SOLOMON Islands is at crossroads says Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP) Wing Leader Hon Matthew Wale.
These sentiments were highlighted during the SIPD Congress held at the Heritage Park Hotel on Saturday 26th November 2022.
Hon Wale said the issues our country faces are challenging, although some of these challenges could be described as ‘self-inflicted’.
He said the Solomon Islands’ population is around 720 thousand and 70% of that population is under the age of 35.
“This is a significant youth bulge. Almost 90% of that demographic is unemployed. And this is in a country well endowed with natural resources. I contend this must force us to give priority attention to economic reforms that create sustainable jobs for our people,” he said.
The SIDP Wing Leader said the current government has failed in this very important priority for our young.
Hon Wale said the exploitative economic model that has benefited very few that have been protected and perpetuated by this government cannot continue.
He said a few, usually leaders, have been the primary beneficiary of this economy.
“The vast majority has not shared in the wealth that has been generated from the unsustainable exploitation of their resources, especially women and the young. This cannot continue. This is a driver of discontent, corruption and a significant ingredient in social instability,” he said.
Speaking at the Congress, Hon Wale said our environment is the guarantor of our economy.
He said the careless, irresponsible and unsustainable exploitation of the environment over so many years has not only made us poorer and competing for fewer resources, but its impact on the environment will be adverse for decades to come.
“Careless, irresponsible, and often corrupt leadership have bequeathed a much damaged degraded environment to our young,” Wale said.
He said environment conservation and preservation must be central to sustainable economic development and growth.
Hon Wale said growth that comes from environmental degradation cannot be sustainable development.
“Environment policy therefore must respond appropriately to this great need,” he said.
The SIPD wing leader said it is likely that in 10 years, our population will reach one million, given the significant youth bulge.
“We will reach that milestone in a context of a degraded environment and natural resources, and reduced land mass due to climate change and sea level rise,” Wale said.
He said a higher population, with less available resources and land mass, will have its own challenges.
Hon Wale said there would be increased competition for fewer resources and land.
“This is an ingredient of social conflict,” he stressed.
The SIDP wing leader said responsible Government policy must be to ensure that the fewer resources provide the maximum number of jobs our people need without further degrading the environment.
“Our economy for the next 40 years should be based on processing and value-adding from our natural resources. We must harvest significantly fewer logs, and process all of it. We must harvest significantly less of our tuna, and process all of it, and so forth,” he said.
Hon Wale said such a policy direction would create more jobs for our people.