Makira – Still no provincial wharf after 50 years of talk

This is footage I took last week of cargo unloading from a ship at Kira Kira, capital of Makira-Ulawa province in Solomon Islands. Fortunately it was a fine day and the sea was calm.

For a province with population of 100,000, it is a national disgrace that there is still no wharf at the provincial capital.

I spent 8 days in Makira in January, including 4 days in Kira Kira. Although I love Makira and our people I was very disappointed with services and development in Kira Kira, which I could see have gone backwards in recent years, despite the abundant natural resources and billions of dollars of foreign aid poured into the Solomons over the past decade.

I have been visiting Kira Kira and Makira for nearly 38 years, since I was born in Solomons. My family village is Tawatana in West Makira.

Some key problems I saw were:

1) Banking – 5 years ago I could access my overseas money from Kira Kira. This time I could not. Here’s a showstopper for any external private investment or tourism.

2) Telcommunications:

  • 2 years ago even though the Internet only worked in Kira Kira, it worked ok. This time it was unusable in Kira Kira ie impossible to send an email.
  • The phone coverage on the island was worse this time than 2 years ago. At my village we have to walk 2 hours to access 2G phone coverage leaking from Guadalcanal island. There is always talk about new mobile towers. As we say “Coconut talk nomoa”, or just bush stories / hearsay.

3) Transport:

  • The fact there is still no wharf in the provincial capital is an embarassment and shame for government and any major donors that put funding into Makira.
  • The Kira Kira airstrip is still grass, combined with the rainiest weather in Solomons this means flights are regularly cancelled. Let’s not mention the terminal building.
  • There is a single road that runs along most of the length of the island (130km), but due to constant rain, most rivers are regularly flooded and bridges washed out. Many rivers/crossings do not have bridges. Some bridges like the important one “crossing” the Waihoura river was poorly designed/built by a NZ construction company and is unusable.

As a half Australian and half Solomon Islander, I am building business in Makira using my own money to help promote rural development, starting with our beautiful cacao (cocoa) beans for the artisan chocolate market, but this is very hard with the poor services and infrastructure in Makira. Makira is one of the least developed parts of the Solomon Islands, with lowest levels of income per capita in Solomons despite being rich in cacao and coconut.

Solomon Islanders wake up, ask more and expect more from your politicians and others who are decision makers. Tell them to stop giving away roofing iron and water tanks and start progressing important provincial infrastructure and services. There is much natural wealth in the Solomons, enough to build a strong economy if there was strong leadership, governance, accountability and also a functional private sector that was not dependent on donor handouts.

If there are others out there that are able to assist in the development of Makira, then please contact me.

Brian Atkin

Founder and Managing Director of Makira Gold, premium quality cacao from Solomon Islands. www.makiragold.com

Some facts about Solomon Islands:

  • Amongst the highest rates of gender based violence in the world, although many locals (oddly enough males) will dispute this.
  • Ranked a lowly #156 out of 188 on the UNDP Human Development Index, this is the lowest ranking in the Asia Pacific region.
  • Health indicators are very poor, for example 1 in 3 children suffer stunted growth from malnutrition, this is the highest rate of childhood stunting in the Pacific.
  • Ranked #116 out of 190 on the World Bank global “Ease of doing business” index. Seems quite positive, so when looking at the breakdown of the ranking, the “paying tax” score is a major anomaly and is ranked in the 30s, close to Australia. Possibly further analysis required on that category.

This Article is also available on LinkedIn.20180204_134353

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