The establishment and operation of a diplomatic mission is an expensive exercise especially for Solomon Islands in light of the value of its currency but the gains outweigh the costs, the Supervising Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Chris Laore told Parliament.
Minister Laore uttered this remark yesterday when responding to a question by the Leader of the Independent Group, Hon Derek Sikua about the details of the cost-benefit analysis undertaken by the Ministry to justify the establishment of a Solomon Islands diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom in London.
He said the Government initiative to establish a diplomatic mission in London is a strategic move that will see the enhancement of its bilateral cooperation with the United Kingdom and also bolster collaboration with key London-based institutions such as the Commonwealth and International Maritime Organisation.
“We should appreciate that international diplomacy is an expensive exercise especially for Solomon Islands.
“The value of our Solomon Islands currency, coupled with the high cost of operating an office in some of the world’s most expensive cities and our remoteness from these centres of international diplomacy exacerbates the costs.
“But these issues should not deter us as a sovereign nation from engaging with our bilateral and multilateral partners and the wider global community.
“It must be noted that the decision to establish a mission in London has taken into account the cost analysis.
“We (Government) always gather the balance between costs and gains of establishing a mission before proceeding to do so.”
Minister Laore said the work of establishing a Solomon Islands diplomatic mission to the UK in London started in late 2016, adding that the devaluation of the sterling pound last year had alleviated some of the initial costs for the setup phase.
“The most expensive item as is the case with any of our other diplomatic missions is rental for the diplomatic office and residents of our representatives.”
He said given Solomon Islands situation as a small and least-developed nation, it needs to enhance its global engagements and thus the London diplomatic mission project is another step forward in achieving this objective.
Minister Laore added that strengthening diplomatic ties with UK at the bilateral level is essential to tap into its cooperation arrangements in the areas of development, education, economic and social cooperation, investment, trade, tourism, climate change, technology transfers and so forth.
“Presently the UK is one of the two largest contributors to the European development fund resources and Solomon Islands is benefitting from these resources under its partnership with the European Union.
“The UK, as we are all aware is a super power and one of the global agenda drivers and our close collaborations with them will be of interest to us,” Mr Laore said.
When expounding on the importance of enhancing cooperation with the Commonwealth and IMO, Minister Laore said Solomon Islands is an active member of both key organisations.
He said the Commonwealth has reduced its operations in the Pacific and operates from its headquarters in London, focussing its budget on development programmes.
Mr Laore said this cutback in operations means that funding for development programmes can only be better accessed if Solomon Islands development needs are brought directly before the Commonwealth in London.
“Our proposed mission in London will enable our direct collaboration with the Commonwealth secretariat so as to ensure the sensitivity of our development needs and the kind of programmes we can tap into to address these development needs.”
In reference to IMO, Minister Laore said the IMO is an important organisation that governs maritime affairs globally.
He said as an island country, Solomon Islands has attached great significance to the work and jurisdictional purview and roles of the IMO and the establishment of a Solomon Islands diplomatic mission in London and its accreditation to IMO will definitely bolster the country’s collaboration and work with the IMO on programmes to develop Solomon Islands maritime services.
Other factors that Minister Laore attributed the Government decision to establish a diplomatic mission in London are the keeping of Solomon Islands historical ties with the UK, Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) and strengthening the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited’s (GPPOL’s) marketing capacity in the UK and globally.
Expounding on the Solomon Islands-UK historical ties, Mr said Solomon Islands shares historical ties with the UK as a former British Protectorate and thus the first Solomon Islands diplomatic mission should have been established in London.
He said with the close ties between Solomon Islands and Great Britain, the latter continued to maintain a High Commission in Honiara and that the establishment of a Solomon Islands diplomatic mission to UK in London will serve to further galvanise a long-forged relationship.
On Brexit, Minister Laore said Britain has voted to move out of the European Union, a process which will take up till 2019 to finalise.
He said Brexit provides an opportunity for Solomon Islands to create greater cooperation with Great Britain and the rest of UK, adding that global assessment by the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group of nations has encouraged its members to enhance collaboration with UK in terms of trade and development programmes in the wake of Brexit.
On the prospect of enhancing GPPOL’s marketing capacity in the UK, the Supervising Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade said Liverpool is one of the biggest recipients of oil palm export from GPPOL, an export commodity of high quality.
He said the returns from this financial export are significant and Solomon Islands is looking at further increasing the level of these returns if plans to expand GPPOL are carried through.
Minister Laore said this is the kind of commodity trading that the Government wants to encourage and the establishment of a diplomatic mission in London will help Solomon Islands access further trade markets.
-PM’s Press Secretariat