A more integrated Solomon Islands is key to achieving inclusive economic growth

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) transport strategy in Solomon Islands is focused on improving access to domestic markets, boosting delivery of health and education services and supporting the development of integrated transport networks.

These are some critical areas to achieve inclusive development in the country.

Road sector activities in Solomon Islands are improving roads and supporting the establishment of road funds for maintenance. For the maritime sector, work focuses on improving the safety and efficiency of domestic maritime services and constructing and rehabilitating rural wharves and jetties to improve safety and accessibility for social and economic activities.

The Solomon Islands Government must continue to use revenues effectively to restore and upgrade the national infrastructure network. It needs to ensure that different parts of the Solomon Islands economy are well connected so that the benefits of economic growth are shared equally.

ADB continues to support the Government’s renewed effort to improve the overall quality of its transport infrastructure. ADB’s financing amounts to about $64 million including co-financing. This assistance is directed to enhancing road and domestic shipping infrastructure networks in Solomon Islands.

The soon to be completed Solomon Islands Second Road Improvement Project is one important example of assistance being delivered on the ground. Co-financed by ADB, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union the project was implemented across areas of Malaita, Western, Central, Isabel, Makira, and Guadalcanal provinces. It rehabilitated 64 kilometers of provincial and secondary roads, constructed about 35 major bridges and resealed 60,000sqm of Honiara’s main road. Climate change adaptation was also a main feature.

Shipping is the dominant mode of transport in Solomon Islands, and the need for regular, reliable and cost effective shipping services for all areas of the country is essential. The Domestic Maritime Support Project, financed by the Solomon Islands Government, ADB, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union has established a Franchise Shipping Scheme that initially subsidizes private sector operators to provide interisland shipping services to 8 uneconomical remote areas: the Shortland Islands, the Guadalcanal Weather Coast, Temotu, the Makira Weather Coast, Sikaiana, Ontong Java, Rennell and Bellona and Ulawa in Solomon Islands. So far it is having a positive impact and is helping develop rural areas.

Both these projects demonstrate the government’s strong commitment to improving transport infrastructure in Solomon Islands, particularly in and to rural areas and outer islands, in line with the National Transport Plan (NTP) 2011-2030. ADB assisted the government with preparing the plan which provides the strategic framework and direction to achieve the government’s mission for the transport sector by: developing transport sector services; developing and maintaining physical infrastructure; improving the competency and capacity of Government agencies involved in infrastructure, and encouraging the private sector to become more involved in transport.

Improving the transport network’s resilience to climate change and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods from extreme weather is a major component of the NTP. This is being addressed through improved climate proofing design standards which help to protect both the transport network and inhabited areas.

The NTP embraces private sector development by incorporating labor-based road maintenance in road projects. It provides rural communities with opportunities to earn cash incomes by using simple tools to carry out pothole patching or vegetation clearing.

For example, the Solomon Islands Second Road Improvement Project implemented nine community-based road maintenance contracts covering 47 kilometers of roads across the country.

The Solomon Islands Government funds the NTP and its development partners contribute. In 2010, the government established the National Transport Fund (NTF) to ensure timely and consistent funding to develop and maintain the assets of the transport sector.

Controlled by the NTF Board, the fund may be used for transport infrastructure maintenance and development, and service support while the government agencies involved in the transport sector are being reorganized as regulatory agencies and service delivery functions are being outsourced to the private sector.

The NTF has overcome some initial teething-problems and challenges. Development partners including ADB, Australia, and New Zealand are currently assisting with a review to ensure that progress continues and the NTF meets its objectives.

ADB supports the government’s integrated transport approach in Solomon Islands-linking roads and sea routes to cover vast distances as well as diverse geography-through the ongoing implementation of the NTF and NTP in a sector wide approach.

This is critical for boosting economic growth, creating jobs, and providing access to basic social services. The challenges of integrating transport in Solomon Islands are many, but the benefits the country stands to gain from better connectivity are immense. ADB will continue its engagement with the government and other development agencies in this partnership.