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  • Solomon Islands
  • Joseph Daniel Foukona (bio)

The year 2018 was marked by the expectation that the newly formed Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change Government (sidccg) under the prime ministership of Rick Hou would deliver on its promises. When it came into office in November 2017, the sidccg “made strong emphasis on integrity in leadership and governance” (sidccg 2017). As part of its policy implementation, it promised to pursue stabilization of the country’s fiscal situation, restoration of basic services to rural areas, the passing of a number of outstanding pieces of legislation, including the anti-corruption bill, and work on the undersea fiber-optic internet cable project with Australia. The sidccg’s formation was basically a replica of the regime led by Manasseh Sogavare, which was ousted in a no-confidence vote in November 2017 but remained intact and joined forces with Hou’s political grouping to form the new government (rnz 2017). While the sidccg was determined to work together as a coalition pack for a one-year term, the challenge was to effectively implement its policies and achieve related objectives (see sidccg 2017). It was against this background that the sidccg took a pragmatic approach in pursuing the implementation of its policies in 2018 (see sidccg 2017).

Solomon Islands as a country is vulnerable to earthquakes, cyclones, and other disasters such as floods and tsunamis. On 24 January 2018, the country experienced a tropical depression. According to the National Disaster Management Office, the [End Page 554] “highest cumulative rainfall . . . occurred between the 24–28 January in 29 wards, across Central, Western, Malaita, Isabel and Guadalcanal provinces”(sindmo 2018b). There was heavy rain and strong wind, which caused damage to gardens and housing, but the impact was considered minimal. On 1 March 2018, heavy rain caused flooding across Honiara. The flooding affected many low-lying areas, causing damage to eight homes and the displacement of fifteen people (sindmo 2018a). These are recurring events that happen every year. The Solomon Islands government has taken steps to address these events through a disaster risk reduction and management framework. For example, it reviewed its National Disaster Risk Management Plan 2009 and came up with the new National Disaster Management Plan 2018. Under the 2018 plan, the focus is on disaster management with an emphasis on preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation. Moreover, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 is featured within the new plan.

The government passed a budget of si$3.7 billion (si$1 million = us$123,000) in April 2018, with “[si$]3 billion under the recurrent head and the development budget reach[ing] $700 million” (Laungi 2018). Such a huge budget would allow the government to spend money “according to its programs aligned to its policy” (Laungi 2018). However, Transparency Solomon Islands pointed out that the budget “pays very little or no attention at all to issues, and concerns of national interest, and the social-economic development and growth needs of the country” (Ragaruma 2018). Fiscal strictness was applied to the budget, which resulted in cuts to the development budget and in specific sectors such as agriculture and health (Ragaruma 2018). Such fiscal strictness measures were not applied to “constituency development funds, national transport fund, scholarship, discretionary fund budget lines” (Ragaruma 2018). As a result, this has contributed to excessive government spending of public funds. Government finance during the third quarter of 2018 was at a “deficit of $159 million compared to a deficit of $2 million in the June quarter. This negative outturn was primarily due to the significant increase in government expenditure outrunning the growth in revenue collection during the quarter” (cbsi 2018c). This is unsurprising because the government had a track record of excessive spending. For example, the media reported that “the government has been spending $4 million a year to lavishly feed members of Cabinet and Caucus during their weekly meetings” (Fanasia 2018e). In November, the media reported that the government used “$2.7 million to pay for Prime Minister Ricky Hou and his delegation to the recent apec summit in Papua New Guinea” (Fanasia 2018a).

Prime Minister Hou envisaged that the country’s economy would grow by 3 percent in...