Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare has invited more Australian businesses to invest in Solomon Islands to the extent of making Australia the leading source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
The Prime Minister made the invitation in his keynote address at the 8th Australia-Solomon Islands Business Forum in Brisbane, Australia, today.
He said Australian businesses and investors who are operating in Solomon Islands are valuable to the Solomon Islands economy and the Solomon Islands Government is grateful for the jobs, services and industry leadership they are offering in the country.
“I would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to other Australian investors to invest in Solomon Islands. In fact, as neigbours and good friends, we should see more of each other.
“This closeness is currently not fully reflected in the level of trade between our two countries and the Solomon Islands Government would like to believe the onset of Pacer-plus is bound to change the situation.
“We want to see more Australian businesses in Solomon Islands so that Australia can be our number one source of FDI. At present Australia ranks third after Malaysia and China and even it terms of value trade, Australia ranks second to China in receiving the bulk of Solomon Islands exports.”
The Prime Minister said up to June this year, there were a total of 48 Australian investors doing business in Solomon Islands and of this figure, 17 were newly registered businesses with a total investment value of SBD$78.7 million.
“These are encouraging statistics and we are hoping that by the year’s end, there will be more than 30 new Australian businesses registered to do business in Solomon Islands based on the trend for last year.
“This could return a total value of investment of around SBD$1.1 billion- a credible figure that can still increase if more Australian businesses are keen to come to Solomon Islands.”
The Prime Minister said he believes these statistics can be improved, adding that the forum could work ‘hard’ in identifying the barriers and recommend ways of addressing them head-on.
The Prime Minister said pacer-plus has the potential of improving market access for Solomon Islands exports and the reason why Solomon Islands is leading the pacer-plus negotiations is that it strongly supports this regional trade agreement.
“I believe the potential for trade expansion will pull more Australian FDIs to Pacific Island countries including Solomon Islands. More FDIs, especially in export production is bound to increase exports for Solomon Islands and hopefully sway the balance of trade in goods in our favour,” he added.
The Prime Minister told the forum that the Solomon Islands Government under the leadership of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government is working diligently to create better opportunities for business growth with the help of its partners.
“The Bretton Woods institutions have helped us work on reducing the cost of doing business and we are working with other partners to create a better business environment to support business development.
‘Our currency is stable and balance of payments is improving. Although this is mainly due to the increased flow of development assistance payments, they do add to our foreign reserves and so we are happy.”
The Prime Minister also spoke of the Special Economic Zones initiative of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government as part of efforts to lure FDIs into the export production sector.
“The groundwork for this policy initiative has been completed and we are soon tabling the Special Economic Zones legislation which will seek to protect the investments so that investors can feel safe from the harsh socio-geographic dynamics that is often a feature of small developing countries,” he added.
Further to the SEZs initiative, the Prime Minister also spoke of the recently enacted Lands and Titles (Amendment) Act 2016, which he said would open up alienated registered land for national purposes and also business development.
“We are ready to facilitate land security for Australian businesses keen to do business in Solomon Islands. The recently enacted Lands and Titles (Amendment) Act 2016 would open up alienated registered land for national purposes and also business development.
“So please use the opportunity of this forum to talk to our investment and industry officials and let us know how best we can help you,” he said.