New Zealand High Commission Honiara, Solomon Islands
Solobis August 2012 newsletter
Welcome to the August 2012 edition of ‘SoloBis’, a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the New Zealand High Commission, Honiara. SoloBis outlines economic and business developments in Solomon Islands likely to be of interest to New Zealand companies.
It is also published on www.nzembassy.com/solomon-islands. For further information on any of these stories, please contact the New Zealand High Commission, Honiara: email@example.com, placing ‘Solobis’ in the subject line.
The 11th Festival of Pacific Arts during early July brought more than 3000 delegates plus foreign and domestic tourists to Honiara and other Solomon Islands towns, creating the country’s biggest-yet event. Despite funding difficulties and delays in venue construction, the Festival went ahead smoothly and has been widely seen as a major success. The traditionally styled Festival village, complete with lake and tree-strung fairy lights, was a highlight. Spectators and participants from 22 countries and territories were quick to note the peaceful, “family” atmosphere around the event. Hotel operators report higher-than-expected revenues for the Festival period.
Running in Honiara at the same time as the Festival was a National Trade and Agricultural show, the first held in several years. PM Gordon Darcy Lilo opened the event and used the opportunity to announce preparations to establish public-private small and medium enterprise “hubs” in Temotu, Makira, Malaita and Guadalcanal. The hubs are intended to help people start and build businesses. The PM says the Ministry of Commerce is working to put in place a Small and Medium Enterprise Support Fund that will provide some direct assistance, mainly in rural areas.
In an acknowledgement of Solomon Islands positive macro-economic environment, the “Honiara Club” of international lenders to Solomon Islands has agreed to allow some new concessional borrowing by the national government on high-value projects. Any proposals will have to be channelled through the country’s Debt Management Advisory Committee, which will advise the Minister of Finance before decisions are made. The 2005 Honiara Club agreement halted Solomon Islands’ international borrowing – which had become unsustainable – and required the government to run balanced budgets or surpluses.
The owners of the Gold Ridge Mine, Allied Gold, have agreed to merge with large Australian gold producer St Barbara Ltd to form a single international mining and exploration company. Allied Gold says the new company will be looking to invest further at Gold Ridge, east of Honiara, and increase production.
Seventy licences for mineral prospecting – 38 of them offshore – are currently held in Solomon Islands, the World Bank says. Minerals being sought include copper, gold, nickel and bauxite. Many of the licences have been granted quite recently. The upsurge in prospecting interest in Solomon Islands, which one industry insider has called one of the last frontiers of global minerals exploration, is giving impetus to the government’s wish to become an accredited member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Solomon Islands became an official candidate for EITI membership in July. Under the initiative, openness is promoted by participating mining companies publicly disclosing their payments to government and the government disclosing its receipt of revenues.
A rebuilt slipway with an 800 tonne capacity is to be opened in Tulagi, Central Province in August. Premier Patteson Mae says the slipway – his province’s largest investment – will be able to manage repairs on larger fishing boats. He says he hopes other business will be attracted by the development, which is jointly owned by the National Provident Fund and shipping/logistics company Silentworld through Sasape International Shipyard Ltd. The previous slipway had fallen into disrepair after its owner, an SOE, went bankrupt in 2009.
Disclaimer: while every effort has been made to ensure that the information in this newsletter is correct, it is drawn from open source reporting and the New Zealand High Commission accepts no liability for its accuracy, nor for any actions or omissions taken on the basis of this information.
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