Australia’s flagship Solomon Islands Infrastructure Program (SIIP) has agreed to fast track redevelopment of six markets across Malaita, Guadalcanal, Honiara, Isabel and Western Province, improve provincial ports and launch a new SIIP website.
SIIP is in its first phase of implementation. Work on the markets project is expected to commence by December 2022. These priorities were set at SIIP’s second joint Steering Committee meeting, co-chaired by Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Jimmie Rodgers and Australian High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan.
Given the volume of high-profile and urgent work coming down the SIIP pipeline, the Committee agreed to increase its meetings from every six months to quarterly.
Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Rodgers emphasised that SIIP’s SBD1.5 billion infrastructure program is crucial for realising the economic potential of Solomon Islands. “SIIP will work with our local industries to build capacity, ensure appropriate designs and create employment while delivering national infrastructure such as markets which drive economic growth.”
Australian High Commissioner Dr Strahan said social issues and economic growth were interdependent, and SIIP would drive local engagement and locally-led construction activities wherever possible.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp focus the importance of sustainable economic growth and has highlighted the need to create meaningful economic opportunities, both in Honiara and the provinces, for everyone, including young people, women, and marginalised groups,” said High Commissioner Strahan.
“For many, this means connecting gardens to markets to create family income. The new markets in Buala (Isabel), Malu’u (Malaita) and Seghe (Western province) will ensure people have economic opportunities that are accessible and inclusive. This will ensure the continued generation of much needed daily income, which Australia, through SIIP, is proud to facilitate,” he said.
While based on the Gizo market, the design of the additional markets will be adjusted to improve functionality and coverage of commodities such as fish.
The locations of the markets in Honiara (one) and Guadalcanal (two) will be determined shortly.
The SIIP Hub briefed the Steering Committee, which includes the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of National Planning and Development Coordination, Susan Sulu, and Finance and Treasury, Mckinnie Dentana, on SIIP’s wide range of upcoming infrastructure activities, including by helping to realise Bina Harbour in Malaita through a water and sanitation feasibility study and undertaking an assessment to improve and expand Noro Port. The Steering Committee also noted the progress made on the New Zealand led project to upgrade the Taro and Seghe runways and the Australian led design for the Naha Birthing Centre and Urban Clinic.
Dr Strahan complimented the program team for remaining flexible, adaptable and accessible to the changing economic circumstances of Solomon Islands.
“Despite recent challenges of civil unrest and COVID, SIIP has laid the groundwork for an ambitious ten-year program of construction and strengthening the private sector.” Dr Strahan said.
SIIP complements a range of other Australia-Solomon Islands development partnerships, including the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, the Australia Awards program, the Australian Pacific Training Coalition and Strongim Bisnis.
“As Australia’s flagship investment in Solomon Islands for promoting national connectivity and building climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure, SIIP will work with these other programs to deliver SIIP’s key point of difference to traditional infrastructure projects – a long term focus on inclusive infrastructure, capacity building, inclusion of lifecycle asset planning and local opportunities for employment and business,” said Dr Strahan.
SIIP will continue working closely with a range of partners, including the local business sector, to progress the initiatives approved by the Steering Committee. Funded by the Australian Government, SIIP is a SBD1.5 billion partnership launched last year between Australia and Solomon Islands to enhance Solomon Islands economic growth by supporting government and industry to plan, deliver and manage economic infrastructure.