Solomons Report Card Time
Solomons Report Card Time
By John Roughan
Since 1989, Solomon Islanders across the nation have passed judgment on how well--or poorly--the governments of the day have served people's basic interests. Over the past 15 years and through six governments, Solomon citizens have graded their political masters on how they have served them in four critical areas of quality of living.
All Report Card scores (as listed in the table) measure the same four fundamental parts of life: Health Services, Education opportunities, Resource help and Availability of Money. People, rural and urban, men and women, young and old know well about sickness and getting well, having their children in school getting a good education. Solomon Islanders have first hand experience about their land, forest and sea resources and how government helps them use them better, connecting them to markets and assisting villagers to get the best return on them. Citizens know what it takes to earn money for daily, ordinary things of life.
Solomon Islands Development Trust's workers roam the towns and countryside (over a three week period) asking individuals to judge government's work for the people of the nation. In the latest poll, people--more than 2,000 of them--were asked to judge the Kemakeza government's track record of serving the people of the nation over the past 18 months--December 2001-July 2003--the time it was in power.
In each Report Card, men, women, young men and young women are asked separately their opinion on the four fundamentals as listed above. Separate-age categories are polled because a man's perceptions may well differ from that of a woman and that of a woman's differ from a young person, whether male or female.
Each survey interview, usually done in Pijin although different local languages are also used, are recorded by SIDT's field personnel and then copied to a separate form. Later all marks are carefully tabulated on a master sheet for comparison purposes. Each response attracts the following weights:
Barava Gud 100% top mark, very good, excellent
Gud 75% good mark, above average
Lelebit Gud 50% minimum pass but below average
Pua 25% poor, failure, low mark
A quick study across the five previous Report Cards shows that the most recent Report Card--the Kemakeza Government--is the lowest ever recorded since SIDT began its survey service in1989. The Prime Minister defends his government's low results because of the Social Unrest which gripped the nation over the past five years. There is some truth to this statement. Sir Allan's government inherited a weak almost bankrupt situation when it took over in December 2001. However, rather than recognizing this condition and striving to work within the weak economic climate he had indeed inherited, the Kemakeza Coalition made matters worse.
The cash flow problem that plagued his administration was one of its own making. Unquestioning acceptance of bogus compensation claims, bowing to militants intimidation demands and out right theft of government monies and property became normal operating procedures. Hence, the non-payment of teachers, doctors, nurses and public servants salaries, the very ones who service people's needs, was so poor that in some incidences teachers' salary payments were up to 6 paydays late. While parliament members, the PM, his cabinet and police never once missed a single payment of their salaries, other public servants were left stranded to make out the best they could. Is it any wonder that citizens across the nation--rural, urban, village and town--marked the government performance as poor to awful!
When it came to Resource Assistance--helping people connect with the market (copra, cocoa, fish, timber, etc.) was much less than people deserved. The Commodity Export Marketing Authority's performance in strengthening the copra market was poor to non-existent. Copra, the villager's main way of gaining modest amounts of money, rotted awaiting shipping. When shipping became available, sufficient money to purchase copra dried up. Government's attitude towards the rural person could be summed up: "Saed blong yu!"
The present government's poor service record to its people is spread across all four sectors of the Report Card. Survey results should come as no surprise to government ministers. Solomon Island citizens demands are normally modest. Most villagers are self-sufficient--grow their own food, build their own homes, their energy demands for fuel and light are slight, health matters are basically in their own hands. However, modern day demands with its over emphasis on cash is fast running them into the ground. In basic terms, most people are becoming poorer each year.
People look more and more to government to help them catch up, not for the handout, nor the gift but simply for assistance in strengthening their resource base, insure quality education for their kids and basic medical service to the family. But government's typical response is demonstrated in the recent 'mass migration' of government personnel, cronies and hangers-on attending the Pacific Forum in Auckland. At a time of near-bankrupt conditions, Sir Allan's tour group cost the Treasury over SI$700,000. In the eyes of more than 2,000 citizens the government has failed them miserably. This is why people across the nation have marked the government with the worse Report Card of any government over the past 15 years.