

Cheaper accessible energy & ICT are essential pre-conditions to creating an enabling
environment for business and investment to thrive and will have a positive cross cutting
flow on effect. Our economic base does however remain narrow and still heavily dependent
on the traditional drivers of growth in the primary industry. Without a diversified plan our
economy remains vulnerable to external shocks in the global market & commodity prices
and leaves us exposed and in a position of risk. As our growth in the forestry sector starts to
decelerates our resource base seems to be experiencing a transition from forests to
valuable minerals. This transition also presents its own set of legislative, environmental &
social challenges to mitigate & manage. We must learn from the extraction of our trees and
not repeat the same process. It is also extremely important to ensure that revenues from
our resource extraction is fully captured and reinvested directly back for our future

This situation we find our self in is not unusual for small states with emerging economies
such as ours. Especially one that that is both geographically dispersed, socially diverse with
a fast growing population.

To move forward we must be clear on what we what to achieve, how we want to achieve it
and when it will be achieved. The challenge before us now is to focus policy on the key
sectors that will broaden our base, create jobs – boost productivity though infrastructure &
educational investments and to undergo structural & Legislative reforms to improve
governance & strengthen public services. We need to work together to ensure service
delivery is effective, efficient & far reaching. I believe the launch of the 100 day key policy
priorities will seek to jumpstart this process and thinking.

Development Strategy
The current economic conditions still present challenges to the development of sustainable
new sectors and an economy that will modernize the Solomon Islands in the 21st Century &
beyond. As we chart our development path to lift-long term growth potential our next steps
and every step thereafter in our development strategy & planning becomes crucial.

Our budget strategy, reform agenda, policy direction becomes critical to ensure that we
must continue to fund key priority areas such as education, health & infrastructure while
also delivering development priorities including infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism.

I believe the current model of spending in our development budget needs rethinking and
reshaping to ensure we deliver the outcomes and create the jobs our youths desperately
need. It may be an opportune time for a review of the delivery and expenditure model. To
see a shift from discretionary funding heavily focused on consumerism to investments in
capital infrastructure. Just like a business we need to quantify the returns on tax dollar
investments and focus on the quality of our expenditure.

What are we seeking to achieve? Growth that is inclusive, schools & universities that
delivers education for a population that is ready for the work place with skills that will
propel our economy forward. Hospitals, clinics that is accessible to provide world class
healthcare. Building Roads & Bridges that lead to opportunities. We are well positioned to
access finance though climate adaption and mitigation strategies and the Green Climate
Fund provides real opportunities to our economy, these opportunities need to be
aggressively explored.

While there is an inherent need to improve our physical environment we also need to focus
on institutional governance that can enhance our integrity and accountably. As a chamber
we have now hosted a number a Directorship Programs delivered by the Institute of
Directors New Zealand.

There is great value in this program and we see a great opportunity in extending the
delivery to our public service colleagues such as PS’s, Under Secretaries & Financial
Controllers. A lack of Good Governance Principles within the public sector will undermine
all our development aspirations. It still remains our ambition to establish a Solomon Islands
Institute of Directors.

Policy & Engagement
To successfully lift up living standards for the majority of our population and overcome the
challenges does require further collaboration. A number of reforms have commenced and
the outcomes of which will greatly benefit the private sector: The Tax review which is well
underway and the revisiting of the tax administration framework and modernizing tax
infrastructure. The work to broadening the tax base & compliance must continue to ensure
that all business contribute their fair share. The playing field must be level for all.

On minimum wage discussion we support a review & increase and will continue to work
through our representation on the Labor Advisory Board. We will also work with our
members to ensure that our low income earners are fairly remunerated while striking a
balance on what SME & Small business are able to afford. On the same token, SICCI would
support efforts to prioritize a review on PAYE tax thresholds. The last increase was in 2011,
cost of living continues to rise across the board and increasing the taxable threshold of PAYE
will pay dividend in the years to come both in living standards and tax revenue.

Both the proposed minimum wage increase and PAYE threshold increase in the will have an
immediate positive impact on the 17,000 public service employees and approximately
30,000 plus we employ. Please don’t quote me on those exact figures.

While the MoU has been a great platform for policy dialogue and is proving itself to be a
useful mechanism, I believe there is a real opportunity for us to further strengthen this
engagement to gain greater political capital & champions that will assist in accelerating
structural reforms to promote economic transformation.

One of such opportunities is the establishment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee that can focus
all aspects of Private Sector, among them trade, investment, regulation, taxation,
legislation, and so forth. A sub-committee may serve as a focal point to keep our decision
makers informed and updated on economic issues affecting us now and in the future. The
active participation in policy formation from business will ensure that Government will be
making policy decisions in the best interest of the economy. We are also encouraged that
the discussions and relationship is progressing to a point where there is an intention to have
SICCI represent private sector interests on the Budget Strategy Committee – we remain
hopeful this can be progress and formalised before the next budget cycle.

Growth Sectors
Now more than ever, stronger economic growth is a necessity however as highlighted by
the Governor last week “our current rate of economic growth is far to slow” and will not
sufficiently provide for their demands in health, education & infrastructure. Our population
demographics demands that we must invest for growth. To develop sustainable sectors,
will require foreign investment and we need the fundamental building blocks to be in place
as a pre-requisite for investment. Investments in Tourism, Agriculture, Mining or
Infrastructure development will first and foremost require access to land in a manner that is
transparent and streamlined.

Both Tourism, Agriculture & Mining developments will most likely occur outside of Urban
Centers which sit outside of formal structures of land ownership. Unlocking land and
partnering with our traditional landowners is fundamental to creating sustainable economic
growth that will accelerate investment & capital these strategic sectors.

Rather than simply exporting our raw natural resources we must look for opportunities to
add value to these resources within the country as a means of creating additional economic
activities – jobs and growth. In a study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce called
the Private Sector Scan to help identify and understand the key constraints to business;
Land, infrastructure & corruption were identified as some of the key issues continuing
affecting private sector growth. I believe institutionalizing the process is an innovative way
to progress this complex, sensitive but fundamental issue.

Before closing I would like to quickly take this opportunity to acknowledge the Royal
Solomon Islands Police force in the impressive work they have done in the last few weeks. I
know a lot of business houses are grateful for the good work. I would like to thank you thosethat were able to provide support. RSIPF have demonstrated to our communities their
ability to protect and serve our citizens and this will go a long way in the restoration of trust
we have in our law & order. The MoU we have in place has enabled the business
community to provide and support the RSIPF maintaining an environment of stability and

In closing Ladies & Gentlemen.
We look forward to the vision our leaders have in place for us and look forward to
opportunities to further strengthen our relationship. As a key stakeholder in the economy
we would like to reaffirm our position in supporting the Governments Policy, delivery and
implementation. With much respect Hon. Prime Minister we also look forward to your kind
consideration in some of the concerns & initiatives of our member business’s & employees
that we represent.

The Solomon Islands National Development Strategy of 2016-2035 acknowledges that
“private sector led economic growth needs to be encouraged & facilitated” and we look
forward to being a partner in developing and implementing policies to meet stated
Government objectives.

Thank you very much & God bless our Solomon Islands.


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