John Roughan: Fly Into Kira Kira First, Then Walk!
Fly Into Kira Kira First, Then Walk!
12 September 2005
The Solomons fastest growing industry is the overseas consultant . . . specialists who jet into Henderson Airport, upon landing hail an air conditioned taxi for the brief ride to the country's version of a 'five star hotel', Mendana, King Solomon, etc! In the process, they pocket thousands and thousands of dollars a day with all bills paid for by others. Their job? Advising government ministers how to run the country.
Unfortunately most to them haven't a clue about the Solomons, perhaps a little bit about Honiara. They are hard pressed to describe what exactly goes on in village life, what villagers see as their top priorities and most of all, hardly understand or sympathise with people's dreams and visions. Yet, these consultants who drag down big bucks to jet into the country, inform our political elite what to do for the country, how to do it and when to do it and quickly leave within weeks not worrying themselves too much whether their expensive advice has worked out or not.
At SIDT over many years we worked out a few rules. Every overseas consultant should first of all fly into Kira Kira's air stripe and then begin to walk up Makira's coast line to Arosi in is far west. There the consultant waits around for a ship to sail over to Marau in southern Guadalcanal. On landing on its shore, the consultant would then continue his walking tour to Honiara through Guale's many coastal villages. On arrival in the city only then would he be well enough informed about the true nature of the Solomons to begin lecturing about, devising plans for and informing our political masters how to run the country.
Of course such a plan will never see the light of day! As we speak, various consultants flood into the country, trying to control our lives and shaping our nation to reflect more their understandings what the nation should be than worry about our dreams. Yet, if we would move to a second line of defence, then some of the consultants great ideas and good plans could benefit the nation.
But once again our political masters, decision makers and politicians remain the major part of the problem. It's rarely wholly the fault of the consultant that he--increasingly women now play the consultant role--fails to grasp the depth of these islands. Our own leadership's failure to grasp the true nature of the country lies at the base of our difficulty. Honiara is the basic problem! The solution to many of our country's difficulties and problems will be found in the village sector.
Recently an academic paper presented at a Vanuatu conference said it much better than I could. While addressing other lawyers and constitution-workers the author, speaking about Solomon Islands, stated: "The communities have continued to operate and have in recent years propped up the economy, provided social security, dispensed with justice, maintained order and all the other usual obligations of the state."
There in a nutshell is the work of the villagers during the country's five years of social unrest. There is the basic blueprint, the fundamental outline of an investment pattern which could turn our country around from the Pacific's poorest to the richest. World Bank and ADB listen to the village!
Rick Hou, Governor of Central Bank, in last year's Annual Report reminded the nation "that the economic turnaround began in 2002; that it happened as a result of the commitment and perseverance of all ordinary Solomon Islanders." He and his people recently put these words into action.
Last month, they left Honiara's comforts, air conditioned cars and offices, travelled to Kira Kira and held extensive meetings with the Makira people. No, not one of them was running for office! No, it wasn't an all expense-covered walkabout! Central Bank workers came to listen Makira people share with their Honiara cousins what villagers are doing to pull their own little world up by its bootstraps.
If only our own parliamentarians would drum into the ears of consultants these facts of life what a difference it would make. Of course, RAMSI was a blessing . . . it saved government, restored the justice system, strengthened the state, etc. But it was the village sector's glue that kept the nation functioning in the face of grave law and order difficulties.
While government ministries, personnel and its elite leadership must hang its head in failure, the people of the nation stand tall and tell the world of its accomplishment. It's this message that the parachuting consultants must hear and understand before dispensing their words of wisdom. Perhaps then they won't have to fly into Kira Kira and walk up the coasts of Makira and Guale. Perhaps!