The Finance Minister, the Hon, Harry Kuma, revealed in his 2020 recent budget speech in Parliament that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected to be around 2.3 per cent in 2020.
In terms of GDP growth, the Minister talked, specifically, of the Government’s approach to move to a more sustainable path in the forestry sector over the medium-term.
While I am sure many will welcome a forecast to move to more sustainability, the extent to which the forest resources have been managed in a sustainable manner in the past has effectively been limited. I have in mind what happened in both 2004 and 2007 when round log exports substantially increased in contrast to the needed sustainable harvest levels.
In those earlier years, such a rate of log exports should have moved the government to seriously re-visit its forest policy and to have intervened constructively. Instead the government continued to grant logging licenses to companies and landowners to carry out logging on customary lands.
Writing in 2010 in a paper co-authored by Paul Roughan and Sammy Wara with the broad heading of ‘Solomon Islands Country Report’, the authors outlined some of the then approaches to sustainable forest management, such as the AusAID funded Forest Management Project (Phase 11) and the EU funded Sustainable Forest Management Project.
The latter project was expected to end in 2010 and it is not clear whether the AusAID funded project continues.
It currently leaves open the question of whether donor assistance is still being obtained to aid the Solomon Islands government with the proposal to move to a more sustainable forest management path.
Building a sustainable future through effective management of forests and forestry will be challenging after so many years of unsustainable logging which has had serious impacts on forest land availability.
At the social and economic level, the sustainable development and management of forests can also have a positive impact on the people who depend on this important resource and, already, we have learned that 5000 Solomon Islanders still dependent on logging.
A paper entitled ‘Solomon Islands Forestry Outlook Study.’ prepared by Richard Pauku at the UN Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in 2009, said: