OPPOSITION Leader Hon Matthew Wale says Solomon Islands should not see its future in mining but rather as a transitionary enabler from the wealth generated to invest in other sustainable sectors.
In his Budget Debate speech in Parliament on Monday this week, Hon Wale said mining is not a renewable resource and although mining as an industry may plug the gap left by logging, the same risks we experienced with logging are likely to come with mining.
“We must not see our future in mining. Rather, we should view mining as a transitionary enabler and use the wealth generated from it to invest in other sustainable sectors,” he said.
Hon Wale said this requires good and just laws to ensure fair returns from this industry and that these are invested in the future generations of Solomon Islanders.
The Opposition Leader said the government need to set up in legislation a Sovereign Wealth Fund to host all revenue from non-renewable resources for this purpose.
“If we do not take such a step, future leaders will be debating the loss of wealth from minerals, much like we are saying about the theft that has been perpetrated by logging industry, enabled by leaders,” he said.
The Aoke/Langalanga MP said the economy of the next 40 years is in processing.
Hon Wale said the incremental steps taken to get Bina Harbor project closer to processing fish are in the right direction and laudable.
He said policy and law must now mandate that all tuna caught in Solomon Islands waters is processed in-country.
“We mustn’t keep postponing this matter. This will generate the sustainable jobs for our people,” he said.
The Opposition Leader adds agriculture processing remains the most promising of all sectors.
He said Solomon Islands is blessed with large fertile land available that can produce tropical foods that Australia and New Zealand need in their winter months to say nothing of our own food security needs.
But yet again, Hon Wale said the 2023 budget is another missed opportunity for agriculture.
“Token allocations, will get token growth – not the game-changer curve-jumping growth our economy needs. Agriculture processing alone has the potential to engage most of our young people in productive gainful participation.”
“Of course, investment in agriculture processing must be supported with appropriate skills training and trade/marketing facilitation.”
The Opposition Leader said because of sovereign risks and market failure, there might be the need for government intervention in these areas to mitigate the associated risks and attract the right investments.
However, he said we ought not to keep postponing these initiatives.