Solomon Islands caretaker PM Sogavare says government needs to secure more loans

Aerial view of Honiara, Solomon Islands (Photo: OCCRP)

Solomon Islands needs to secure more loans to fully deliver projects in the National Infrastructure Priority Pipeline 2023 (NIPP 2023), caretaker Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stated.

In his keynote address at the launch of NIPP2023 in Honiara, the caretaker Prime Minister said reliable connectivity is crucial for the infrastructure ecosystem.

However, he highlighted that as not all projects under NIPP2023 are funded, Solomon Islands Government (SIG) would be happy to loan to deliver these unfunded projects under the Land and Maritime Connectivity Project (LMCP).

“If you look at the NIPP2023 you will know the status of each infrastructure project. Some are funded, while others are not and Solomon Islands Government is happy to loan and we will do that to build these infrastructures for our people.

“In fact, under the LMCP, we have loan components in its finance mix. I believe some of these infrastructures like those in our big Islands like Guadalcanal, Malaita and also the Western Province can pay for themselves after they are built because economic activities along these roads can raise enough revenue to pay back these loans and so we will proceed along that line.

“Reliable connectivity is crucial for this ecosystem of infrastructure because without the availability of transport, businesses will not invest, tourists are put off visiting, produce cannot get to the markets, people will not be able to get to schools and health centers.

“Transport is therefore central and it’s a priority in the pipeline.”

Sogavare pointed out that the country’s existing infrastructures are remains of the trading, colonial and World War II eras and that some of the road networks are only logging roads.

Since independence, he said Solomon Islands had not really built any transformative infrastructures.

The Caretaker Prime Minister added that most of the social infrastructures standing in the country have been built by Solomon Islands Government (SIG) with the support of the country’s development partners and thus, SIG is aiming to build more infrastructures and rehabilitate the existing ones.

He said climate change has an adverse impact on some of the country’s infrastructures.

“Frequent heavy rains, storms, king tides, floods and rapid sea level rise for instance huge sections of roads in Malaita have been inundated by king tides and the newly built bridge in Mbokokimbo in West Guadalcanal is now cut off from the roads because of constant flooding.”

Whilst thanking the country’s development partners – Australia, New Zealand and Japan – for their invaluable assistance in the infrastructure sector over the years, Sogavare said there is still room to further strengthen partnerships in this sector with the building of more climate change-resilient infrastructures.

He also thanked China for its support and its prospect for more engagement under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Development Initiative (GDI).

He commended the successful approach taken in Makira-Ulawa Province under Solomon Islands Road and Aviation Projects (SIRAP) Phase Two and the LMCP.

Besides the two wharves that are going to be built under SIRAP Phase Two, the 17-km stretch of road from Gwounaru to Dala in Malaita Province are also supposed to be rehabilitated under this project.

However, he said the project does not include the huge sections of road in North Malaita which continues for another 104.8 km from Gwounaru in West Kwara’ae to Fouia in North Malaita.

He added that the rehabilitation of the 21 km stretch of East Malaita Road also faces challenges from ongoing heavy rain.

The caretaker Prime Minister said these roads need to be sealed, otherwise huge amounts of money are going to be spent every year on rehabilitation.

He also emphasised that the Aola to Marau Road on Guadalcanal is also another important infrastructure that needs support from development partners, adding that it is one of the roads whose rehabilitation is covered under the Townsville Peace Agreement.

Sogavare said to date, no development partner has shown interest in assisting with the rehabilitation of this stretch of road. Solomon Star understands that a major infrastructure project SIG has secured a loan arrangement for is the Solomon Islands Broadband Infrastructure Project (SIBIP) which will see the construction of 161 towers nationwide to improve mobile network coverage and information development, improve telecommunications network infrastructure and promote national economic and social developments and narrow the digital divide and implement United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.