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Map of Solomon Islands

Map of the Solomon Islands.
flag of the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands

Key facts

Geography/Demographics

Official Name Solomon Islands
Land Area - 27,556 sq km, spread over 922 islands. Six main islands: Guadalcanal, Malaita, Choiseul, New Georgia, San Cristobal (Makira), and Santa Isabel; lies 3,500km north west of Wellington
Population - 540,000 (2011 estimate) 
Capital City - Honiara
Religions - Christian
Official Languages - English (official), Solomon Islands Pidgin, plus around 80 local languages
Currency - Solomon Island Dollar (SBD)
Exchange Rate - NZ$1= $6.02 SBD; US$1= $7.36 SBD (April 2012)
EEZ - 1,630,000 sq km

 

Political

Political System - Westminster-style parliamentary democracy

Last election - 4 August 2010
Next election due - 2014

Head of State - Governor-General HE Sir Frank Ofagioro Kabui, representing Queen Elizabeth II, appointed 7 July 2009 for 5 years.

Head of Government - Prime Minister Hon Gordon Darcy Lilo

Key Ministers -

Hon Manasseh Maelanga
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs

Hon Connelly Sadakabatu
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development

Hon Elijah Doro Muala
Minister of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration

Hon Walter Folotalu
Minister of Communication and Aviation

Hon Samuel Manetoali
Minister of Culture and Tourism

Hon Dickson Ha’amori
Minister of Education & Human Resources Development

Hon John Moffat Fugui
Minister of Environment, Conservation & Meteorology

Hon Bernard Ghiro
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources

Hon Clay Forau Soalaoi
Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade

Hon Dick Mua Panakitasi
Minister of Forestry

Hon Charles Sigoto
Minister of Health and Medical Services

Hon Seth Gukuna
Minister of Infrastructure Development

Hon Commins Aston Mewa
Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs

Hon Joseph Onika
Minister of Lands, Housing and Survey

Hon Moses Garu
Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification

Hon Hypolite Taremae
Minister of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace

Hon Silas Tausinga
Minister of Provincial Government & Institutional Strengthening

Hon Bradley Tovosia
Minister of Public Service

Hon Lionel Alex
Minister of Rural Development and Indigenous Affairs

Hon Peter Tom
Minister of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs

Hon Rick Hou
Minister of Finance and Treasury

Hon Snyder Rini
Ministry of National Planning and Aid Coordination

Hon David Tome
Minister of Police, National Security & Correctional Services

Economic

Sources: Central Bank of Solomon Islands and Solomon Islands Ministry of Finance and Treasury unless otherwise stated

Total govt revenue - SBD$ 2,628 million (2011)
Total consolidated expenditure - SBD$ 2,275 million (2011)
NZ Development Assistance - NZ$38.5 million (2011/2012)
Nominal GDP - SBD$ 5,578 million (2011)
Nominal GDP per capita - US$ 1,483 (2011)
Real GDP growth - -1.2% (2009), 7% (2010), 10.7% (2011), 5-6% (2012 forecast)

Exports - SBD$3,156 million (2011)

Principal Export Destinations

China 59.6%
South Korea 3.4%
Thailand 3.4%

Major exports: Logs; minerals (primarily alluvial gold); palm oil and kernel; fish; cocoa; coconut oil and copra; and sawn timber.

Imports (CIF) - SBD$3,179 million  (2011)
Principal Import Sources

Australia (28.7%), Singapore (21.4%), China (7.8%), New Zealand (6.0%)

Australia 28.7%
Singapore 21.4%
China 7.8%
New Zealand 6%

Balance of Payments - Current Account Surplus SBD$353 million (2011); 137.6 million deficit forecast in 2012. Trade deficit SBD$23 million (2011)
Inflation - 1.3% (2009/2010); 7.4% (2011), 5-7% (2012 forecast)

New Zealand Trade

Source: Statistics New Zealand

NZ Exports (FOB) - NZ$32 million (year ending December 2011)
Main Exports - Iron, steel, aluminium, forestry products, vegetables, clothing and textiles

NZ Imports (CIF) - NZ$4 million (year ending December 2011)
Main Imports - Wood and wood products, oil-cake, scrap metals

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Overview

New Zealand’s relationship with Solomon Islands is longstanding, dating back as far as early missionary linkages through Bishop Selwyn and the Anglican Melanesian Mission.  Solomon Islands is currently the largest bilateral recipient of New Zealand development assistance, which includes contributions through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The New Zealand Aid Programme has a strong focus on economic growth, education, infrastructure development and building peace and stability. 

