Monday 7 September, Honiara – The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), as the peak body representing private sector, on Thursday 3 September facilitated a roundtable discussion with a high-level delegation from the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) which focused on ‘Standards and Compliance’ in the local manufacturing industry.
Targeted outcomes for the roundtable was to raise awareness for key SIG partners on issues faced by compliant companies in the manufacturing industry due to the absence and/or lack of enforcement of and non-compliance to Standards and policies and to discuss practical solutions that will enable a fair and competitive environment for businesses and companies in the manufacturing sector.
The private sector was represented by heads and senior representatives of some of the biggest companies in the manufacturing industry in Solomon Islands and members of SICCI’s Manufacturing Industry Working Group (MIWG).
On the Government side, representing the Prime Minister’s Office were Chief of Staff; Robson Djokovic and Deputy Secretary to PM; Dr Derek Mane including the Commissioner of Labour, Mr. Josiah Manehia; Director Price Control/Consumer Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Hou’ua; Director Foreign Investment, Lynnette Tuhanuku from the Ministry of Commerce; and Dr Nemia Bainivalu, Undersecretary for Health Improvement from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Also, in attendance was Honiara City Clerk, Mr Rence Sore.
The roundtable featured presentations on the standards in the manufacturing industry, enforcement of standards and policy gaps.
The discussions highlighted unfair trading behaviour, legislation breaches, lack of implementation and monitoring of legislation, uncompetitive cheap prices by competitors, illegal imports and counterfeit products as the main issues affecting the manufacturing industry.
In was noted that in 2019 alone, the total tax paid by those in the room from the private sector (including excise, GTS, corporate tax) was more than SBD600 million which means that tax paid to Government from these companies in total made up 15% of Government revenue in that year.
However, a level playing field continues to be a SICCI concern, as it is important that businesses coexist in a spirit of competition all the while complying with Government legal framework. Some examples where compliance is expected is in fulfilling company obligations as regulated by Government, adhering to tax regulations and complying with Occupational health and safety standards.
In March, the SICCI Board established the Manufacturing Industry Working Group (MIWG) in March to identify and provide recommendations on how to help the manufacturing sector contribute more to economic employment and growth.
MIWG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South Pacific Oil (SPO), Mr Carson Korowa said the MIWG will support SICCI as an advisory body to ensure regular and informed communication between the manufacturing sector and SIG.
“The Group also provides a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to Industry-related problems faced by the current manufacturers and identify priority areas and define action plan, with a particular focus on Taxation, Quality and Health, Safety and Environment,” Mr Korowa said.
“By working with Government in achieving a level playing field we will help make Solomon Islands attractive as an investment destination. At the same time in order to bring in foreign investors we need to secure the investments that are already here,” he said.
SICCI is encouraged by the willingness shown by Government, indicated through the strong representation from the Prime Minister’s Office, for more similar forums between Government and the private sector.
“Forums like this allows for frank discussions on issues affecting the private sector and is unique because it includes key SIG bodies and private sector representatives sitting at the same table and discuss constructively as professionals,” SICCI Advocacy Officer, John Ta’amora, said.