By George Atkin
The Democratic Coalition for Change Government will amend the State-Owned-Enterprises Act to allow state-owned companies to diversify their activities to become profitable.
The Minister of Infrastructure Development, Hon Jimmy Lusibaea made the statement following discussions in the Government Caucus Tuesday on presentations by the Solomon Islands Ports Authority’s Chief Executive Officer, Colin Yow, the Ports’ newly appointed Board Chairman, former Attorney General Billy Titiulu, and their Executive Directors.
The presentations were on the Ports’ plans to diversify its activities into commercial undertakings as part of its Reform Program and to become profitable as the SOE’s Act stipulates.
Hon Lusibaea said his Ministry and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury which jointly look after the SI Ports Authority portfolio will work together towards amending the SOE’s Act, so the state-owned company can venture into the areas it is planning to be engaged in.
But he would not give any time-frame about when work on the amendment would start as the Government Caucus has just come to realise the need to do so.
In the SIPA’s Reform Program, it had started trading the rice it had imported from Vietnam.
Mr Yow outlined that SIPA also plans to enter into aviation and public bus operation.
He says it is not SIPA’s intention to compete with Solomon Airlines, but to complement its services, by offering sea-plane services to domestic travellers.
And he explained that the state-owned company does not intend to compete with bus operators, but it would want to operate the long bus routes in and outside of the capital.
But the new Chairman of the SIPA, Mr Titiulu told the Government Caucus that the SOE’s Act does not allow SIPA to diversify its activities although the same Act stipulates the State-Owned-Enterprises must be profitable.
He said what that means is SIPA cannot engage in the commercial undertakings until the situation is clear.
Mr Titiulu added that it is therefore the responsibility of the Government Caucus and Cabinet to clear the situation with a political decision.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for East Are’ Are, Hon Andrew Manepora’a could not agree more, saying the SOE’s Act is a hindrance to the state-owned companies becoming profitable, therefore, it must be amended.
He said SIPA is one of the major players in Solomon Islands economy, therefore it demands commendation for leading other SOEs in the efforts to become profitable UNDER its Reform Program.
Of course, the Reform Program, he said, will affect other players/stakeholders in the national economy, and in such scenarios, the government must play the harmonising/moderating roles, so no-one is thrown out in the cold.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister, Hon William Bradford Marau said reforms are always painful, but if they can ascertain profitability and effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery, then no-one should be scarred of them.