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Living In The 21st C. But Thinking In The 20tth!

Living In The 21st Century But Thinking In The 20th!

John Roughan
1 August 2005

The world has well moved in to a new century but our leadership remains stuck in the last one. They think last century while living in a brand new one . . . a sure recipe for disaster. For instance, only a few years ago, before the Social Unrest period of 1998-2003 hit us, it was fashionable to think that money, lots of it, would solve all our problems.

Witness the many fast money schemes--Family Charity Fund and con jobs at the highest level of government--Noah Misingku's Royal Assembly of Nations and Kingdoms--that ran riot among Cabinet members. We experienced others--hunting Tulagi phantom gold bars, making petrol from sea water, importing toxic waste from Taiwan, etc, etc. These were some of the fast buck schemes that ruled our 20th century thinking. But we now live and breathe in the 21st century where money, as important as it is, takes second place.

In this the newest of centuries, food security lies at the heart of national well being. Rice our current food of choice is basically imported from Australia and Southeast Asia. The $100 million we spend yearly on rice, flour, biscuits, crackers and such is unstainable. Our own land and farmers--read village women--could substitute for much of these imports. If national policy would recognize the terrific drain on our meagre funds in importing so much food, then, it would carve out a new policy publicly welcoming and properly funding potato, taro, yam and other garden foods and fruits.

Honiara from 1945 became our political elite's centre of attention. Village life, where all politicians and decision makers began their first days, was the last to receive their attention. Yet, it is exactly in strengthening the quality of village life that will make or break the Solomons of the future.

Decision makers should understand that the village is central for more than 80% of our people. Not only do these people own the land, trees, rivers, reefs and fishing grounds, they are at the same time those most responsible for keeping the national economy ticking over. As Rick Hou, the Governor of Solomons Central Bank said in his annual review of the nation's economy, 'it was they who jump started the economy in early 2003 from below zero (before RAMSI landed on our shores) to a healthy 5.8% by the end of year'. CBSI's 2004 economic analysis was much the same . . . a 5.5% growth rate without any sight of SIPL, Gold Ridge, tourism boom, etc.

Included in food security is care of our fresh water supplies, the need to up grade organic farming, adding value to our crops, etc. In some parts of the world, a guaranteed water supply, not oil, will be the flash point of future conflict. We in the Solomons take our water--unpolluted, good tasting, plentiful--for granted. How long will this last?

Organic farming--food not touched by any kind of fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide or other chemical --grows more important daily. The big countries food supply can not boast about chemical free food . These countries willingly pay top dollar to purchase food which is certified totally free of chemicals of any kind. Isn't this exactly the food production that the vast majority of our women gardeners produce? But do we have any policy along this line? None that I know of!

Energy prices are headed out of sight. The nation is at the mercy of the world's oil merchants. Fortunately out in Ranadi, there is at least one enterprising individual who's doing something positive about reducing the cost of this fuel. Biodiesel--the use of one of our most basic products, coconut oil, produces a fuel that can run generators, ships, trucks, buses and car engines. Currently diesel costs $5.31 a litre and is headed for the $5.50 mark before the end of the year.

This is one of the major reasons why bus operators now demand from passengers $3.00 a ride. If biodiesel could bring fuel prices down below the $4.00 mark and keep it there for a few years, what a boon for villagers, market sellers, bus riders, ship passengers, for the whole nation. But I don't hear any government policy along this line. Vanuatu uses biodiesel for the generation of Vila's electricity and the Bouganvilleans ran their trucks during the PNG blockade years. Why does Solomons lag behind? We think 20th century while the rest of the world has moved on to 2005!


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