From 1999 to 2003 the people of Solomon Islands faced a grave and protracted political and economic crisis, leading to the RAMSI deployment in 2003. The restoration of peace since the arrival of RAMSI has enabled the country to begin the process of rebuilding, helped by significant growth in donor support. 

The country faces moderately high population growth (estimated at 2.3 percent annually), low levels of formal employment and a high proportion of youth in the population. Solomon Islands has in recent years relied on revenues from unsustainable logging, which are projected to slow considerably within the next few years.  That notwithstanding, marked improvement in economic performance in other sectors has been evident in recent years.

Hon Gordon Darcy Lilo took over as Prime Minister on 16 November 2011.

History

Solomon Islands' first contact with Europeans was in 1568, when the Spanish explorer Mendaña visited the islands.  Whaling boats and traders began to visit the archipelago during the nineteenth century, followed closely by missionaries.  In the 1860s "blackbirding" began, with a large number of Solomon Islanders recruited, sometimes by force, to work on sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji.

In 1893, the British Government established a protectorate over the eastern group of islands with Germany controlling most of the west. Following the Anglo-German agreement of 1899, the British protectorate was extended to all areas now part of the nation of Solomon Islands, while Buka and Bougainville became part of German New Guinea. 

Solomon Islands was the scene of some of the bloodiest land, sea and air battles of World War II from 1942-1943. The capital moved from Tulagi (in the Florida Islands, Central Province) to Honiara (adjacent to the strategic Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal Island) in 1944. 

There were some indigenous demands for self-rule after World War II.  Britain granted Solomon Islands internal self-government in 1976, followed by independence on 7 July 1978.  At Independence, Solomon Islands joined the Commonwealth.  Peter Kenilorea (now Sir Peter) became the first Prime Minister.

Political situation

An election for the unicameral, 50-member Solomon Islands National Parliament is held every four years, with MPs elected by a simple majority of votes. There are frequently a large number of candidates in each electorate, all often winning relatively small proportions of the votes. Party structures are weak, with no party registration requirements, and members move relatively easily between parties. This, combined with other political structures and practices, results in a fluid political environment. The Prime Minister is elected by MPs and forms a Government.

Solomon Islands last went to the polls on 4 August 2010. Danny Philip was elected Prime Minister following the election and served in the top job until stepping down on 11 November 2011. Hon Gordon Darcy Lilo was elected Prime Minister on 16 November 2011.

Constitutional Reform

The desire for a greater degree of governance to be held at the local level, rather than centrally, has been a continuing feature of Solomon Islands political life since independence.  The post-coup Government of 2000/2001 undertook a review of governance and prepared a bill to cater for the establishment of a federal system of Government, through amendment to the Constitution.  Governments elected since have all reiterated an intention to shepherd through constitutional reforms needed to establish a more decentralised system. 

Building on several rounds of consultation at the village, tribal and provincial levels, over the past decades, a Constitutional Congress has been established to prepare a final draft constitution that can be put, eventually, to a larger more representative “people’s convention” for debate and agreement, although progress towards this end has been slow.

Economic Situation

Solomon Islands remains one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, although recent economic progress has seen GDP per capita increase to almost US$1,500. Economic growth for Solomon Islands in 2011 was strong (10.7%), this is forecast to cool to 5-6% in 2012 due to unfavourable global conditions.
 
These challenges include the Solomon Islands’ narrow productive base, rapid population growth, low levels of investment, donor dependency, weak governance and political instability.  Inadequate infrastructure and poor transport links further hinder growth.   

Forestry products are Solomon Islands’ main export, with the logging industry accounting for around 46% of export earnings and 14% of government revenue. The demise of logging has long been predicted, but both exports and receipts have held up in recent years.  This cannot go on indefinitely, however, and log exports are predicted to begin falling away within the next few years. The resumption in gold and silver exports from the Gold Ridge mine in 2011 has contributed a strong increase in Solomon Islands’ export receipts.

