11 Sep 2013

Solomons government being asked to help indigenous businesses

5:06 pm on 11 September 2013

The Solomon Islands government is being asked to give more financial support to help indigenous people kick-start businesses.

There are concerns the biggest obstacle to launching a business is a lack of start-up capital.

Beverley Tse was in Solomon Islands and spoke with those concerned.

The president of the civil society group Malaita Ma'asina Forum, Charles Dausabea, says many indigenous Solomon Islanders who wish to run a business cannot muster enough finances to get off the ground. He says the authorities should take more responsibility.

"CHARLES DAUSABEA: This government puts all the money into the bags of members of parliament. So that's where the problem is. If they can set up a... more like revive a development bank for Solomon Islanders to do business, they would have an opportunity to borrow money. You have to borrow money to start business with money. And if you don't have money then sorry it's not on."

A local businessman and a former board member of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Yoshiyuki Sato, does not see that idea as being wise, as the Development Bank of Solomon Islands went bankrupt.

YOSHIYUKI SATO: The politicians then were corrupt, went and used their influence and got people who shouldn't have even been given loans. If we talk about loans, it has to be a proper loan. It has to stand up with its own merits without the improper influence from politicians or pillars of business society.

The President of the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association says only about 17 percent of the organisation's 450 members have registered businesses. Rose Usukana says the majority of her members need money to get started and supports the idea of reopening a Solomon Islands bank.

ROSE USUKANA: I just hope that there are no political interferences in that. If you have something and you say its for these people to utilise, women, the indigenous, and they themselves don't put their hands in there, politicians, then it will be okay.

The chairman of the Manufacturers Association, Sika Manuopangai, says there is potential in Solomon Islands to develop the copra and coconut oil industries but says a lack in finances for production and packaging prevents them from competing at a regional level.

SIKA MANUOPANGAI: It's very, you know, challenging for us without the government's support and help because we feel that out products that are made locally should be supported and protected by the government.

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, Heinz Vaekesa, says the ministry understands the concerns and the ministry is doing its best to meet the need.

HEINZ VAEKESA: As far as resources are concerned, it's the things that are always a hindrance to kick those problems out. But I think if the government is serious about it, we can get those resources within our national budget.

Heinz Vaekesa says he hopes to roll out a new programme next year to provide start-up capital to indigenous businesses.