John Roughan: Better But Still Failing!
Better But Still Failing!
22 August 2005
SIDT's latest Report Card (No. 7) makes it clear that the Kemakeza Government continues to fail its people. In spite of millions of dollars of overseas aid-already a half billion dollars and still counting- a tremendous security blanket provided by RAMSI's military and police personnel plus a small army of overseas' public servants who insure that the stream of the nation's revenues continues to flow into the treasury, the latest Report Card results deeply disappoint the people and their supporters.
The table below compares the results of seven report cards focusing on the four areas of the daily lives of Solomon Islanders. However, the most important numbers to study are the first two years' results of the present government (2001-2003) and compare them to the last two years (2003-2005) when RAMSI's military might was strong and our economy was beginning to grow once again.
Solomon Islands Government Report Card Summary
Availability of Money
Fortunately for Solomons people, the present government did show some improvement over the past two years-20% better, on average-than in its initial two years in power. However, its overall mark of 48% is no better than citizens enjoyed under the Mamaloni government's first Report Card back in 1989. After all the country has been through, with all the foreign aid that has flooded into the nation over the past 24 months, the thousands of overseas personnel offering us a helping hand and our own people's high hopes for a better life, still Solomons people marked the government with a failing grade.
During its first two years in power-2001-2003, the government claimed that the sixth Report Card's low marks were due to its fear of militants action, their many guns and being forced to work in a weakened economy. But over the past two years, these reasons no longer hold water. RAMSI has silenced the militants, taken away most of the guns and the economy is well on the mend. Why, then, did 2,500 ordinary citizens -women, men, young women, young men-, mostly from the village, across seven provinces, continue to fail the government with so low marks?
The most common complain people voiced out is their feelings that government doesn't serve them well enough. Take education, for instance. The recent 'School Report' of 14 developing countries in Asia Pacific by Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education investigated 14 countries commitment to Basic Education. Solomon Islands scored 13th with only Pakistan coming last in the list. Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka were top of the class while PNG, Pakistan and ourselves scored the lowest.
This 'School Report' asked the Solomons if it were serious about schooling. Although it noted that there was some progress in primary education, so much more had to be done: girls schooling remain weak, quality inputs questioned and overall state action was poor. Our own 7th Report Card reflected these same feelings about education, one of the most important keys for a country's solid future.
Health services, although gaining strength over the past 16 years, has fallen back to its low grades of the early 1990s. People expect more because they know that the 'bad old days' of 1998-2003 are finished but they are not experiencing much change in their lives.
But it is the other two indicators--Resource Assistance and Availability of Money--which are dragging down government's marks. People's demands are modest! Most of them basically live off their land, forests and sea resources. They need better transport, market access and communication links for their garden, forest and sea produce to gain modest amounts of money to buy such 'luxuries' as matches, sugar, salt, kerosene, soap, Taiyo, etc. etc. They rarely see these improvements.
Parliamentarians, current as well as those seeking election, are advised to study the results of this latest survey. It measures popular feeling against those who now hold office but offers a blueprint to those seeking to run. To disregard its findings courts defeat at the polls. People are no longer easily taken in by the vague promise or the quick buck. They want hard answers and will press their case with candidates in the areas discussed above. It is best that future members have credible and pertinent responses for their people!