On a brighter note, there have been many recent economic reforms that have made doing business in Solomon Islands easier, including: a new Foreign Investment Act; work and residency permit simplification; tax exemption guidelines; import duty reforms; initiatives to expand financial services in rural areas; a comprehensive rewrite of the Companies Act; endorsement of comprehensive reforms in the state-owned enterprise (SOE) sector including writing of a new SOE Act and privatization of several unproductive state assets; introduction of limited competition in aviation; competition introduced in telecommunications; and, commencement of the implementation of a new Transport Plan including a mechanism for ensuring appropriate local funding for transport infrastructure maintenance.  Many of these reforms are bearing fruit already.  International airfares and international call rates have reduced significantly and there are several new players in the international flight market.  Solomon Islands also moved up twenty-two places in its ease of doing business ranking in the World Bank’s 2012 Doing Business report, to rank 74th out of 183 economies surveyed. 

Fisheries, plantation and small-holder agriculture, mining and tourism are all currently under-exploited potential sources of economic growth, but as noted above, growth in these sectors will be heavily dependent on improved governance, infrastructure development, ongoing improvements in the business environment, and a reduction of corruption.  

Foreign relations

Solomon Islands is a member of many regional and international bodies, including the United Nations, the WTO, the Commonwealth, the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as the sub-regional Melanesian Spearhead Group. It has formal diplomatic relations with a number of European, Asian, American and other Pacific Island countries. Solomon Islands hosts the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.

New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Taiwan and the European Union all have representatives based in Honiara. The United States has a resident consular agent. The United Nations System is represented (including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and UN Women), as is the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank Group. Solomon Islands has diplomatic missions in Canberra, Port Moresby, Taipei, Suva, at the UN in New York and at the European Union in Brussels and has previously signalled that it intends to open new Posts in Cuba, New Zealand and at the UN in Geneva.

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Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)

Between 1998 and 2003 Solomon Islands experienced a period of destabilising conflict and turmoil now often referred to as “the Tensions”. This conflict had its roots in a complex mix of economic, social and ethnic issues but came to be expressed in intermittent conflict between groups of loosely aligned ethnic factions largely from two peoples of Solomon Islands – those from Malaita and those from Guadalcanal. Over time, these factions increasingly used their military power to threaten and raid the coffers of the state and turned on their own people.  As a result by 2003 the state had become weakened to the point at which it could no longer fully function. 

Then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza wrote to the Australian Prime Minister in 2003 requesting assistance. Following extensive consultation in the region, Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers agreed that the extent of the problems facing Solomon Islands called for a concerted regional response as envisaged in the Biketawa Declaration. Consequently, the RAMSI Treaty was signed by Forum leaders in Townsville on 24 July 2003.  Solomon Islands Parliament unanimously approved the Facilitation of International Assistance Act to enable RAMSI’s presence in the country.  The first troops, police and civilians arrived in July 2003.

RAMSI’s first priority was to restore law and order, and to re-establish essential financial and other systems that had collapsed. Led by police with military support, law and order stabilised quickly. A nationwide gun amnesty resulted in the collection of 700 high-powered military-style weapons and ammunition, militant leaders were arrested and charged, and corrupt Solomon Islands police officers were removed from the force. 

RAMSI’s focus has evolved in response to Solomon Islands’ needs and has  included capacity-building efforts in a range of sectors that are necessary to create a peaceful, well-governed and prosperous Solomon Islands.  This focus has been to create an enabling environment to allow Solomon Islanders to rebuild their society and economy.

RAMSI was founded on three key pillars of assistance:

RAMSI comprises around 400 personnel across the Participating Police Force (PPF), the military Combined Task Force (CTF, including personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea), and a civilian component which includes in-line personnel and advisors placed in key government agencies.

Although Australia is by far the greatest contributor to RAMSI, followed by New Zealand, all Pacific Island Forum countries contribute personnel and other support to RAMSI. The Mission is coordinated in Honiara by a Special Coordinator and team of “RAMSI Principals” comprising the leaders of the development cooperation, police and military components. New Zealand provides a Deputy Special Coordinator and Fiji an Assistant Special Coordinator. Other Principals are Australian, reflecting the leading role that Australia plays in RAMSI. RAMSI has its own web site, www.ramsi.org.

RAMSI has now entered a transition phase.  Transition will see RAMSI gradually stepping back in a number of areas to enable more Solomon Islanders to take the lead in shaping their country’s future. It is envisaged for example that from mid-2013, RAMSI will concentrate on continuing to build the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and development assistance will move from RAMSI to bilateral and other programmes. Discussions have also begun on the proposed withdrawal of the mission’s military component sometime after 1 July 2013. As transition proceeds, RAMSI will continue to work closely with the Solomon Islands Government and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to maintain peace and stability.

