PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela says Solomon Islands cannot continue to rely on the generosity of her donors to continue to offer development aid into the future.
Mr Houenipwela was speaking at the New Zealand Pacific Business Council in Auckland recently.
“It is politically and economically prudent that Solomon Islands gradually replace aid with trade, which will in turn stimulate a strong economy driven by the private sector and not the government, as the case is at the present time,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Solomon Islands is looking to review its bilateral aid assistance programs, with a view to incorporate commercial trade activities tied with manufacturing technology; so the Government can bring the technology to transform our agriculture, fisheries, and agro-forestry sector into manufacturing sectors as well.
“New Zealand as our close neighbor, stands out as a favorable friend we should pursue close trading cooperation with,” he said.
The Prime Minister also highlighted that the Government also holds the view that considerable economic benefit can be gained through trade cooperation agreements.
He said Trade Agreements are designed to create import/export business opportunities in fisheries and processed seafood products, down-stream processed wood products, agricultural products – coffee, pineapples, pawpaw, sugar cane, and forest products.
“Solomon Islands has abundant supplies of these natural resources in particular with agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, tourism attractions, and a rich and diverse culture offering so much potential for conversion into commercial gain, and contributing to wealth creation,” the Prime Minister said.
However, he said with these abundant resources, there are a number of challenges that prevail and needs to be addressed before realization of the potentials can be achieved. These challenges include:
(a). Lack of technological know-how to utilize these resources to its capacity. The country has lacked up till now, appropriate technology for converting these resources into value-added marketable products for export and import substitution or domestic consumption.
(b). There is huge potential for technology that will transform subsistence agriculture into commercial agricultural farming products, fisheries and other aquatic resources into manufactured and processed fisheries and seafood products.
He said these challenges can be addressed if we remain focused and committed.
The Prime Minister is currently in Australia after his state visit in New Zealand and will return on Friday.