Over the Christmas and New Year period, my family and I stayed in Honiara to visit my tambu’s. It was encouraging to see the presence of so many PNG companies like Ela Motors, BSP, bemobile, Bishop Brothers, Lamana Development Corporation and so on.
In many respects Honiara feels like what PNG was 10 years ago and it goes without saying that unfortunately the ethnic tensions of several years ago had a deep impact on development in Honiara. I also sympathise with the Solomon Islands because when discussing Honiara to some of my business associates in Australia their reply was the all familair ‘is it safe to do business there?’ Sounds just like what people say about PNG, doesn’t it? Although Honiara is perhaps 80% safer than Port Moresby. Certainly if no one else will invest in the Solomons than it is most likely that PNG companies will in the next couple of years.
The PNG and SI relationship is a close one and it was only recently that the PNG government had given several millions to have the Solomon Islands Chancery built in Port Moresby. It may have raised some political questions in Honiara and PNG but overall it’s probabaly no different to what the Australian government gives to us in PNG.
So with the growing PNG investments in Honiara, it is only fair to expect that our government presence in SI should reflect support for PNG businesses there and above all else setting a good example of what a good bigger melanesian brother should be.
Unfortunately our government has let us down again and simply perpetuated the perception that PNG is just big, loud and corrupt. Last year former PNG High Commissioner to SI, Aiwa Olmi was recalled amongst allegations that he was involved in a sex scandal and to make it worse this was the third high commission official to be recalled within a year.
What’s even more embarrasing was that I was told by people in Honiara that the money given for the PNG Chancery to be built was missappropriated and that was why the building stood incomplete down the road from the Australian High Commission. Apparently nothing has been done on the building for over a year now.
Certainly a case of too much acting and not enough action.