New Zealand in RAMSI

New Zealand has been a major contributor to RAMSI since its establishment. Some 70 kiwi personnel from across a range of New Zealand government agencies and departments are working in the Mission (although numbers fluctuate due to staff rotations). Support to RAMSI through the New Zealand Aid Programme is outlined below.

Bilateral links

New Zealand’s relationship with Solomon Islands has developed over many years of close association, not least through early missionary linkages with Bishop Selwyn and during World War II in the Guadalcanal-Solomon Islands campaign.  Many prominent Solomon Islanders, including current politicians, Constitutional postholders and senior public servants, have pursued secondary or tertiary studies in New Zealand.  Solomon Island footballers have played for several New Zealand soccer clubs.  The goodwill that has built up over that time has been enhanced in recent years by New Zealand’s strong support and involvement in RAMSI and an increased bilateral aid programme.

New Zealand’s bilateral trade relationship with Solomon Islands is limited and accounts for approximately three percent of our exports to the Pacific.  New Zealand and Solomon Islands signed a bilateral fisheries agreement in May 2007, which provides for the New Zealand fishing industry to enter into bilateral industry-to-Government access agreements with the Solomon Islands Government. 

Solomon Islanders are eligible to participate in New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme. To date around 1400 Solomon Islands workers have travelled to New Zealand, many of those for repeat seasons, to work in the horticultural and viticultural industries under RSE auspices.

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New Zealand Development Cooperation

New Zealand's bilateral development assistance programme (NZ$32.5 million in 2011/12) is focused on strengthening the national education system to ensure quality education for all children, and sustainable economic development (fisheries, transport infrastructure, education and scholarships) but also includes contributions through RAMSI to support policing and improving tax administration. In addition, Solomon Islands benefits from regional programme funding (e.g. for the environment, and regional organisations) bringing our total development assistance for Solomon Islands in 2011/2012 to NZ$38.5 million.

Inland Revenue Tax Reform: Through RAMSI, New Zealand's supports the Solomon Islands Inland Revenue Division (IRD) to improve revenue collection and tax compliance. The New Zealand Aid Programme works in partnership with NZ-IRD to provide a range of seconded staff, including the Commissioner of IRD. This support has seen a marked increase in revenue collection from SBD 200 million in 2003 to SBD 1.34 billion in 2011.

Fisheries: Fisheries are a vital source of government revenue, and food and income for coastal communities. New Zealand has been supporting a strengthening programme to improve the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources' (MFMR) capability and systems for managing fisheries resources.

Transport Infrastructure: New Zealand is currently working with the Solomon Islands Government and other partners to rehabilitate roading, airport runways and bridges to improve rural people's access to markets and social services.

Education: An educated population is a building block for sustained economic and social development. Between 2004 and 2011, New Zealand has been the lead donor in the sector, working with a range of other partners and most recently Australia. New Zealand contributes approx. NZ$11.5 million each year through sector budget support that is managed by the SI Ministry of Finance and Treasury. The allocation of New Zealand funds varies each year but typically includes school grants, school infrastructure, pre-service and in-service teacher training, improved curricula, development and delivery of learning and teaching materials around the country. This has resulted in on-the-ground improvements in enrolment rates and learning outcomes. Since the 2006 baseline assessment of Year 6 primary students, there has been an 11% increase in satisfactory of higher literacy achievement, and a 5% increase for numeracy achievement. New Zealand will provide long term support with a particular focus in the next three years on improved literacy and numeracy results and providing classroom-based teacher support to further improve learning outcomes. A new distance learning initiative for in-service teachers is showing particular promise.

New Zealand also provides scholarships for tertiary and professional training. 

Policing: New Zealand has committed up to $6 million annually so that the New Zealand Police can assist the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in developing its capacity. New Zealand has also made a contribution of 34 new police staff houses to enable the RSIPF to deploy supervising officers where they are most needed. top of page


Visits

There has been a steady programme of visits by New Zealand leaders to SolomonIslands, particularly since regional efforts to assist Solomon Islands began in 2003.

New Zealand visitors to the Solomon Islands:

Solomon Islands visitors to New Zealand:

 

Representation

The New Zealand High Commissioner is Mark Ramsden

Contact details for the New Zealand High Commission in Solomon Islands [external link]

Solomon Islands does not have a High Commission in NewZealand. 

Contact details for Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade:
PO Box G10
Honiara
SOLOMON ISLANDS

Telephone:  +677 21250
Facsimile:    +677 20351

 

Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Solomon Islands [external link].

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Page last updated: Monday, 09 December 2013 13:00 NZDT