Dear Editor - Speaking at a meeting at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara on Tuesday this week, Dr. Paul Holden, a leading economist and the Team Leader of the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI), said the Solomon Islands is one of the leading reformers in the Pacific, resulting in growth for a period of 10 years of more than 3 percent.

Dr. Holden explained the country had led reforms in a number of different areas, promoting access to finance, making it easier to register a business, improving the performance of State Owned Enterprises and bringing more women in the formal economy.

Dr. Holden also mentioned that some 35 local companies had provided 1,500 jobs over the past few years and created hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

Coincidentally coming on the heels of Dr. Holden’s address, a new loan scheme was announced for the people of the Solomon Islands.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed during the week between the Central Bank of Solomon Islands and the Ministry of Commerce to establish a new Micro, Small Medium Enterprise Business Loan Scheme.

The scheme to be launched next month will help to bring more local people and businesses to engage in business activities.

The scheme was initiated by the Ministry of Commerce to enable the CBSI to provide greater access to finance for small businesses in the country.

The reported concept of the Loan Scheme is said to reflect the intention of the government’s commitment to provide financial support for the extensions of financial capital to businesses in rural areas and other groups in the productive sectors.

Its purpose is to encourage licensed commercial banks to give more support to the small and medium enterprise sector in the country.

The scheme’s reported guideline highlighted that business loans should include, agricultural productions and processing, timber and wood industries, fishing, tourism, small scale industry or manufacturing, retail trading, professional services and transportation services, and the amount and term of loans that can be nominated under the scheme will be from $20,000 to $1,000,000 with the maximum term of five years.

Referring to sustainable farming, the Australian High Commission in Honiara issued this press release during the week covering the past work experience of a volunteer, Wendy Xiao’s, time in Solomon Islands.

"The Australian New Colombo Plan Scholar is completing a sustainable farming internship at Kastom Garden Association working with training officers to improve farming techniques across the country.

“We are currently working on a programme called ‘Demonstration Garden Training’ which has seen us travel to remote villages in the Western and Malaita provinces to conduct trainings on farming techniques with local farmers,” said Wendy.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to be working with local farmers in the rural areas, teaching them about seed saving, pesticide production, compost making and other simple ways to improve farming.”

A Bachelor of Science student from the University of Sydney, Wendy recently completed four months study on tropical agriculture at the Solomon Islands National University.

“It was a pleasure learning alongside local students at SINU, and I am inspired by their hopes, aspirations and passion for agriculture,” said Wendy.

“I have enjoyed my time at SINU, studying various aspects of tropical agriculture and learning about the challenges faced by subsistence farmers in a developing country. In Australia, we have large scale farming for domestic and international markets, while most farmers here engage in subsistence farming.”

Wendy’s study and volunteering is possible under the New Colombo Plan, an Australian Government initiative in which exceptional undergraduates are supported to deepen their relationships and understanding in the Indo-Pacific region.

“New Colombo Plan scholarships are highly prestigious, with only 100 awarded in 2016. Wendy is the first New Colombo Plan scholar to come to Solomon Islands and I congratulate her on her successes at SINU and with Kastom Garden Association,” Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne said.

“I would recommend studying and volunteering in Solomon Islands to all Australian students who want to get a better understanding of one of our nearest neighbours and help improve the livelihoods of its people,” said Wendy.

This year, Solomon Islands will host a further 78 short-term New Colombo Plan students from four Australian Universities; James Cook University, Bond University, Australian Catholic University and the University of Sydney.

These students will undertake projects in a range of sectors including education, sport, health, agriculture and environmental sustainability.”

 The Solomon Islands is fortunate to have many volunteers, especially in the agriculture, health and education sectors and no opportunity should be missed to express thanks for their voluntary work.

The Solomon Islands is indeed fortunate, too, to have a free media, including the SIBC, and no finer expression of appreciation could have come this week from Chief Sotere Ria of the Isunavutu community in South Guadalcanal when he told a reporter for the Solomon Star newspaper, “The work of the mainstream media particularly print and radio broadcasting for keeping the isolated villagers informed and connected to the current affairs of the government is very important.

“Without the media people living in the remote communities of Solomon Islands will not feel part  of the country and have no sense of belonging to a nation that is made up of geographically widely scattered islands.

“The media is the only means of communication that pins down issues of development badly needed in the country and most importantly in the rural areas.”

Chief Sotere said he urged reporters and media organisations to continue with their good job by informing this country and not to give in to obstacles that threaten their work.

He asserted that the rural communities of south Guadalcanal are very supportive of the work of the media, since they believed that through broadcasting and publishing of issues affecting the lives of rural settlers, national leaders and donor partners realised their failures, and thus respond.

The chief added the government must recognise and respect the work our hardworking news organisation, by collaborating with them to unveil development issues this country needs to have addressed.

 Solomon Islands is set to have another type of brew if one reads of the successful introduction of its own brand of locally grown tea.

Solomon Tea Company Limited has celebrated the introduction of its first product into the domestic market, first locally owned and incorporated Tea Company in Solomon Islands.

A media release from the company stated, it spotted a gap in the market to introduce a unique and high-quality tea product blended specifically for the Solomon Islands market.

It says tea being a very important beverage in the world has its unique market in the country.

Solomon Tea adds it becomes natural to develop a brand and product that Solomon Islands can be proud of.

It says Solomon Tea’s processing involves a subtle method of reheating and drying the tea leaves to obtain the optimal moisture content and consistent quality for the country’s tea lovers.

The company desires to provide a product that would truly connect with the people of the Solomon Islands and ensure the taste is truly distinct and captures the spirit of this nation – down to earth, strong and bold.

Congratulations on this unique local, commercial venture!

Congratulations are in order, too, in respect of the new East Medical Clinic in the EMC building in Honiara.

The opening of this clinic fulfils the life- long dream of Sir Dr Nathan Kere with the support of his family and friends.

Not at all worthy of praise but condemnation, if reports are true, is the story of people who broke windows and doors in the fire ravished old Gizo Hospital to steal what remained of hospital furniture and properties.
 
Shame on those people.
 
Yours sincerely.

Frank Short
http://www.solomonislandsinfocus.com/