Home Opinion OPINION: We CARE 200 Days Policy Statements

OPINION: We CARE 200 Days Policy Statements

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Former Opposition Leader Matthew Wale and former MP for Small Malaita Rick Hou. Leaders of the CARE coalition.
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B.A, Tomasi, Honiara

A few of the “We CARE” coalition 200 policy principles recently witnessed in the newspaper prompted me to write this article. These policy principles of interest include: free education policy; a 15% salary increase for teachers and public servants; national and provincial hospital facility improvement; and efficient drug stocking strategies. These policy rationales are based on commitment and dedication to improving education, healthcare, and public service. While these policy principles may sound beneficial, it is important to consider the potential implications and feasibility of implementing such wide-ranging changes all at once. I will discuss one at a time.

First, the “free education policy.” In the Solomon Islands, the free education policy is not a new policy idea. Some years ago, it was already tested or introduced during the Dr Derek Sikua-led coalition when Mathew Wale was the Minister for Education. The policy was successfully launched in 2009 but failed to achieve its principal objectives. In other words, the policy was a total failure due to many implementation factors. Hence, my fear of this policy strategy is that history may repeat itself. While the idea of providing free education is noble, the past failure of the policy suggests that there are underlying issues that need to be addressed for it to succeed. Two key factors that contributed to the past failure were the poor state of the economy in terms of its sustainability and inadequate infrastructure. These issues must be resolved in order for the policy to be successful this time around.

Lest we forget, this policy strategy cannot be successfully implemented with donor support, but   rather requires a solid foundation within our own economic structures. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully evaluate and address these underlying issues before moving forward with any similar policy initiatives in the future. It is imperative that we learn from past mistakes and take into account all factors that may impact the success of such policies. As expressed earlier, while the noble intention is undeniably noble, truth be told that it won’t be achieved within a span of 200 days. The public must be informed that this is just another strategy to gain attention and support from the public.

Apart from the local economy, inadequate infrastructure is another factor contributing to this once failed policy. With the higher influx of students, inadequate number of classrooms cannot absorb the higher number of students. Practically, this will lead to overcrowding and, potentially, a poor learning and teaching environment. In addition, the lack of proper facilities such as classrooms, libraries, and laboratories will hinder the students’ ability to learn effectively. Without adequate resources, students may struggle to access necessary materials and support, ultimately impacting their academic performance. To embrace quality learning and a better outcome, the issue of inadequate infrastructure must be dealt with first before expecting positive results.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) reformed School infrastructure development policy still cannot achieve its strategic objectives with this poor state of our economy. Despite the efforts made by MEHRD to improve school infrastructure, the lack of funding and resources still hinders the progress of these projects. The current economic challenges faced by the country have limited the government’s ability to allocate sufficient funds towards education development. Without a stronger economy to support these initiatives, the goals of the reform policy may not be fully realized. Without first addressing these economic challenges, schools cannot create a more conducive learning environment that promotes academic achievement and student well-being.

Therefore, it is crucial for party leaders to recognize the importance of proper infrastructure in facilitating a quality education for all students, rather than jumping on a strategy that never will happen.  With the current state of our economy, the so-called CARE policy will never achieve its noble intention, despite how many sweet words are used to promote it. It will be just another strategy unless and until there are changes within our economic structures. The same will be true for the proposed 15% salary increase for teachers and public servants.

Another policy of interest is the 15% pay raise for public servants and teachers. While this policy principle is another noble tactic, it’s another difficult strategy to achieve in a span of 200 days as it also depends on the state of our economy. Implementing a 15% pay raise for public servants and teachers would require a significant amount of funding, which may not be feasible given the current economic conditions. Hence, this policy strategy is another fallacy and strategy to trap the general public. As a public servant, it’s really hard for to believe this policy strategy because it will take another 10-15 years more to address issues relating to our economy.

The same applies to improving the National Referral Hospital and all our provincial-based hospitals. This policy rationale will be another challenge because of the narrow basis of our economy. While turning to donor partners is a quick means of obtaining funding to support such initiatives, there are more sustainable solutions for the long term. Hence, such a policy strategy is another tactic to gain momentous support from the public. Therefore, it is important for us to critically analyze and put these policy principles to the test in order to see if they are truly viable and effective in improving our healthcare system in the long term. We need to ensure that any policy decisions made are not just for short-term gains but for the overall betterment of our healthcare infrastructure. By thoroughly evaluating and implementing these policy principles, we can work towards creating a sustainable and resilient healthcare system that will benefit our country for years to come. Hence, this CARE coalition policy strategy is another misconception because it cannot be achieved within the first 200 days due to the economic challenges that our country still faces to date.

To sum up, it is very important to carefully consider and apply policy principles that put the long-term growth of our home economy ahead of strategies that are only meant to get people’s attention and win short-term political battles. We can ensure that future generations will have a good life by focusing on long-term economic growth and security. Instead of resisting the urge to get something immediately, policymakers must base their choices on sound economic principles and expert research. We can only truly protect our country’s and its people’s economic well-being by carefully and strategically planning. The CARE policy principles, as indicated above, are strategies for political gain only and never will be achieved.

Any government that comes into power must focus on our economy. Our economy is still struggling from Global health pandemic and the November 2021 Riots. On the global front, the Russian-Ukraine and the Palestine – Israel War is also having significant impacts on our economy as well. We should be focusing more on building trade relationships with our trading partners, the largest of whom is China. Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Chris Hipkin realized this when he led a large trade delegation to China in 2023. He described New Zealand relationship with China as critical for economic recovery. The Australian Prime Minister also visited China a few months later in November 2023 where he quoted as saying that it is in Australia’s best interest to have a positive and constructive dialogue with China, its largest trading partner.

It would be foolish for us Solomon Islands not to look to China to boost our economy.

What you think?

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