The 12th Australia – Solomon Islands Business Forum was held in Brisbane from 17-18 of April under the theme ‘Solomon Islands: Open for Business Again’. Throughout the forum participants explored opportunities to build closer business partnerships and connections with Australia to grow the local economy and jobs.

Australia’s Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayre’s meeting with young entrepreneur Betty Akao from Betzla Arts & Crafts. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

In his opening remarks Chair of the Australia-Pacific Islands Business Council Ian Clarke highlighted the Forum’s long history of forging business partnerships. Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chair Qila Tuhanuku highlighted the need to address Solomon Islands’ trade deficit with Australia and forge new partnerships across all sectors.

In keynote speeches Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga discussed the Solomon Islands Government’s plan to recover from COVID-19 economic shocks. Australia’s Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres highlighted how Australia’s economic partnership in Solomon Islands has grown the economy and created jobs including through trade and investment.

Solomon Islands’ Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga meeting with Australia’s Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

Australian Assistant Trade Minister Ayres told the Forum that since 2019 Australia has worked in partnership with Solomon Islands to deliver SBD $5 billion in nation building and economy enhancing infrastructure. This includes our SBD $1.1 billion partnership to deliver the Coral Sea Cable providing faster and more affordable internet. Australia had continued to improve connectivity through providing telecommunication towers in remote areas of Solomon Islands at an initial cost of SBD $37 million. The Assistant Minister said Australia was working with other development partners to reduce energy costs by building the Tina River Hydro plant.

On the second day of the Forum Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands highlighted Australia’s focus on developing Solomon Islands’ local infrastructure sector and estimated that over 3,000 local jobs were created in the past two years because of Australia’s infrastructure partnerships.

Australia’s High Commissioner Rod Hilton and Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres meeting with Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce (SICCI) Chair Qila Tuhanuku and Vice Chair Namoi Kaluae. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

Assistant Minister Ayres announced that there were around 5,000 Solomon Islands in Australia under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility program. These Solomon Islanders were bringing back skills and experience to Solomon Islands. Labour mobility workers also contributed to Solomon Islands economy through sending money home to their families. Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) Governor Dr Luke Forau said labour mobility workers transferred around $182 million in 2022. He expected this amount to more than double in 2023 and anticipated there was more money being brought back into Solomon Islands as cash.

Australian High Commissioner Rod Hilton outlining the SBD $5 billion spent in Australian infrastructure partnerships. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

The Forum explored opportunities for partnerships in tourism, agribusiness and mining. Roy Lago Lago Head of the implementation unit for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) presented on opportunities for greater trade and investment in these areas through the new agreement.

Australia was pleased to partner with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce to sponsor 14 small business participants from Solomon Islands to attend the Forum. These participants were mostly from the tourism and agribusiness sector and undertook a learning tour and business visit program on 20-21 April before returning to Solomon Islands.



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